Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Federal Republic of Europe (5)

Yesterday’s NYT morning briefing made an astute observation by claiming that “for many in Brussels, the migration issue and others dwarf negotiations with London over Brexit”. A related NYT article added: “The European Union has huge issues bearing down: shoring up the euro currency; handling Greek debt; coping with the challenge to democratic values in countries like Poland and Hungary; and terrorism, security, migration and borders.”

I think, feel and believe that the EU’s challenges with Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are related to Brexit. These countries learned from the UK that pushing the EU will grant them concessions. These countries have also learned that a referendum will spiral out of control. These countries will also understand that playing their citizens and simultaneously playing the EU, requires different messages for different audiences.

The Hungarian, Polish and Slovakian citizens are actually much more powerful than the EU, as they can vote down their government. The EU cannot kick countries – like Hungary, Poland or Slovakia – out of the EU as the “EU bylaws provide no mechanism for expelling a member state” (FP, 2010). The EU may win in court from Hungary and Slovakia but implementing such rulings is something entirely else. The ECJ court ruling will probably change little to nothing.

The EU was successfully held hostage by the UK for several decades, until the Brits gave away their power in the 2016 Brexit referendumMrs May’s divide and rule approach did not work so far as the EU-27 keep a close guard. The UK tries raising its negotiation leverage through more contentious issues (eg, Northern Ireland). Ultimately, the UK will succumb as “any (trade) deal is better than no deal”. Independent, 2017: “Theresa May’s ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ Brexit logic could end up destroying the British economy”.

I am confident that the governments in Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have no appetite in repeating the Brexit disaster. Any exit in Eastern Europe would imply losing very much EU money, and also an uninvited welcome from Russia. These countries prefer to be softly bitten by Brussels than being bitten hard by Moscow. Many of their citizens will still remember the Soviet Union and/or the 2014 Crimea annexation by Russia.

The EU seems to be stuck in between a rock and a hard place. Before Brexit, I would indeed have acknowledged this. Brexit has opened my eyes and those of many other EU citizens: eg, Pew (June), Independent (June)Independent (August). Being inside the EU is a precious right. The absurd U.S. political theater since Trump’s election, has only reinforced this belief.

The EU opposition in Eastern Europe (and elsewhere), the Brexit disaster, and the impossibility of expelling EU countries, has led to a new momentum that has not been dared before: a political union. The Brexit disaster has learned that the EU-27 will have little to no choice in accepting or rejecting. Helmut Kohl‘s – “my girl” – Angela Merkel may complete his legacy.

My Girl (1979) by Madness – artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

My girl’s mad at me

I didn’t wanna see the film tonight

I found it hard to say

She thought I’d had enough of her

Why can’t she see

She’s lovely to me?

But I like to stay in

And watch t.v. on my own

Every now and then


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