Nina Hoppe Strategia.Politica. Media, aussenpolitische Beraterin "Public Affairs"

Europe, Europe. 

I didn’t really want to say anything about the current debate over the refugee/political asylum issue: the unqualified, self-satisfied comments on social media, the helplessness of national and EU governments and the blindness to global connections and goings-on. But I have decided to give free rein to my emotions – in my own way.

“As the court jesters of modern society, intellectuals have an absolute obligation to doubt all the indisputable, to wonder at the seemingly self-evident, to run a critical, qualifying eye over every form of authority and to raise all the questions nobody else dares to ask.” Ralf Dahrendorf

So that’s what I plan to do here.

I) When Mark Zuckerberg claims to have brought the world and its 1 billion users closer together through Facebook, is there any truth to his claim?

I say no. Facebook and all the other social media have ceased to be platforms for free expression of personal opinion and instead become political forums – not in a party-political sense but in a geopolitical, social policy and economic policy sense. Policy is now being made with an eye on the prevailing opinion of social media – with no filtering and no questioning of the truth of the matter; simply for the sake of public opinion. This is an ochlocratic process, where the mob now rules.

The “enforcement” of political measures supposedly supported by public opinion and therefore worthy of attention is all down to free expression of opinion and democracy. The power exercised by these media companies as uncontrolled parallel systems is recognised by other global corporates like Goldman Sachs, which has a 1 percent share of Facebook. What the Alphabet holding company of Google founder Larry Page is intended to do is clear from its very name: to provide solutions for people from A to Z. And all these media feed on the basest of human characteristics: denunciation, envy and hate.

II) Can blame be attributed to the EU’s non-existent refugee policy? Or is this yet another responsibility of the nation states?

The European Union has a huge problem – insufficient self-esteem. It is the cradle of democracy and enlightenment. For centuries, it has painstakingly developed a catalogue of values which was supposed to prove the strongest asset of the EU in the wider world. It is the guardian and protector of the social market economy. Above all else, it is a Europe of SMEs. For now, anyway. Unlike the USA, there is no death penalty; there is no comparable secret service working away as the backbone of a closely monitored society. And with its voting system and the strong role of parliamentarianism, it has what some would say is the best political model a civil society could ever develop.

But it also has the problem that it is not taken seriously, neither by its own population, (see voter participation figures for 2014), nor by the government representatives of its member states. How about an EU army? Never been on the agenda, for it would mean open emancipation and confrontation with the US (NATO). A European currency fund? Ditto. European ratings agency? Same story. Closer collaboration with the BRICS states to establish an independent European way, free of American interests? Not possible now that the dollar is on its way back to being the world’s strongest currency. According to the Lisbon Treaty, it is possible for the EU to hold member states to account if they do not act according to EU values. Pick a fight with Orban? Better  not. He could start looking to Russia for support.
Greece has been given further bailouts to keep the common currency afloat instead of giving it the necessary political support. That would mean single-mindedly developing the European Union into a fiscal, economic, security and social union.

The fact that Greece is now up to its ninth government in 15 years, making it a completely unstable partner entirely at odds with the European ideal, does not seem to bother anyone. Where is the rigour? Incidentally, the SME sector in Germany has declined by 20 percent over the past 8 years. There seem to be a similar trend in other EU nations too. So what does this mean in a social policy sense, given the thousands of refugees that want to become part of this society?

III) Is the failure of parliamentarianism akin to a bankruptcy declaration for humanism and liberalism in Europe?

I say yes. Dahrendorf spoke of an illiberal Europe, in its first incarnation, drowning in bureaucracy and administration. And that is how the population sees it. In Austria, a mere 25 percent of the population now believe the government is elected. Most of them have no understanding or awareness of the separation of powers. Government representatives are currently in the firing line. The fact that party whips are completely silent on the subject of the refugee crisis seems to be of no concern. Without parliament (the “People’s Chamber”!!) there can be no laws. Where is the public outrage? Why doesn’t it denounce the government? Why doesn’t it demand its representatives take action in the absence of their doing anything? Why are “our” people’s representatives sitting back and allowing the emergence of a breeding ground for radicalism? Because we are politically uneducated. Because we are not being encouraged in our educational institutes to stand up and voice our opinions, ask critical questions and swim against the tide. And I don’t mean doing this the virtual way on social media, but on a daily basis in our local communities. At work and at home.

IV) Why is the US financial system taken as the model for the EU? So that it can compete in the global marketplace? 

Once again I say no. Capital market union is contrary to the European spirit, to the Europe of SMEs or small to medium-sized enterprises, to the real economy and to customer banking. It is contrary to the system that made Europe so strong – and of course uncomfortably so. There have been times when the euro was worth almost twice the value of the dollar, which is naturally not in the interests of the US. It is why measures like the TTIP harbour the risk of increased US influence on the EU, just as the battlegrounds around the fringes of Europe have the potential to destabilise the continent, and thus unleash the current flood of migrants and refugees.

Incidentally, the US has a role model effect on the EU in many other ways. As mentioned in past blogs, the Glass Steagall Act is just as essential to the EU as the Federalist Papers of Alexander Hamilton.

In conclusion: I haven’t said anything about the US presidential candidates, about Corbyn, Blair and Cameron. I haven’t commented on how floods of refugees are negatively affecting neighbourly relations between the emerging country of Columbia and Venezuela. I haven’t mentioned Africa, which, purely because of its energy resource policy, is not on Europe’s agenda.

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