We need a New Deal between Western and Eastern Central Europe!
The two halves of Europe separated after 1945 should learn more about each other. In a 21st-century Europe, balanced cooperation may depend on the parties not starting to cite stereotypes and historical injuries whenever a conflict arises. Koloman Brenner’s essay for Azonnali’s EU debate!
Looking at Europe’s current and future status from a historical aspect, we need to be able to see the larger picture. As the bipolar world order was collapsing after 1989/1990, the disappearance of the enemy image caused a suppression of the existing social market economy principles in the developed countries, too, leading to the triumph of Neoliberal ideas. However, America weakened after a while, and since the country needed to look more into its own affairs, Trump won the presidential election. Europe is showing certain signs of economic and political instability; ever since 2008 the continent has not been able to recover from the effects of the international financial crisis (including the crisis of the Eurozone), while the refugee and migrant issue demonstrates the obvious lack of Europe’s problem-solving skills.
All that should not have come as a surprise since the European Union started out as an economic cooperation of countries with similar levels of development, and it was also motivated by the horrors of World War II. To simplify the matter somewhat, the reconciliation and cooperation of Germany and France has been the token of operation to this very day. One of the reasons why the EU has been unable to remedy the challenge posed by the Brexit is because it is unwilling to understand the reasons. The newly-joined Central Eastern European member states were not given such generous integration aid as some earlier joiners like Spain, for example. In fact, the discrimination of the new member states has been upheld in terms of agricultural production (which forms a significant part of the EU funds).
The Neoliberal economic policy failed to bring the kind of welfare it had promised to the Southern and Central European states. No wonder several EU institutions have finally put the issues of East-West and North-South oppositions on their agenda.
Furthermore, Hungary joined the EU at the worst possible time: our economy largely depends on foreign capital and EU funds but we can never become competitive as just a source of cheap labour and an “assembly plant”.
Similarly to the other countries of the region, our intention to join was motivated by the hope of converging to the “advanced West”. However, this idealized “West” does not exist (any more).
To complete the diagnosis, let me include a subjective element which can translate the dry argumentation into daily matters: as a man born in the town of Sopron, I learnt about what happened in Chernobyl earlier than the other half of Hungary from the Austrian TV and I remember the iron curtain era very well. The kind of freedom and mobility we gained through the European Union is undoubtedly a great value. However, if I were to tell my old self that Sopron’s people would regularly go across the border to Austria to fill up their cars with petrol and buy cheaper and better food while the salaries are quite far from being balanced out, my old self would laugh me out of the room.
We need a new European narrative on our common European values, including Christianity, to prove the people that there are more things to consider than just the elimination of roaming fees...
To develop a real European cooperation, we need to clarify with the core states how they could help the semi-periphery and the periphery without allowing for the predominance of big business interests and global exploitation. We need a continent that spearheads the fourth industrial revolution (infocommunication revolution, automation, etc.) and “manages” the growing social inequality without ignoring the principle of merit rather than an EU that just follows the principles of a free global market of goods, services and capital. Instead of focusing on capital interests and free trade agreements, we need a community of states that takes the interests of human societies into consideration.
My Europe is a human-centred world where people gain more and more cross-border knowledge about their region. However, the new Europe must also provide security for as many people and in as many areas as possible. So the new Europe should primarily concentrate its efforts on protecting its external borders and developing a cooperation in foreign and security affairs as well as in the economy (instead of the existing uneven, nearly semi-colonial system).
Finally, it is of utmost importance for the EU to abandon its characteristic elitism and develop a real European public discourse and forums where the real policies and arguments of each member state could be represented. In order for a new deal, the two halves of Europe separated after 1945 need to learn more about each other. First of all, balanced cooperation in a 21st-century Europe may depend on us not bringing up stereotypes and historical injuries the moment a conflict arises: let me refer to the anti-German instigations of the British media which the Brexit campaign heavily relied on, but I could also mention the German media’s articles humiliating the Greek people or the recent Polish demands for a compensation.
The EU’s structure must be adjusted to the goals above and the decision making process must be significantly more transparent. So the question is not whether we need more or less Europe. The real question is how we could better represent our continent’s interests in terms of our common causes (security policy, environment protection, foreign policy, etc.). So we need less EU “inward” but more EU outward.
To sum up, the people living in my Europe would learn more and more about our continents, our regions, our common values, the gap would be closing between the developed and the underdeveloped regions and we would manage our conflicts more wisely than we have done so far.
Jobbik MP Dr. Koloman Brenner - Azonnali.hu - Jobbik.com