German leadership in EU mulitcrisis era

Anna van Densky OPINION The German presidency of the Council of the European Union takes lead on 1 July 2020 in the context of the global COVID-19 crisis, and the EU ante-pandemic challanges, which have been already serious enough to be assessed as the “existential” threats to the organisation.

The first half of the year the global COVID-19 context has been negatively impacting long existing EU challenges, namely the well-known process of post-Brexit talks with the United Kingdom, aiming to produce an agreement to diminish damages to the European economies of “hard” Brexit; and not less significant EU agreement on the future seven year budget (multiannual financial framework) for the 27 members strong bloc without the UK – the second net contributor.

None of the ante-COVID19 challenges seem to be diminishing, on contrary, the Brexit talks are in libmo, so is the future budget, dividing the EU in groups of wealthy countries of the North, and indebted Mediterranean – pre-existing North-South divide is becoming even more dramatic after pandemic. The so-called “Frugal Four” – Austria, Denmark, Finland and The Netherlands – will hardly change their minds in favour of the South, reflecting the will of their citizens. Finanical Ice Age approaching, will the EU, especially the Visegrad East European countries, withstand it? They have been used to recipient role within the organisation, and they might object to any other.

However outside the EU the challenges are not less impressive: it is on the November 3 Americans will go to ballot boxes to elect their new President, producing a long-lasting effect on the entire set of international relations, and global development.

The EU dialogue with Russia, a former “strategic partner” and well-establish American foe is also on the brink, plagued in different dimensions internationally both by the conflict in Donbass, and U.S. sanctions blocking the construction of final 160 km of Nord Stream 2 pipeline, delivering gas via the sea from Russia to Germany.

The energy issues, and conflict are not limited to the EU Eastern borders, because the situation in the Mediterranean became even more alarming with the new Turkish assertiveness, pursuing gaz drilling in Cyprus waters, and casually threatening with massive release of migrants to Greece.

Migrants! And here we come to a sensitive issue, because still there is public opinion, blaming the German Chancellor her generous invitation to “all refugees”, which created the notorious migrant crisis in 2015 – swinging in a few months from Willkommenskultur to Flushtilingskrise. Since then there have been no acute migrant crisis of the similar scale, but an ongoing political systemic crisis over the issue, without unanimously agreed strategy towards exterior migration flows into EU, splitting the Union into antagonising communities. So far the Visegrad 4 group of East European countries firmly rejects the reception of migrants, occasionally ready to allocate funds.

In January this year, addressing Davos, Angela Merkel said, that it was a mistake to miss out of view the refugees as a direct consequence of conflict, and not to create an environment, where people can stay, without need to flee. Concluding German migrant experience, Angela Merkel, warned about possible next wave of refugees caused by military actions in Libya. But reflecting upon Chancellors’s words, there is no secret that solidarity does not really work in the realm of migration issues, and in post-pandemic period the migrant/refugee unsolved problem will re-emerge again. The only element about migration is consensual among member-states: Dublin system is obsolete. Will German presidency produce a new migration package in co-operation with the European Commission? The escalating conflict in Libya, and growing terrorist threat in Sahel, might create in the nearest future a significant pressure of migrant flows via Mediterranean route, resulting in raise of the eurosceptic moods in the Member-States.

The German presidency of EU will also ‘crown’ personally Angela Merkel’s fourth and final term of leadership after 15 years in the Federal Chancellery. Well-known for her capacity of reaching compromises, erecting solid political consturctions through multilateral agreements, she is expected to navigate between Scylla and Charybdis of the EU politics. Will Macron-Merkel initiative put forward on May 2020 – the stimulus fund – become a further step for European integration, solidifying the seamless transnational market enshrined by Kohl-Mitterand in Maastricht Treaty? Or the Eurosceptic forces will start pulling it apart, fragmenting and polarising communities, and the European nations, attempting to find the solutions to systemic crisises in individual ways?..

Whatever the outcome of German presidency will be, the decisions taken within next six months will shape the live of the next generation of Europeans and model the face of Europe up to the mid of the 21 century in a unique irreversible way.

Image: Angela Merkel, EU Council, archive

#BLM war on idols

Anna van Densky OPINION Ancient Greek philospher said – Patna Rhei – everything flows. Stepping out of the confinement the Europeans found themselves in a different world, violently torn apart by phanthomes of the сolonial past.

Black Life Matters #BLM movement touched Brussels, de facto the European Union (EU) capital, by pogroms of the luxury stores, but not only. The degradation of public life into a bitter argument over the colonial past has occurred suddenly as a skeleton fallen out from the closet.

People use politics not just to advance their interests but also to define their identity. We know who we are only when we know who we are not and often only when we know whom we are against” Samuel Hantington wrote in his famous “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order”. Apparently a new episode of the clash is gaining momentum.

Unfortunately during this clash in Brussels the rule of law was completely buried in avalanche of emotions, detached from realities, and pursuing the fantômes of the past. The wave of the monuments vandalisation ended in a proposal for creation of the Belgium parliament commission for Truth & Reconciliation aiming at the appology for the colonial atrocities in Congo Free State in times of king Leopold II. “We, the Socialist party, believe that there should be an apology,” said group leader Meryame Kitir. However is the apology enough to build bridges between communities?

The statues of the public figures, causing the whirlwind of emotions, like the one of the Belgium king Leopold II in the first ranks, the one who owned Congo as his personal property, are perceived differently by Europeans and Africans within their retrospective cultures. If Belgiums mostly see in them the relics of the past, the Africans have much more lively and mysterious ways of relating to the sculptures as idols, materialising the idea, insuring its longevity.

For African ethnic religions, the idols are sacred tools to influence life through mysterious rituals, and even more, they are integral part of life, participating in their own invisible manner through emanation of energies. Originally they were named fétiche by Portuguese colonizers who introduced the word to set a clear difference between African idols and Christian saints, however this verbal distinction did not prevent Africans to look at the European sculptures though the prism of the own perceptions.

Another emblematic figure – Julius Ceasar was vandalised in Zottegem, Belgium, most probably in analogy with Christopher Columbus attacked in the U.S., because Caesar conquered the territory of present-day Belgium, and integrated it as a province into Roman Empire. Furthermore, it was Julius Caesar who gave the name of “Gallia Belgica“, leaving the description of the local tribes. However he also had diffiuclies there, facing a revolt just four years after the conquest.

Two thousand years later Belgica experiences the other type of migration, than Romans led by Ceasar – a total of 31,600 people have crossed into Europe illegally in 2020 so far, a drop of only 6% from the same period in 2019. Over 5,500 have reached Europe via the so-called ‘Central Mediterranean route‘, from North Africa to Europe, including 1,000 migrants in May.

Yet Libya continues to act as a magnet for migrants who come there in hope to make cross the sea and reach the European coasts, settling in one of the rich countries of the continent.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that in February 2020 there were at least 654,000 migrants gathered in Libya in view to cross the sea.

The top five nationalities were Nigerien 21%, Chadian 16%, Egyptian 15%, Sudanese 12%, and Nigerian 8%. Men constituted 89% of migrants, women 11%, and 7% were minors of which 24% were unaccompanied. On average the fee to reach Libya mounts up to $1,000.

Various projections indicate that mid-century African population will double reaching 2,5 billion threshold, while the Europeans will decline to 450 million. However if current trend of migration flows from Maghreb coast continue with the same frequency and intercity, from 150 to 200 million of Europe inhabitants will be from African descent.

In spite this impressive perspective of the “Africanisation of Europe” the politicians have no strategy of adaptation of European cultural environment to upcoming “African Age“. With the fast-growing African population in Europe, the request to abandon the Eurocentric concept of history was not totally unpredictable, on contrary, it was quite a logical outcome of the demographic trends. In these cirucumstances the vandalisation of the sculputres of the historic figures are emblematic, but not essential in adaptation demands of the newscomers.

The profound meaning of the transition from quantity to quality, which Hegel was highly likely the first to articulate, was one of several ways of explaining change and the mechanisms of social transformation. Unfortunatly so far both the European Union and national politics in the member-states have been ignoring the ongoing tectonic demographic transformation of the continent.

Hakuna-matata modus is over. Time to say patikana, and face and advantages and challenges of the imminent change.