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EU: the dysfunctional family
by Thanos Kalamidas
2009-06-30 09:41:23
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June started in a really tense way, with the media and politicians everywhere screaming that the euro-skeptics are increasing; the xenophobic groups are gaining more power; and the most extreme parties in Europe are going to be strong in the EU Parliament. But now, only a month later, we all forgot about it. Why? Has the danger gone?

Apparently the danger hasn’t gone, it’s just that it wasn’t as …bad as we had all predicted and expected it to be. But then again, is that a good reason for us to relax? The thought hit me the other day while I was watching the news on television. Of course the situation in Iran monopolized most of the news and then they announced the anticipated death of actress Farrah Fawcett, and the sudden death of pop megastar Michael Jackson. Of course the lives of pop stars are always popular, but the news mentioned nothing about what happened with the Euro-elections. But I can still hear all the screams and I still feel all the fear and the drums about the fascists.

Unfortunately, the reality is that the xenophobic, fascists and euro-skeptics won, and what makes their victory even more painful is that we think that this is normal. We think that it is normal that the Dutch fascists got elected into the Parliament in Strasbourg; that the Finnish True Finns party has one out of thirteen representatives in Europe; and we think it is normal that the Greek extreme right is the third party in the Greek EU elections. This is the part where they really won; the fact that we think that it is normal. I’m sorry to say but there is nothing normal about it; on the contrary there is something seriously abnormal about us. Even one of these people in Strasbourg will damage all the work we have done the past fifty years. Especially the work that was done after WWII to protect human rights and insure that this continent is an example of democracy.

I forgot to mention that the big issue at the moment is the re-election of Jose Barroso for the position of president of the European Union. This is the man who is partly responsible for the damage that has happened the last few years in the EU. This man is responsible for the failure to keep the union united in front of George W. Bush and his wishes and bullying. This is the man who failed to predict and help the European states in the financial crisis, while he himself was getting onboard with the only union that could help. This is the man who has proved inefficient in coordinating the member states even in the simplest of causes. But Barroso is not the only one to blame. The whole mechanism is wrong; the whole mechanism that is supposed to keep EU functioning. Actually at this moment the EU looks like a dysfunctional family in a reality show. And in this family we are all members and we are all equally responsible.

When we heard the results of the Euro-elections we thought: Fine, the Dutch fascists are there and the true Finns are there, but things are not so bad. Then we took a deep sigh and continued our lives, relieved that the danger didn’t reach the heights we had expected. One True Finn is nothing, but this is nothing compared to what? I think one representative of the True Finns in the Euro-parliament is extremely dangerous, and not anything we should ignore. What happens when this person goes to Strasbourg to vote in security legislation issues? Or what happens when this man decides to join the Polish with the same ideological roots in their crusade to make anything communist and left illegal. Is this the United Europe we are talking about?

One is not a small number or something we can ignore. And unfortunately the extreme right didn’t only win one seat in the EU Parliament; it won one seat in Finland, but the xenophobic English National Front won some and the Italian racist party Lega Nord won some and the Germans won a few and of course Le Pen’s party is still alive. When you get to Poland, Hungary, Romania, Estonia and Bulgaria, things are not very clear who are the conservatives, the Christian democrats and the extreme right – since all of them seem to join the xenophobia group. How odd in countries that have citizens who have suffered from this and been victimized abroad?

I’m really sorry Farrah Fawcett died; I’m sorry Michael Jackson followed her; I’m really worrying for what’s going on in Iran and of course I follow daily the events. But all of that doesn’t mean that we should forget the problems inside our own family. The fact that Teheran is on fire doesn’t mean our European dysfunctional family is fine. We are in trouble and it won’t be necessary to remember it again when the next elections come.

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Emanuel Paparella2009-06-30 12:28:15
Indeed, the root causes of a family’s dysfunction are usually traceable to a loss of identity and ethical bearings. That is what a constitution is for, while a treaty is simply to enforce pacts and ensure economic prosperity. If that is the only goal, the family will unfortunately continue to get more and more dysfunctional. To change the metaphor a bit, to be on a wonderful ship called democracy without a compass and a captain is like being on the Titanic rearranging the furniture and deluding oneself that such a ship in unsinkable, not even God can sink it, and deluding oneself that all is fine. What is in trouble in the EU, I am afraid, is democracy itself which is traveling with a false self-confidence, not knowing where it comes from and where it may be headed, with no captain, no rudder and no destination while the icebergs of xenophobia, rabid nationalism and regionalism, fascism and nihilism float silently nearby. With barely 43% of the EU electorate involved even a robust democracy begins to lose legitimacy and representation and will eventually succumb by a steady blood letting of legitimacy. (continued below).

Emanuel Paparella2009-06-30 12:28:57
It may be worth-while to ponder carefully one glaring lesson of the French revolution. After it was accomplished, one cannot but notice the sad spectacle of a perfectly dysfunctional family in sheer confusion and without a leader. Eventually the family got a leader and what a leader he turned out to be. His mausoleum speaks volumes on how much esteem he is still held even today. His name was Napoleon who became the very nemesis of liberty, fraternity and equality, all in the name of the greater Europe and the ideals of the French revolution. In reality, the ideals of the revolution were all but forgotten and what was pursued were glory and power for the “greater France” masquerading as the greater Europe. All short lived, for eventually the predictable reaction arrived. One of the few sane men who kept their bearing and cultural identity at the time was Beethoven who took back the dedication to Napoleon of his third symphony. What did Heidegger say of our present predicament? “Only a god can save us now.” I like Havel’s saying better though: only our own humanity and loyalty to democracy’s true principles can save us now. That loyalty includes participation in the electoral process and the rejection of apathy and indifference. It also includes knowing one’s origins and one’s cultural identity as a people and as a polity.

Emanuel Paparella2009-06-30 12:49:24
Alessandro Manzoni, one of the greatest Italian novelists of the 19th century wrote a poem when Napoleon died titled "The Fifth of May" where he ponders on the short tenure of Napoleon on the world stage and ends the poem thus: "Fu vera gloria? Ai posteri l'ardua sentenza." (Was it true glory? To history the difficult verdict."). I dare say that the verdict is in and if we don't learn from it we are bound to receive the same one eventually.

ap2009-06-30 12:59:31
Those are my questions: "what happens when they decide to join?" (and they will in Strasbourg, don't worry - sooner rather than later). They have an agenda, and they'll get together to try and make it come true. We don't want the ghosts of WWII back, or its wounds open again. But it's obvious that they are there. I wonder when will xenophobia no longer be accepted as "normal and harmless" inside Europe - are we that tolerant, or just that racist? No wonder many people refuse to be "part of the family" or show high levels of disgust with it.

Thanos2009-06-30 20:51:33
I do agree that the roots are traceable but I'm afraid we don't care as much we should. And as Alexandra says we will find it in front of us when the summer ends the the Euro-parliament will be meeting in full strength.

Emanuel Paparella2009-07-01 03:10:01
Indeed, to re-paraphrase Manzoni again:
"ai posteri l'ardua sentenza." When people don't care about their destiny, destiny takes care of them and more often than not it is a negative experience as was the case of the short lived Napoleonic glory devoid of democracy which betrayed the ideals of the very ideals of the French revolution which it claimed to be spreading in Europe. Much food for thought there.

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