In the first convulsive weeks during which the new US President has been making his idiotic decisions, our own, European affairs seem to have slipped through our fingers. So far, there has been a fairly timid formulation of European leadership in the globalization process – like the one presented at the recent summit in Malta – while some first ideas have appeared about how to respond to Donald Trump’s conservative isolationism, notably via Guy Verhofstadt who has been the most vociferous and distinct voice.
Europe has a chance to make itself felt now. But what will realistically come of this depends on the results of two elections: German and French. I have not yet noticed any critical analyses of the historic decision made by the German social democrats to nominate Martin Schulz, the successful President of the European Parliament, as the party leader to challenge Angela Merkel in the upcoming elections. I have known Schulz well for a long time and think his potential victory would change the nexus of power in Europe. Schulz is pro-European in spirit and in mind. He may not be – to my regret – an outright federalist, but he is definitely a campaigner for an effective and functional EU. But above all, his victory would be a defeat for the politics of Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble which has divided the EU into creditors and debtors, into a rich and stable north and a poor and unstable south, a politics that has preferred inter-governmental decision-making within the EU to greater integration.
What the EU needs today – and what each member state needs too – is a massive investment programme aimed at overcoming regional differences, including in wages: this has to be made the positive aspect and condition of a stable Eurozone. And it should continue until debt is mutualized (not by making the richer countries pay for it, but by precisely defining of conditions that have to be met by all). It should include rebuilding a European model of the welfare state – also as a means to harmonising economic and social standards among countries. At the same time, the competitiveness of the EU as a whole should be strengthened, so that it plays a truly dominant role in globalization.
The economic stability of Germany seems to support Merkel’s positive image, but her policy has had significantly negative impacs across the entire EU. Schulz’s victory would create space for both a rebuilt welfare state and Europe’s competitiveness. This is the known Scandinavian mix: not competitiveness achieved by the neoliberal concept of low taxes and removal of social rights, or the welfare state at the expense of government debt and lowering optimal conditions for entrepreneurship. Real competitiveness lies in being successful on global markets, in a dynamic transition to a green economy, in technological innovation encouraged also by the development of a European defence and security industry. But this does not only mean increasing the expenditures according to obligations under NATO membership, but the establishment of a defence-security system applying high-tech logistics. This would be a clear and strong response to Putin’s expansionism and Trump’s nationalism in the manner of “America First”. This concept is very familiar to Schulz. In the last ten years, it was he who demonstrated the ability to initiate a left-right cooperation that would marginalize extremists from the right and pull the radical Left into constructive solutions. Schulz was also one of the main advocates and promoters of CETA, the agreement with Canada, which may not be perfect, but is still an example of how a centre, left-right coalition could bring European progressive leadership.
And if one adds the possible victory of Emmanuel Macron in France, the ardent social liberal, witty opponent of Trump and passionate European, then – in tandem Schulz and he could make Europe experience a true renaissance. After the scandals of the Right’s hope Francois Fillon, Macron seems to be the most logical solution for all democratic forces in France to defeat the backward, Trump-like demagogue Marine Le Pen. This would make it possible, on a pan-European level, to defeat the extreme Right, the pseudo Left and anti-Europeanism.
But of course, it may turn out to be different. But that is what the open world is about. So we should at least agree that, in order to maintain this openness, it is necessary to combine the progressive forces of the left and the centre.
That is why we need to look for things that connect us – at all levels. I guess I could now introduce the slogan “Progressives of all political orientations, unite!” I can see Marx nodding approvingly somewhere from in Purgatory, or at the edge of Heaven. And look, even Hayek’s eyes started to glitter and he is nodding too…
By the way, I am convinced that even now, Putin’s strategic units are getting ready to discredit Macron as well as Schulz because nothing is better for Putin’s intentions than Le Pen’s desire to break up the Eurozone or the German policy of “inter-governmental Europe”.
Doc. PhDr. Boris Zala, CSc. (* 9. december 1954, Zlaté Moravce) je bývalým poslancom Národnej rady Slovenskej republiky. Od roku 2009 je poslancom Europského parlamentu, členom jeho Zahraničného výboru a členom Delegácie pre spoluprácu EÚ-Južná Afrika.