Here we are again, after Ankara and Bruxelles, but also Ivory Cost and Nigeria in the last ten days, speaking about how to fight ISIS and terrorism in general. And here we are again with politicians and leaders missing the point of the whole picture. We cannot “fight” or “battle” against terrorism, as it is like to fight against guns or worst, again ourselves. We can only defeat it or succumb to it. Terrorism is a human product and as Giovanni Falcone, Italian judge killed by the Mafia, once said about Mafia we can say today of terrorism: “is a human phenomenon, and as all human phenomena has a start, an evolution and will have also an end”. We will defeat it in time, the point is how to do it earlier instead than later, that means how to prevent it working on its roots instead of reacting to it just working on its fruits.
If we don’t want to succumb to it for the next decades there are three paths to start, as I already wrote on this blog after Paris last November and Egypt last February 2015: diplomacy, inclusion and protection, which means new approaches to foreign policies, integration policies and security policies.
To change foreign policy in the Middle East, Europe will need to invest in mediation and diplomacy efforts and disinvest in bombing and trading arms to the region: we cannot expect to build sustainable peace and economic development if we keep with the old colonialist approach of wars and power politics, “divide and rule” and profit from selling weapons. Foreign policy should mean first of all diplomacy, this should be the real goal of a successful foreign policy, but after the two world wars Western foreign policy meant mostly military invasions and arms trade. And terrorism is the direct result of this. We need instead change direction, start to support negotiating efforts, like we did with Iran, to help to build a new regional order, involving the regional powers of the Middle East, first of all Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as all the other actors, including the non-state actors on the ground, often defined terrorist groups because of their fight for self-determination, like PKK/PYD for Kurds, Hezbollah for Shia in Lebanon and Hamas for Palestinians. Unless we will be able to involve all of the legitimates needs and request of all the actors on the ground, we will never have peace in the Middle East, as these groups will never abandon the armed struggle and transform from armed groups to political parties or social movements.
We will also need to stop fueling sectarianism in the region with identity construction discourses and weapons sale. This will require both a change in the political and media discourse of Western powers and also their industrial transformation in the long run, from economies based on arms production and resources exploitation to new technological productions and green industries. Europe need to stop the flows of money and weapons from some of the Middle East powers, often our allies like Saudi Arabia or Turkey, to DAESH/ISIS and its affiliated terrorist groups, forcing instead these allies to make a real military battle to defeat the ISIS armed group that is controlling the territory between Syria and Iraq, with our external support in particular protecting civilians and minorities. If they will not be able to do it, because of their opposed interests (Sunni versus Shia dominated powers, or Turks versus Arabs versus Kurds), then the external powers, in primis US and Russia, will have to intervene in force, asthey did in the past for common enemies like Nazism. And finally the EU needs to integrate Turkey: only with Turkish membership we will shift towards a real pluralistic Union, not anymore a religiously homogeneous continent but a pluralistic one, as in its ideals, that will welcome moderate Muslim countries and will increase its Muslim population from the current 45 million to 120 million, making the narrative of “clash of civilizations” just a ridiculous rhetoric of the past.
Second, to change the type of integration we have today in Europe we need to create a new social contract in the continent, based on real inclusion and participation and not anymore on the isolation of communities of immigrants that has been created by both multiculturalism and assimilationism, in particular now with the arriving of millions of refugees. This marginalization created the humus for the terrorism, and often not only in the streets or houses but in the prisons, where small criminals become terrorist for a lack of a better future. It is not a case that the last attack has taken place in Bruxelles, the capital of European Union, and Belgium in general, a place where pluralism should be the basic factor but where the “European bureaucrats” don’t create a real Belgium identity, that instead is divided between Fleming and Walloon, making the integration of immigrants, their feeling of belonging to a state, even more difficult. The European Union therefore need to re-discover again its meaning, the foundation of a continent “United in diversity” as its motto says, respecting the differences but giving to everyone the same European identity and equal access to resources, following closer the United States example, who has been more able to put in practice the principles of its Declaration of Independence that says: “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. Until now these unalienable rights have been given only to some part of the European population and so the European dream is still to be realized.
Finally, even if this is the least important of the three, to change the approach to security we will need two processes, one at individual level and one at political level. At individual level we need to learn as citizens to be more aware of our environment, in order to proactively be able to self-protect us more, controlling abandoned packages, reporting suspect people etc. in order to live free to move where we want and at the same time being aware of living in dangerous times. But on the other side, at political level, we need to build a more efficient and less frightening Big Brother, based on real intelligence control, that doesn’t mean necessary loss of privacy or principal freedoms, but instead more integration and exchange of information among European states and agencies, to facilitate a real common police and common security policies. It is not a question of suspending our rules and Constitutions, like France did last year, it is a question of maintaining our freedom and at the same time work in a more efficient way. It is not possible and neither acceptable that one of the most advance security system in Europe, the Belgian police, took 4 months to get one of the attackers of Paris. This is the right thing to do, find the perpetrators and arrest them as normal criminals, without making them dangerous heroes reacting to their action with full military force, but cannot be done in an amateurish way.
If we will be able to do all this, the Jihadist terrorism will end sooner than later. The path is still long though, it will take probably one generation, but we will then be able to go on with the development of the Middle East and also the other excluded parts of the world, in particular Africa, helping the progress of all the nations on the Earth. If we will fail, terrorism will continue for generations to come, at least until some people of the world will be marginalized and will not share an equal Liberté Egalité Fraternité.
Like one century ago we are living troubling times. Europe, in its broadest definition (including Russia) is passing again from economic, democratic and identity crisis and so is searching for a scapegoat, with new imperialisms, new xenophobia, under the forms of Islamophobia or migrantophobia, and a new fascist renaissance. The recent victory of Le Pen in France, but also other fascist style leaders, as Orban or Putin, send bad sensations in that direction. But this time similar trends seems to happen surprisingly also in this other side of the Atlantic, at least if we look at the increasing support to Trump, that has been defined as a new ‘soft’ and ‘joker style’ Hitler or Mussolini. And in the unfortunate case he would be elected as Republican candidate, and moreover in the possible tragedy to be elected President, we should really start to reflect on the mechanisms of democracy. Because in a democracy the political leaders need the follow “the logic of political survival” (Bueno de Mesquita, 2003) that means they need to be elected and when elected to keep their power. In order to do so they have to use deeds and narratives to fulfill the needs and instincts of their constituencies, including fears and xenophobia.
Even if personal and historical analogies are not more than what they are, analogies, sometimes it is useful to study them deeply. As Nye says “historical analogies, though sometimes useful for precautionary purposes, become dangerous when they convey a sense of historical inevitability” (1914 Revisited, Project-Sindicate, 1/13/1914). So will we go downhill again towards clashes and authoritarianisms, with these kind of leaders exploiting fears with hate narratives, even if not exactly in the same way, as one century ago? Fortunately the current technological and information revolution make the people brain washing of propaganda less powerful, but today we are in the times of globalization, homogenization and superficiality and the culture that we receive is not always so deep.
Actually one big difference in the current social and political regression respect to one century ago is that it doesn’t seem counterbalanced by the creative cultural moment of the 1910s and the 1920s: we don’t know if we will live again the only good things of the Roaring twenties, les Années folles in France or il Futurismo in Italy. The problem is also that no European leaders think much on how to improve culture and stimulate innovation and creativity, and if they think to culture is represented as a polarized diversity not as an element of individual empowerment, opening minds and hearts, increasing the respect, tolerance and integration of different people.
Only one leader today in Europe, and in the West in general, seems to believe in the force of culture, Matteo Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister, may be also because he comes from Florence, the cradle of Renaissance, and started to work just one year after another leader that search for dialogue and respect of cultures, who he estimates much, being a fervent religious person, Pope Francis. The irony is that Renzi is probably the only leader of a Western democracy that has not been formally elected, in the sense that he was not the candidate when his party won and after being elected just Secretary of the Democratic Party he stole the PM place of its predecessor with a “soft coup”. Renzi went to “la prima” of La Scala on December 7, the season opener of the most important Opera theatre in Italy, defying security fears that were waiting some attacks, saying “they will not close us in the houses”. After the attacks in Paris, Renzi and his government refrained from starting to bomb Syrian or Iraqi people and allocated instead 1 Billion Euro for home security and the same exact amount for culture. The funds will be used especially in the suburbs where youth of different cultures sometimes clashes, and 500 Euro will go to every 18 year old Italian person in a form of a culture card that can be spent on theaters, museums etc. These actions, besides fighting the fear instead of abusing it, sending people to assist to cultural events, are based on the belief that radicalization, and so risk of terrorism and clashes, will be limited by cultural, besides economic, integration in our countries. This is an logic and common sense reflection to do but our European leaders seems to not buy it, if we look for example at the increased discriminatory policies towards immigrants, especially Muslims, happening in Europe, and specifically in France. The problem is that democratically elected leaders know that “with the culture we don’t eat”, as Tremonti, the Minister of Economy and Finances with Berlusconi in Italy, said. And so if it doesn’t benefit the bellies of the voters is a useless policy, at least for the short term goal to be re-elected.
But the current internal policies of Renzi’s government are also coupled, in the foreign policy, by a diplomatic instead of warring approach, as Italy has a history of pro-Arab, pro-Middle East and mediating foreign policies, since WWII. Opposite to France, that today seems to rediscover its Grandeur or UK that starts again with its old imperialist vision, may be because they feared to lose ground respect to Germanic leadership in Europe or Russian involvement in the Middle East. As we all know it is not bombing more the Middle East, after one century since the Ottoman defeat and its “conquest” by Europe, that we will help it to find a new order. We need to support diplomatic tools, democratic movements and long visionary policies, we need to help Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia to go towards cooperative and pluralistic approaches, in the relationship among themselves and inside their countries, we need to recreate the social fabric and the moderate ideological debate destroyed by sectarianism and authoritarianism. Authoritarian regimes supported by the West and the search for only national interest without opening common grounds for regional cooperation, have been useful for the old divide et impera, but will not be conducive to a sustainable and stable order in the future of the region.
Culture is what makes people free. As Paulo Freire said: “Education does not transform the world. Education changes people. People transform the world”. Our hopes resides therefore, more than ever, with the people and their possibility to learn from cultures and empower themselves through education, as our leaders, apart rare cases, don’t seem able today to guide masses to more tolerance, collaboration, prosperity and integration. In particular leaders like Donald Trump, a business man not a politicians, at least in the higher sense of this word, that more than to Mussolini I would compare to Berlusconi, another business man that went to politics just for pure interest of power, and remained in power for almost 20 years, destroying the culture of the Italian people with its superficial televisions and making Italians more racist and fearful of the “others”.
Who speaks about the Third World War already started is either an ignorant or a fool. The two world wars were total wars, fought among states with gigantic armies and making millions of victims. DAESH is an armed Wahhabi/Salafi extremist militant group, based on a destructive cult, that took advantage of two failed states and Western proxy wars to take control of Mosul, Raqqa and a piece of territory between Syria and Iraq. It would be not difficult to defeat a small terrorist pseudo state that declared war to everyone apart them, first of all against their fellow Muslim brothers, as we can see from the bombs in Baghdad and Beirut. But the terrorism that they are using abroad will not stop. To limit terrorism we need securitization but to stop it there is only one way: integration.
After the new Paris attacks now we are waiting for a French Patriot Act on the style of the American one after 9-11 and French boots on the ground against DAESH. Europe and NATO too could intervene as France is part of NATO and could be considered under attack (according to Article 5 “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”). But as we know from the past (Iraqi war that contributed to create DAESH) a war, even if important, will not be enough, and could be also counterproductive, if not done with a long vision and proper tools of inclusive state reconstruction. This is what the EU and also the UN should start to think about now: how to help to reconstruct a new order in the Middle East. Yes we need a new order in the region after the end of the post-Ottoman one based on the Sykes-Picot agreements, but it has to be an autochthonous order, not an imperialist one. Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia will have to compromise sooner or later with Iran, and they will have to help reconstruct the new states coming out of Syria and Iraq (probably four new states) like Europe helped ex Yugoslavia to build the new countries. The EU, US and Russia will have to support from outside, not put their hands inside again, as they did in the past. Otherwise the terrorist groups will start again, under new forms.
On the other front, to stop terrorism abroad, we need first of all to understand that we are facing a new type of war, asymmetric, hybrid and dynamic, and so we need new tools to face it, not armies and bombs but intelligence and police. Otherwise as the US failed to understand the guerrilla warfare in Vietnam we may fail to understand the terrorist war in our countries. Unfortunately this new tools could create permanent “state of emergencies” as already in France, so we will need to take care of not falling in the risk of Big Brother as the NSA did in the US. But is the temporary solution needed to control the terrorist cells. In the long run though to really stop terrorism, as we did with Nazism, we will need a new integration in Europe and the West in general, between the old inhabitants and the new immigrants. The foreign fighters born because of lack of integration and strong identity, not because of some innate hate towards the West, as racists everywhere say. Therefore a Patriot act and policy and intelligence measures will just limit but not solve the problem. Europeans are mourning now some innocent victims, like the US did 14 years ago, and like different parts of Middle East suffered for decades, because of European colonialism and Western imperialism. Yes we rich people of the West, we are responsible of the suffering of many populations, sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly and often without completely knowing it (as the media didn’t show us the suffering we created with our wars and our economic exploitation). But today is the time to invert the trend: we need a new reconciliation between the ex-invaders and current hosts and the ex-invaded and current refugees. In Europe we need to build a new integration, this time social instead of economic, we need a new multiculturalism, based on respect of diversity. Europe until now thought too much about the money and too little about the souls. But the new wave of immigrants and refugees will help the continent to reflect that to live together we need rules but also awareness, to live together means to eat together but also talk together, and learn from each other. We need to teach tolerance and respect of different cultures, starting with the children and their program of education and following with ethical/solidarity/cultural tourism instead of those useless, ridiculous and offensive holiday resorts, counterproductive also for the local economies that remain dependent on foreign flows. If wars and neocolonialism are the parents of terrorism, racism and Islamophobia are its siblings: they don’t limit terrorism they fuel it. The path is long but is not eternal. As Giovanni Falcone once said of Mafia we can say today of terrorism: terrorism is a human phenomenon, and as all human phenomena has a start, an evolution and will have also an end.
After the “wall of shame” built by Hungarian Prime Minister Orban to stop refugees coming from the Middle East today the increasing frightened Hungarian parliament passed a law allowing the army to use rubber bullets, tear gas grenades and net guns against refugees. The new law will allow soldiers to be sent to help police manage the refugee crisis, carrying out many of the same tasks such as checking ID, detaining suspects and controlling the flow of traffic at the borders. Recently Orban declared: “those arriving have been raised in another religion, and represent a radically different culture. Most of them are not Christians, but Muslims. This is an important question, because Europe and European identity is rooted in Christianity…..Is it not worrying in itself that European Christianity is now barely able to keep Europe Christian?”
Is this too much all this actions and declarations for a European country and leader or not yet? Do they represent a violation of the fundamental values of European Union or are they just a security issue of a sovereign state and sentences of an innocuous “dictator”, as the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently called him? To discern this issue is not easy but we can look at some instruments that the EU has to protect itself from ‘democratically elected undemocratic governments’. One of this tool is the Article 7, the so called “Austria lex”. Let’s see what it is and how it born.
In 2000 there was no mechanism for ensuring that all the countries that were already a EU member state were in compliance with the Copenhagen criteria laid down at the June 1993 European Council, among which the political criteria: stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. Therefore special arrangements had been put in place in that year, some type of “sanctions”, imposed by the other 14 EU Member States’ governments against the Austrian government of Wolfgang Schüssel, who had made a coalition including Jörg Haider’s extreme right party. The informal/unofficial sanctions, based on ceasing cooperation, refusing basic social interaction and keeping unavoidable contacts to the legally required minimum, didn’t block the government from keep working though. The Schussel government went on until 2006 with a second mandate again in alliance with Haider’s party.
In response to the failed sanctions against Austria the EU Treaty of Nice in 2001 adopted formal rules for the application of sanctions against a Member State. The Treaty of Nice amended the Maastricht Treaty and the Treaty of Rome, reformed the institutional structure of the European Union to withstand eastward expansion and established also formal rules for the application of sanctions against a Member State: the so called “Lex Austria”. The Lex Austria therefore is a political sanction according to which the member states can lose their voting rights if the other EU countries find that they have breached human rights. The law is repeated in the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 but is extended to situations when there is a “clear risk of a serious breach” by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2. This new paragraph added with the Lisbon Treaty therefore enables a prevention mechanism aiming at facilitating EU intervention before the breaches actually occur.
But what are the values of Article 2? Article 2 recites: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. These values are common to the Member States in a society in which pluralism, non-discrimination, tolerance, justice, solidarity and equality between women and men prevail”. Therefore if Hungary is considered to violate values of respect of human dignity and human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities, can be called accountable. Two questions remain in place though: what is the limit for an action to be considered as serious breach? And what about non-citizens, are immigrant minorities considered at the same level of citizens minorities?
We don’t know yet what will be but for sure the European Parliament started already to reflect again on Hungarian’s behavior. This is the second time and may be could be the right one. The first time the European Parliament in July 2013 adopted a resolution calling on Hungary to reform its Constitution and change policies to bring it in line with EU norms and values. But at that time it didn’t work. Now may be is the right time. Actually a motion for a new resolution has been passed already last June, against Orban and its interest in debating a potential re-establishment of the death penalty in Hungary and new policies on migration.
At a time of economic and identity crisis the EU hast to recuperate its unity and not increase its divisions and it has to fight against any germ of populism, racism, xenophobia and dictatorship. This could be a good occasion. As Slavoj Zizek recently wisely said, “Europe will have to reassert its full commitment to provide means for the dignified survival of the refugees” besides “organize itself and impose clear rules and regulations” (see: http://inthesetimes.com/article/18385/slavoj-zizek-european-refugee-crisis-and-global-capitalism)
Sources for information about Article 7:
The migrants that arrive alive to the shores of our south European countries or jump the fences erected in Central-Eastern Europe, represents the biggest exodus of people after WWII in Europe and are changing the face, and soon also the policies, of the continent. Europe in one century will be like the United States: a land of immigrants. Refugees and economic migrants arriving in hundreds of thousands, and in the future probably in millions, will not be stopped by the fences that Hungary is building on the 110 miles of border with Serbia (anyway soon Croatia will be also in the Schengen area). These migrants will not be fend off by the racist attitudes that a a nationalist conservative prime minister of a landlocked country is trying to create in Europe (looking to the fortresses of the past instead of to the bridges of the future). These immigrants on the opposite will be welcome by the European values of tolerance, democracy and universalism, that today are stronger than its fears. Neither economic depressions nor fear of invasions will make us Europeans to go back to the barbarity of nationalism, fascism and nazism. And exactly the best part of Germany, both with its leadership and its people, showed to Europe and the world in these days what it means the Kantian duty of ethics. Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, foresaw a “perpetual peace” based not only on republicanism and federalism but on “universal hospitality”: this is what all Europe, with Germany in the first row, today has to show. German people experienced on their skin what does it mean to be refugee after WWII and so they have to fight against the xenophobia that is present in some part of the population and right wing party (like in Austria, that today also showed its best part with the caravan of cars going to Hungary to pick up the refugees). Ms Merkel said it well: there has to be zero tolerance for hate and xenophobia.
But there is more than fight between tolerance and racism in this epochal change. In the same way as the internal migration among European states created what is today the European culture, maintaining the diversity of each country but also integrating them in a common identity, the people from the Maghreb, the Levant of Middle East and farther, will create a Euro-Mediterranean identity based also on South and Southeastern peripheries of the continent (like Russian people will do with the Eastern periphery). Even if European institutions don’t want to expand yet to its southeast border (first of all Turkey) people will create naturally a European enlargement decades before the European Union will expand. It is a normal and natural process, as migrations cannot be blocked, neither with walls nor with fears, in particular if they are the result of wars that Europe didn’t want to stop or that even facilitated. And here we come to the third effect of these migrations: they will not change only the face of the continent but they will also modify its institutions and its policies, both foreign and internal policies.
Europe cannot escape anymore from its own responsibilities in keeping the Middle East and Africa backwards and in constant conflict, from centuries of colonialism to the current Western wars and arms trade. From the American wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, to the Syrian proxy war and Libyan military intervention, the EU, guided by the US, is looking today at the effects of its recent actions. These effects don’t remain anymore only in the region (keeping the Middle East exceptionalism in the failure of democracy and development) but arrives to our own territories with the migratory event, with its security, economic, social and cultural consequences. Therefore our governments cannot play anymore with the fire hiding the hand: they will have to deal with the consequences of their actions and this will put foreign policies into question. Germany is the less involved in these failed foreign policies (it opposed strongly Iraq war and Libyan intervention for example) and at the same time is the country that assumes more responsibility. Sure, also because its growing economy and markets need worker and citizens with a new drive of building a better life, but also because if Germany wants to become the real leader of European integration it has to do it with legitimacy and ethics. Anyway Germany cannot be the only one to take the burden of the crisis on its shoulders, and the costs but also the benefits of millions of migrants (that will sustain an ageing continent and its pensions system) will have to be shared. Even if the UK is obviously the less affected by the migratory crisis it is the main responsible for the Middle East situation, and so together with the US will have to assume its responsibility too. Cameron said that UK has the most migrants of all the European nations, but forgot to say that (a part one million of polish coming during Blair era) these migrants mostly came from the Commonwealth, so were not refugees in needs of help but almost English citizens already.
Therefore this crisis will shake and change Europe and will make the continent to think twice in the future also on its foreign policy, and may be a sustainable, development oriented, foreign policy in the outskirts of the continent will see the light sooner or later. As we did for the ex-Yugoslavia we need to help these populations to not become refugees, and the refugees that are in neighboring countries to be protected and helped. Also, this crisis already changed the Dublin rule that asylum seekers are required to claim a refuge in the first EU state they arrive in, but will also make Europe think to more internal integration, less frontiers and a real European citizenship for the future. So migrations, and in general the elements of globalization, are having strong effects on state sovereignty: the modern countries have to rethink their integration and citizenship policies based on new realities of nation states, member states and federal states.
Thank you Germany, this time you showed what does it mean to be a great power, a great democracy and a great leader: it takes “power and morality”, as Edward Carr would have said. An ethical and not authoritarian leader is what we need for a new Europe. Look and learn UK: forza European democracy and integration.
If Margaret Thatcher has been remembered as the Iron Lady, the Lady that destroyed the welfare state to open space to the complete free market in her country, Angela Merkel could be remembered as the “Steel Lady”. The Steel Lady that could destroy in one blow not only the welfare state in southern Europe (with Renzi in Italy and the impositions to Greece) but the sovereignty of the European nation states and, even more important, the integration of Europe from the grassroots level, from the voice of the people, in one word: the democracy in the European integration.
As Krugman correctly wrote today (1) Germany’s attitude after the Greek referendum “goes beyond harsh into vindictiveness, complete destruction of national sovereignty, and no hope of relief. (…) Who will ever trust Germany’s good intentions after this?” Nobody, and this will be caused by the law of Karma (or call it the third Newton’s law of motion, as Germans love more scientism) that is if you mistreat the others sooner or later the others will do the same to you. It happened many times since the German unification at the end of last century, and keeps happening because history repeats itself and often we don’t learn from it. Did Germany forgot what does it produce to humiliate a country? Did the German government forgot how populism, fascism and racism started in Europe almost one hundred years ago? German people, and in general northern Europeans, in a way or another feel superiors to the southern Europeans (like in Italy, where the people from the north feel superior to the ones of the south). But many times they overcome their stereotypes and worked together, as populations, to come out from suffering and miseries. I hope that they will do this time too, without punishing the “slackers” of the Mediterranean, being them Italians, Greeks or Spaniards, as they don’t work enough and steel if they can (even if they have good food, the sun and the sea). If this is not a form of racism what is it? The problem is that racism applied to politics is not exactly the best adviser.
The negotiations for Greece tonight are going on “with a vengeance”, in all senses, and the ashtag “Thisisacoup” is a hit. Not only Frau Merkel, and the rest of the Eurogroup (that is the ministries of finance of the Euro countries) could humiliate Greece, punishing it with consequences for that state that we cannot foresee right now. But they could throw to the garbage also the voice of the Greek people, that voted in the majority to ask the EU to reconsider the absurd austerity measures that made their economy to collapse. This could be not only the destruction of the welfare state and the ‘statism’ in the south of Europe. Not only anymore a struggle between who believe that there is only one way for the economic development, the way of the banks that hold the states by their balls (pardon my French) and the others that tries to propose alternative. This could be the start of the end for the national sovereignty in the European continent. And that would not be a drama if it was coming from below instead than from above. Instead it could be the start of the end of the democratic voice of the European people, because the European Union, as it is structured right now, cannot give to the people the voice to decide for the continent as a whole, and so it still needs the national sovereignty to give people the possibility to count. The European Parliament has no this force, and the European Commission neither. So this could be a democratic collapse. And it could be very risky for the future of the continent.
Where is the dream of the European integration, the motto of “United in Diversity”, where is the trust among countries that fought for thousands of years and finally found peace and prosperity after the biggest madness of their history. Where is the mutual understanding, the consensus decision making, the struggle for agreements, dialogue, dignity and tolerance? Did it start to end when Tsipras was lectured and insulted in the European Parliament and outside, treated by his Northern European colleagues as Schauble, Junker or Verhofstadt, as a pampered child that doesn’t do the homework? Will start to end tonight, with Ms Merkel and Mr Schauble sitting on the altar of the Gods, and the Greeks under the Olimpo, with their smaller gods asking for dignity and being slammed in the face with humiliations? Is this the start of the end of the European dream? May be, or maybe could be the beginning of it, with finally the people of Europe, in particular southern Europe, retaking in their hands their destinies.
If Germany believes that will be able to compete with superpowers like China and the US, or even with future great powers like India, Brazil or Indonesia, without the European integration, is just naïf. But Germany should become the trusted and legitimate leader, not the hated ruler. And the point is that, even if there will be no Grexit, the other states could not trust Germany anymore if these negotiations fail or Greece will be humiliated in the conditions requested, and countries like Italy will not stay still, looking outside the window for when the German storm will pass. Unless Renzi greases Italian’s people palm with much more than 80 euros in the salary or the reimbursement for the pensions, the Five Stars Movement could be the next first party in Italy very soon. And at that point the Karma, and the laws of economy, will do their path, going back to Germany and making this country regret its arrogance of tonight.
PS An agreement has been reached in the morning, it is much tougher than the one rejected by the referendum, in disregard to the voice of the Greeks. We’ll see if it will be accepted by the Greek Parliament…Germany and the rest of Europe have been forward-looking to keep Greece inside Euro, but they have done so mostly for their interests. It is the end of national sovereignty in Europe: monetary politics and banks won, and Germany, followed by several other northern countries, decided the domestic policy of another country. If this is not the start of the end of the nation state from above what is that? Greek debt has not been restructured, as instead it was done for Germany after WWII or for many international banks recently (from Morgan Stanley to Citigroup and for many more billions of dollars respect to Greece). German hypocrisy remained, keep cutting public expenditure in Greece while maintaining it in its country to increase the advantages respect to the other members, and going on with a monetary union that benefit mostly Germany, being not fair a real monetary union among countries so different in the competitiveness. Reforms and the EU Commission intervention should help Greece economic growth but it is not sure yet how. Hopefully this experience will help the continent to be more united and democratic in the future…but i have my doubts.
(1) Killing the European Project, from: http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/
“Events my dear boy, events”. This is what Harold Macmillan, the British Prime Minister, had said when was asked by a journalist what is most likely to blow governments off course.
Events are what they are: events. But the context, the path that lead to them and the reactions that follow, make them fundamental shocks that impact the future of our lives, sometimes not only in the countries where they happen (like 9/11) or just random facts. Last ten days there have been two events that could have an impact much further than their short time and space range: the Greek referendum and the Tunisian attack. Let’s try to put them in perspective.
Many things have been said before the Greek referendum on the new proposal to “save” Greece, made by the ECB AND the IMF (even if many times we forget about it, the IMF is deciding on the future of European countries as much as the European Central Bank). There have been many attempts to jeopardize the referendum, trying to politically kill the Syriza party, after its “dangerous” victory in the last elections, as well as the democratic renaissance of a small country of few millions of people who invented democracy more than two millennia ago. Even not so much veiled threats and blackmails, like the one by Ms Merkel, the European substantial leader, who said “if the Euro falls Europe falls” (ironically she was not so wrong as the European Union until now has been a monetary union but the end of that could represent its renaissance).
Besides all that has been said the population of Greece demonstrated that even in mature democracies in crisis, like the European ones, we can give back power to the people, to empower the citizens, who has the right to decide on their future, instead of a bunch of technocrats and bankers, representing private interests of few European and world groups. Greece used the referendum as the tool to give back to people the sovereignty, a tool that, even on difficult things, should be used more as a democratic element in modern representative democracies in crisis of legitimacy. And it is not a case that Greece give us the example: we have to go always back to the original inventors if we want to retake that invention and give it vital lymph again. As Italians did for the Renaissance, going back to the Roman classics, also to remake the European integration and improve our poor modern democracies, we have to go back to the Greek classics. Greece demonstrated that the people can decide on their future, and not only on general things but also on technical decisions. Today everyone can get information through internet, and this give more power to the people who can express themselves on different things (like the referendum text, that gave the exact names of the documents so all who wanted could go to read them). And the referendum showed also another important element for the future of Europe and in general the international system: nation sovereignty is still the principal form of modern societies, and the integration of nation states needs to pass from the people, not from the technocrats, from the nations not from the banks, from the ideas not from the money. This is the Europe that we want today, not a fake supranational entity but a real confederation of states, made by all the national entity that compose it.
But in the Greek case there is even more than this, there is a fight between the old style welfare state, the third way between total capitalism and total communism that Europe had conquered with difficulties, and the modern capitalism. As Žižek masterly explained in its recent article (1) the real question today in Europe is the fact that global capitalism cannot afford a return to the old welfare state. And Syriza is a danger for this. A danger or a salvation, if we follow Varoufakis programmatic declaration: “If this means that it is we, the suitably erratic Marxists, who must try to save European capitalism from itself, so be it”. Future will say but for now we can celebrate as democracy and people’s voice are back to Europe, and they came back to remain.
Besides the Greek case there has been another event in the last few days in the Mediterranean that could represent another shift in the future of Europe and the Mediterranean (including the Middle East/ME): last attack at the Tunisia resort of Sousse ten days ago could represent the lethal hit to the Tunisian democracy. Unfortunately more terrorist attacks will follow probably, as there is a type of “state” now that finance these acts of “political-identitarian” mass killings, and this state is not Iran, the big devil, who the West accuses often to support terrorism (while in reality it supports self-determination and anti-discrimination Shia movements, that have been repressed for long time, in particular by the Sunni monarchies). There is a state now, the Islamic (or we should say Islamist) State that will not see its end soon, on the contrary it will probably expand more and sooner or later it will have to socialize with the other sovereign actors, nation states, of the region (unless some war will annihilate it, but this war is not on the horizon). Tunisia demonstrated again that even if the current international terrorism wants to destroy its experiment with democracy (that is quite dangerous for both the Islamists and the world powers, as it is not following the diktats of the international capitalism, including banks, international markets and finance, exactly like Greece) the right path is the path of the government “of the people, by the people and for the people”. That is why Tunisian democracy will not die, because it is coming from the people and it goes back to them, even if the ISIS, and probably many other regional or global powers, wants it to fail.
The probable escalation of future ISIS attacks will have strong consequences for Europe and the ME like 9-11 had, both internationally and internally, for the US. Specifically the ISIS violent escalation, could have three main consequences during the first half of this century, in Europe, the ME and also inside Islam.
Europe evidently will have to deal with it not only military, but culturally, socially and economically, engaging with the south coast of the Mediterranean that after the events of the Arab Spring and Western wars (direct of proxy) ended the post-Ottoman order of the region. Europe in particular will have to decide if it wants to remain a fortress with lack of visionary politics of integration (substituted by a superficial multilateralism that make society ghettoized and open to the problems of radicalization of conflicts) or to improve its process of integration, in particular for the thousands of refugees that are knocking at its doors. Will Europe close or open itself to the world? If it doesn’t want to end in the arms of a never ending Cold War with Russia, Europe has to embrace Africa, as Mahbubani says (2), rediscovering its Mediterranean identity and making of it a real “Sea between lands” (from the Latin Mediterraneus) passing from fortress to square, and becoming a real democratic space that lives up to its values of diversity and tolerance creating a new experiment of melting pot, with equal possibilities for all, on the US style.
The ME will have to solve its problems of poverty and backwardness respect to the rest of the world, and this unfortunately will not come without more conflicts and suffering. Not that the ME didn’t suffer until now, with colonialism, occupations and dictatorships sustained by the West, but this century could be even worst. Hopefully will be the last one of great suffering, as it has been the 20th century for Europe. There will not be another world war for the ME, as the world is too big, too interdependent and too dangerous today to be involved in a total war, but to avoid regional wars, we will need to create among the regional powers, in primis Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, that order ended in the last few years. And the democratization will arrive to the ME too, facilitating hopefully the creation of a regional unity, a sort of confederation similar to the one that Europe started to build after the WWII (even if is still trying to complete it today). In particular if the West will leave the ME to work on itself without much interference. Finally Islam will have to reform, like Christianity did, following its own path but doing it in order to integrate itself in the modern world, where globalization doesn’t allow intolerances or lack of fundamental human rights for the future “planetary citizens”.
We will not see all of this but that’s why we have to help to build it.