The Belgian Curtain Europe after Communism
Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
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Lidija Rangelovska A Narcissus Publications Imprint, Skopje 2003 First published by United Press International – UPI Not for Sale! Non-commercial edition.
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LIDIJA RANGELOVSKA REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA
I. II. III. IV. V. VI. VII. VIII. IX. X. XI. XII. XIII. XIV. XV. XVI. XVII. European Union and NATO – The Competing Alliances The War in Iraq How the West Lost the East Left and Right in a Divided Europe Forward to the Past – Capitalism in Post-Communist Europe Transition in Context Eastern Advantages Europe’s Four Speeds Switching Empires Europe’s Agricultural Revolution Winning the European CAP History of Previous Currency Unions The Concert of Europe, Interrupted The Eastern Question Revisited Europe’s New Jews The Author About "After the Rain"
EU and NATO - The Competing Alliances
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin Also published by United Press International (UPI)
Saturday's vote in Ireland was the second time in 18 months that its increasingly disillusioned citizenry had to decide the fate of the European Union by endorsing or rejecting the crucial Treaty of Nice. The treaty seeks to revamp the union's administration and the hitherto sacred balance between small and big states prior to the accession of 10 central and east European countries. Enlargement has been the centerpiece of European thinking ever since the meltdown of the eastern bloc. Shifting geopolitical and geo-strategic realities in the wake of the September 11 atrocities have rendered this project all the more urgent. NATO - an erstwhile antiSoviet military alliance is search of purpose - is gradually acquiring more political hues. Its remit has swelled to take in peacekeeping, regime change, and nation-building. Led by the USA, it has expanded aggressively into central and northern Europe. It has institutionalized its relationships with the countries of the Balkan through the "Partnership for Peace" and with Russia through a recently established joint council. The Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary - the eternal EU candidates - have full scale members of NATO for 3 years now.
The EU responded by feebly attempting to counter this worrisome imbalance of influence with a Common Foreign and Security Policy and a rapid deployment force. Still, NATO's chances of replacing the EU as the main continental political alliance are much higher than the EU's chances of substituting for NATO as the pre-eminent European military pact. the EU is hobbled by minuscule and decreasing defense spending by its mostly pacifistic members and by the backwardness of their armed forces. That NATO, under America's thumb, and the vaguely anti-American EU are at cross-purposes emerged during the recent spat over the International Criminal Court. Countries, such as Romania, were asked to choose between NATO's position - immunity for American soldiers on international peacekeeping missions - and the EU's (no such thing). Finally - and typically - the EU backed down. But it was a close call and it cast in sharp relief the tensions inside the Atlantic partnership. As far as the sole superpower is concerned, the strategic importance of western Europe has waned together with the threat posed by a dilapidated Russia. Both south Europe and its northern regions are emerging as pivotal. Airbases in Bulgaria are more useful in the fight against Iraq than airbases in Germany. The affairs of Bosnia - with its al-Qaida's presence - are more pressing than those of France. Turkey and its borders with central Asia and the middle east is of far more concern to the USA than disintegrating Belgium. Russia, a potentially newfound ally, is more missioncritical than grumpy Germany.
Thus, enlargement would serve to enhance the dwindling strategic relevance of the EU and heal some of the multiple rifts with the USA - on trade, international affairs (e.g., Israel), defense policy, and international law. But this is not the only benefit the EU would derive from its embrace of the former lands of communism. Faced with an inexorably ageing populace and an unsustainable system of social welfare and retirement benefits, the EU is in dire need of young immigrants. According to the United Nations Population Division, the EU would need to import 1.6 million migrant workers annually to maintain its current level of working age population. But it would need to absorb almost 14 million new, working age, immigrants per year just to preserve a stable ratio of workers to pensioners. Eastern Europe - and especially central Europe - is the EU's natural reservoir of migrant labor. It is ironic that xenophobic and anti-immigration parties hold the balance of power in a continent so dependent on immigration for the survival of its way of life and institutions. The internal, common, market of the EU has matured. Its growth rate has leveled off and it has developed a mild case of deflation. In previous centuries, Europe exported its excess labor and surplus capacity to its colonies - an economic system known as "mercantilism". The markets of central, southern, and eastern Europe West Europe's hinterland - are replete with abundant raw materials and dirt-cheap, though well-educated, labor. As indigenous purchasing power increases, the demand for consumer goods and services will expand.
Thus, the enlargement candidates can act both as a sink for Europe's production and the root of its competitive advantage. Moreover, the sheer weight of their agricultural sectors and the backwardness of their infrastructure can force a reluctant EU to reform its inanely bloated farm and regional aid subsidies, notably the Common Agricultural Policy. That the EU cannot afford to treat the candidates to dollops of subventioary largesse as it does the likes of France, Spain, Portugal, and Greece is indisputable. But even a much-debated phase-in period of 10 years would burden the EU's budget - and the patience of its member states and denizens - to an acrimonious breaking point. The countries of central and eastern Europe are new consumption and investment markets. With a total of 300 million people (Russia counted), they equal the EU's population - though not its much larger purchasing clout. They are likely to while the next few decades on a steep growth curve, catching up with the West. Their proximity to the EU makes them ideal customers for its goods and services. They could provide the impetus for a renewed golden age of European economic expansion. Central and eastern Europe also provide a natural land nexus between west Europe and Asia and the Middle East. As China and India grow in economic and geopolitical importance, an enlarged Europe will find itself in the profitable role of an intermediary between east and west. The wide-ranging benefits to the EU of enlargement are clear, therefore. What do the candidate states stand to gain from their accession? The answer is: surprisingly little.
All of them already enjoy, to varying degrees, unfettered, largely duty-free, access to the EU. To belong, a few - like Estonia - would have to dismantle a much admired edifice of economic liberalism. Most of them would have to erect barriers to trade and the free movement of labor and capital where none existed. All of them would be forced to encumber their fragile economies with tens of thousands of pages of prohibitively costly labor, intellectual property rights, financial, and environmental regulation. None stands to enjoy the same benefits as do the more veteran members notably in agricultural and regional development funds. Joining the EU would deliver rude economic and political shocks to the candidate countries. A brutal and rather sudden introduction of competition in hitherto muchsheltered sectors of the economy, giving up recently hardwon sovereignty, shouldering the debilitating cost of the implementation of reams of guideline, statutes, laws, decrees, and directives, and being largely powerless to influence policy outcomes. Faced with such a predicament, some countries may even reconsider. Historical Note Prior to 1945, Europe's history was bipolar. It was marked by a permanent tension between Bismarckian "balance of power", Berlin Congress-like, alliances - and, when these failed, armed conflict. In the decade following the end of World War II, the continent - both West and East - was under foreign military occupation (Soviet and American).
The Cold War was an alien geopolitical agenda, imposed by the United States and the USSR on a Europe devastated by two horrific conflagrations. The USA deployed its pecuniary prowess (the Marshall Plan, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund-IMF) and its formidable army to create NATO, almost singlehandedly and often against the express wishes of a Europhobic Britain and an Americanophobic France. The demise of Communism signaled the end of this aberrant and unprecedented phase in European history. Post 1989, continental politics is back to normal. Europe's nation-states are furiously at work forming supranational political and economic alliances intended to offset Germany's dominance either by co-opting it - or by deterring it. The foreign policy of the kernel of continental Europe (France and Germany) has significantly diverged from that of its erstwhile ally, the USA. Most Europeans are also busy creating an alternative to NATO, now merely a long arm of the US military. NATO's bases are shifting to the former Soviet colonies. No longer a defensive pact, it provides logistical support and peacekeepers to overextended American troops abroad. Gradually, as NATO is being Americanized, the European Union (possibly with a corresponding military wing) emerges as the only truly European forum. EuroAtlanticism seems to have served its purpose. The Europeans' main concern now is not Russia but a resurgent Germany, replete with its re-acquired hinterland (namely the new members of the EU in Central Europe).
It is back to the 19th century. Britain is steeped in glorious isolation. France, wary of Germany, is trying to harness it to the common project of the EU. Germany, aware of its economic might, is reasserting itself diplomatically and militarily. The enlargement of the EU eastwards is the price that France had to reluctantly pay to keep Germany inside the European tent. The EU is not the first common market in the continent's history - neither is the euro its first monetary union. All previous attempts at unification and harmonization ended in failure. There is no reason to assume that the fate of the current experiment will be any different. The assertion that Western Europe has seen the last of its wars defies history and geography. It is only a matter of time before another European conflict erupts between the big four: Russia, Britain, France, and Germany. The USA will again be forced to intervene, no doubt.
THE WAR IN IRAQ
The Euro-Atlantic Divide
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin Also published by United Press International (UPI) The countries of central and east Europe - especially those slated to join the European Union (EU) in May next year are between the American rock and the European hard place. The Czech republic, Hungary and Poland, already NATO members, have joined Spain, Britain and other EU veterans in signing the "letter of eight" in support of US policy in the Gulf. NATO and EU aspirants - including most of the nations of the Balkans - followed suit in a joint statement of the Vilnius Group. The denizens of the region wonder what is meant by "democracy" when their own governments so blithely ignore public opinion, resolutely set against the looming conflict. The heads of these newly independent polities counter by saying that leaders are meant to mold common perceptions, not merely follow them expediently. The mob opposed the war against Hitler, they remind us, somewhat non-germanely. But the political elite of Europe is, indeed, divided. France is trying to reassert its waning authority over an increasingly unruly and unmanageably expanding European Union. Yet, the new members do not share its distaste for American hegemony.
On the contrary, they regard it as a guarantee of their own security. They still fear the Russians, France's and Germany's new found allies in the "Axis of Peace" (also known as the Axis of Weasels). The Czechs, for instance, recall how France (and Britain) sacrificed them to Nazi Germany in 1938 in the name of realpolitik and the preservation of peace. They think that America is a far more reliable sponsor of their long-term safety and prosperity than the fractured European "Union". Their dislike of what they regard as America's lightweight leadership and overt - and suspect - belligerence notwithstanding, the central and east Europeans are grateful to the United States for its unflinching - and spectacularly successful - confrontation with communism. France and Germany - entangled in entente and Ostpolitik, respectively - cozied up to the Kremlin, partly driven by their Euro-communist parties. So did Italy. While the Europeans were busy kowtowing to a repressive USSR and castigating the USA for its warmongering, America has liberated the Soviet satellites and bankrolled their painful and protracted transition. Historical debts aside, America is a suzerain and, as such, it is irresistible. Succumbing to the will of a Big Power is the rule in east and central Europe. The nations of the region have mentally substituted the United States for the Soviet Union as far as geopolitics are concerned. Brussels took the place of Moscow with regards to economic issues. The Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, assorted Balkanians, even the Balts - have merely switched empires.
There are other reasons for these countries' proAmericanism. The nations of central, east and southeast (Balkans) Europe have sizable and economically crucial diasporas in the united States. They admire and consume American technology and pop culture. Trade with the USA and foreign direct investment are still small but both are growing fast. Though the EU is the new and aspiring members' biggest trading partner and foreign investor - it has, to borrow from Henry Kissinger, no "single phone number". While France is enmeshed in its Byzantine machinations, Spain and Britain are trying to obstruct the ominous reemergence of French-German dominance. By catering to popular aversion of America's policies, Germany's beleaguered Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, is attempting to score points domestically even as the German economy is imploding. The euro-Atlantic structures never looked worse. The European Union is both disunited and losing its European character. NATO has long been a dysfunctional alliance in search of a purpose. For a while, Balkan skirmishes provided it with a new lease on life. But now the EuroAtlantic alliance has become the Euro-Atlantic divide. The only clear, consistent and cohesive voice is America's. The new members of NATO are trying to demonstrate their allegiance - nay, obsequiousness - to the sole identifiable leader of the free world.
France's bid at European helmsmanship failed because both it and Russia are biased in favor of the current regime in Iraq. French and Russian firms have signed more than 1700 commercial contracts with Saddam's murderous clique while their British and American competitors were excluded by the policies of their governments. When sanctions against Iraq are lifted - and providing Saddam or his hand-picked successor are still in place Russian energy behemoths are poised to explore and extract billions of barrels of oil worth dozens of billions of dollars. Iraq owes Russia $9 billion which Russia wants repaid. But the United States would be mistaken to indulge in Schadenfreude or to gleefully assume that it has finally succeeded in isolating the insolent French and the somnolent Germans. Public opinion - even where it carries little weight, like in Britain, or in the Balkans cannot be ignored forever. Furthermore, all the countries of Europe share real concerns about the stability of the Middle East. A divided Iraq stands to unsettle neighbours near and far. Turkey has a large Kurdish minority as does Iran. Conservative regimes in the Gulf fear Iraq's newfound and Americanadministered democracy. In the wake of an American attack on Iraq, Islamic fundamentalism and militancy will surely surge and lead to a wave of terror. Europe has vested historical, economic and geopolitical interests in the region, unlike America.
Persistent, unmitigated support for the USA in spite of French-German exhortations will jeopardize the new and aspiring members' position in an enlarged EU. Accession is irreversible but they can find themselves isolated and marginalized in decision making processes and dynamics long after the Iraqi dust has settled. EU officials already gave public warnings to this effect. It is grave error to assume that France and Germany have lost their pivotal role in the EU. Britain and Spain are second rank members - Britain by Europhobic choice and Spain because it is too small to really matter. Russia - a smooth operator - chose to side with France and Germany, at least temporarily. The new and aspiring members would have done well to follow suit. Instead, they have misconstrued the signs of the gathering storm: the emerging European rapid deployment force and common foreign policy; the rapprochement between France and Germany at the expense of the pro-American but far less influential Britain, Italy and Spain; the constitutional crisis setting European federalists against traditional nationalists; the growing rupture between "Old Europe" and the American "hyperpower". The new and aspiring members of NATO and the EU now face a moment of truth and are being forced to reveal their hand. Are they pro-American, or pro-German (read: pro federalist Europe)? Where and with whom do they see a common, prosperous future? What is the extent of their commitment to the European Union, its values and its agenda?