The establishment is on the retreat in the run-up to the EU-wide European elections, and at the same time is losing contact with its electoral base. Only Trump’s crazy statements, made half-seriously, can push European leaders to do something. But if we look at Emmanuel Macron, who is probably most active in ‘doing something’ we realize that ‘something’ does not mean anything better. What is wrong with European leadership?  

While most Europeans understand why the Palestinians revolt, most governments remain silent, while a massacre is carried out by ‘the world’s most humanitarian army’. Only 10 per cent of EU citizens believe that Ukraine will win the war against Russia. At the same time, senior German officers are boasting on WebEx that British soldiers are already using their expertise to attack Russian targets. Just days after that conversation was published, Macron was openly sabre-rattling about European ground intervention in Ukraine, with not much regard to actual forces nor to consequences. Closer to my home, almost 70 per cent of Poles support the farmers’ protests in their country, and in other countries, including the Netherlands, months of farmers’ protests have already influenced electoral results. With Polish elections as a rare exception,

Europe is in a stalemate. The European leadership, after a few months of ‘re-activization’ and refreshment after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, is now declining, once again in debt to the US defence umbrella, with its teeth missing somewhere on a geopolitical floor. The intellectual and political stalemate began with the collapse of the Ukrainian counter-offensive, but became visible with the heinous acts of the Israeli occupation forces in Gaza. One could say that Europe was in shock after the Hamas attack on 7 October. Not really! The EU leaders, led by Ursula von der Leyen, came to the rescue of the Netanyahu regime and supported its actions from the beginning. We could see a cavalcade of leaders coming to Tel Aviv, including Macron, the man who wants to play his first cello on the world stage. 

But it was all in vain. While European leaders may have indeed wanted to create some ground for peace negotiations or a future two-state solution, it all ended up saying that Israel is entitled to defend itself, and that was all. The whole world watched as European leaders lost this little trust they had for nothing. At the same time, the massacre of civilians continued. The USA, with the support of Europe, except for a few countries like Ireland and Spain, fully supported the actions of Netanyahu. At present, US planes are dropping humanitarian aid – too little, too late – while European leaders are trying to win the debate on strategic sovereignty, once again completely overlooking the massacre in Gaza. 

Complete detachment

Trump’s words about NATO allies, or even his support for Putin’s claims against countries that do not pay enough for US protection, have kicked a ball in the direction of the Europeans. It was time for their response, their move. But even here European leaders look like immature boys. EU countries are currently unable to send the amount of ammunition and equipment they have pledged to Ukraine, yet they are signing more agreements that may be implemented at some point in the future. However, they are not backed up on paper, as evidenced by further delays in the delivery of arms and ammunition. At the same time, the Ukrainian armed forces are bleeding to death and Russia produces about seven times more ammunition than the entire EU. Where have our leaders been for the last two years, counting on the United States? Trump was quick to recall that the United States had already abandoned Europe during his first term in office, reigniting the debate on European sovereignty that had already taken place during the attack on the Capitol. However, as you can see, this is a reactive action, incapable of producing tangible results, such as the solvency of European aid to Ukraine.

All this is best summed up by the words of Macron and other leaders, including Donald Tusk, regarding the possible presence of NATO forces in Ukraine. This is simply upping the ante and communicating to European citizens themselves how much trouble the continent is in.

Farmers? Not going anywhere

Thousands of Polish farmers marched through Warsaw to protest against EU climate policy and agricultural imports from Ukraine. They were joined by Polish miners, a hunter’s union, as well as colleagues from other EU countries, in the biggest protest yet in Poland’s ongoing farmer demonstrations. The atmosphere was bitter. While no one knows who’s to blame, the protest ended in a brutal police crackdown, with batons, shields and paper spray.  

Meanwhile, Czesław Siekierski, the minister of agriculture, said that “the European Commission has imposed excessive, unreasonable and costly requirements on the Green Deal”. The Commission has already said that by 2030 larger farms will no longer have to set aside 4% of their land for mandatory use, and that pesticide use will be cut by 50%. But farmers in Poland and other EU countries, where demonstrations have been frequent recently, are not satisfied. “We do not agree with the mere suspension of these rules. This is unacceptable because the European Commission can decide to lift them at any time. We demand that the changes be permanent,” said one of the protest leaders, farmers’ union leader Sławomir Izdebski, during the Warsaw protest. 

These assurances have not calmed the protests. On the contrary, they are heating up the atmosphere. From Paris to Warsaw, the protests are growing in intensity and becoming increasingly violent. They show how unmanageable the European Union is, even in the face of a problem that was foreseeable, even anticipated, but not addressed when it should have been.

Quo vadis? 

Europe has been going through a multi-crisis for a long time. An economic crisis never ended in the eurozone, even if Greece was cannibalised along the way.

If you look at Italy, the original crisis did not go anywhere neither. It was followed by the pandemic and the war, which only deepened it and created new instruments, including sovereign debt, without healing the wounds dating back to 2008. Mario Draghi, former Prime Minister of Italy and former President of the European Central Bank, wrote in his recent report that if Europe does not want to fall behind China or the US, or the emerging economies for which the current deglobalisation is actually an opportunity for a new fair globalisation with an equal role for the global North, it must spend 500 billion a year on internal investment. 

We are talking about the scale of the expenditure that Europe will have to make if it does not want to lose ground to India or China, not to mention the US. It is difficult to talk about maintaining the status quo of the beginning of this century. There is no talk here of a transition to a war economy, which in practice means accepting responsibility for the defence of EU structures and their military resilience. There is no mention of the challenges that the EU, let us not forget, has imposed on itself because of the climate catastrophe.

In all this, there are European citizens somewhere who simply did not receive certain messages because they were not addressed to them. Macron’s message about NATO soldiers was also a message to Western citizens, it reminded them where we stand as Europe in this crisis, this war crisis. But where do we stand, and where are we going when it comes to everything else? Certainly, if we look at the last few months, Europe is unable to help others, even those to whom it owes a debt of responsibility, like the Palestinians. But can Europe at least help herself?

European leaders must answer this and subsequent questions mentioned before the following elections, or the future of the Union will be in great doubt in years to come.

Cover photo: European Commission building, Brussels. Source.

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