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World Association of International Studies

Post A Defense of the EU
Created by John Eipper on 07/25/18 10:33 AM

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A Defense of the EU (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 07/25/18 10:33 am)

I was reading Nigel Jones's latest post (24 July) where he again presented his bitter resentment against the EU. Nigel repeatedly called the EU, and I quote, "imperialist, undemocratic, totalitarian, dictatorial, corrupt and bureaucratic," among other epithets and apocalyptic judgments such as "it is domed to collapse," or that "it is in chronic and terminal crisis."

I was not surprised, as most of the Europhobic Europeans repeat pretty much the same arguments to disguise what I suspect are xenophobic motivations.

The fact is that they so far have not presented any valid or objective argument to convincingly prove that the EU is undemocratic, totalitarian, dictatorial, or corrupt. These are mere rhetorical accusations. The EU organizational structure is not intended to be any of these things, nor is it in practice. I would acknowledge that the critics are right, if such negative "attributes" were ever objectively demonstrated.

A look at the EU organizational institutions to reveals that they are similar in nature and structure to any other democratic state in Europe, far from being dictatorial or undemocratic. I invite interested people to look carefully into the subject and to correct me if I am wrong.

You could say the EU is bureaucratic. Yes, perhaps it is. But which nation-state government structure is not? Is England any different? You could also say the EU is imperialist. Yes, maybe in a very broad sense, as a supranational state, but not in the infamous sense that old European states were, such as the British Empire.

The most likely reason for the negative opposition to the EU in some countries in Europe, where nationalism and political populism are on the rise, is a combination of these factors: fear of immigration, xenophobic feelings, and particularly Islamophobia. Those are the ingredients feeding nationalism in the sense I have already explained in previous WAIS posts. They are expressions of supremacy, feelings of being superior or at least superiorly different. That was the main reason for the success of Brexit.

Please do not get me wrong, I like and respect Great Britain, I have some close British friends, and from them I know that some are Europhobic and others are not. They explained their reason for supporting Brexit was the uncontrolled and massive African and Islamic immigration. I agreed that fearing foreigners, their unknown cultures, their failure to integrate, as well as the threat of destroying the roots, employment situation, and basic national identities are challenges which most societies are not well prepared to cope with. There have been mistakes in EU policies dealing with this major problem, but should we blame only the EU or are European governments and their respective societies the ones who should be responsible for dealing with the problem?

Of course there are other economic arguments that are cited in criticizing the EU, but those are far from being convincing to discredit the fact that Europe as a whole, North and South, is now and thanks to the EU is more advanced and better off than 40 or 50 years ago.

JE comments:  So we can call the EU somewhat liberal and democratic?  José Ignacio Soler goes to the heart of the matter:  is Euroskepticism really xenophobia in disguise (or not in disguise)?  We've seen both positions argued on WAIS.  One emerging trend in Eastern Europe seems to be, "Hell yes, we're xenophobic."

I'd like to focus more on the trade-off between an additional layer of stupefying bureaucracy and the benefits of standardized norms and laws.  It may be harder to certify your widget both at home and in Brussels, but when you do so you can sell it anywhere in the EU.  How, I wonder, will Brexit impact this?

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  • Euroskeptics Are Not Xenophobic (Nigel Jones, UK 07/28/18 4:37 AM)
    I wonder if José Ignacio Soler (July 25th) is now, or has ever been, employed by the EU?

    Because they and the politicians are about the only people who still support this manifestly failing organisation. Full disclosure please!

    Obviously, José's suspicion that I am xenophobic is absurd. As I have frequently said on WAIS, I have a half- French daughter and a half- Austrian son, and have spent a decade living and working in Europe.

    Why can't EU supporters get their heads around the fact that to oppose the openly undemocratic EU is not to be anti-European? Quite the reverse!

    The EU is a lousy and outdated system dreamed up by a couple of French civil servants in the 1940s. It no longer suits us and has merely become the mask for Merkel's Fourth Reich.

    If the EU is as wonderful as José believes, perhaps he can explain why voters across Europe are voting against it. Next up Sweden in early September, where the Swedish Democrats will become the largest party.

    I repeat: the EU has had its day and I glory in its death.

    JE comments:  I'm quite sure that José Ignacio (Nacho) Soler isn't on the EU payroll.  As for xenophobia, Nacho was referring to Euroskeptic anti-immigration (read anti-Muslim) sentiment, not feelings of antipathy among "natives" of the Member States.  But I'll let Nacho respond for himself.

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    • Euroskepticism, Immigration, and Assimilation (John Heelan, UK 07/29/18 5:09 AM)
      JE commented on 28 July: "As for xenophobia, José Ignacio Soler was referring to Euroskeptic anti-immigration (read anti-Muslim) sentiment, not feelings of antipathy among 'natives' of the Member States."

      I am Euroskeptic for the reasons that Nigel Jones argues, but not anti-immigrant or anti-Muslim. I am sad that many recent waves of immigrants have not assimilated themselves into British society as did previous waves (e.g. the Windrush generation--I played cricket with many Caribbean team members and against completely Caribbean teams). They were/are great people whose joie de vivre is catching. The same thing could be said about the waves of Indian/Pakistani immigrants who have become the backbone of small businesses in the UK.

      Recent waves from Eastern Europe and further South exporting their unemployed (thanks to Schengen) are more likely to be economic migrants seeking support from the living benefits, health services and sometimes accommodation offered by the Lady Bountiful UK government. (I except from that criticism Poles that I have met who usually seem to be hardworking. We have many Poles working and running businesses on the Isle of Wight--a measure is the ready availability of Polish delicatessens and newspapers.)

      Those immigrants I do object to are economic migrants and those whose religious communities are more important than integrating into the wider national community and thus have no intention so doing. It is noticeable that those local communities are often centred on their mosques whose building and Imams are funded by Saudi oil money from Wahhabi and Salafist sponsors. These places are becoming hotbeds of jihadism. Similar to the Windrush generation(s), immigrants do the lower-skilled jobs that Brits would not touch--many here on the Island work in the massive greenhouses producing early crops and in crowded accommodations and are preyed on by gang-masters, often their own countrymen.

      JE comments:  I absolutely agree about Polish people.  We often laugh at WAIS HQ that Poles can only relax when they're working.  Regarding the assimilation question, isn't it a truism that immigrants have always been criticized for failing to integrate themselves into the host culture?  In the US context, the "if only they would try to fit in" lament has been applied successively to Germans, Irish, Italians, Poles, Puerto Ricans, and so on.  And when a new group comes in, the previous pariah group is suddenly promoted to the status of "good" immigrant.

      Do I oversimplify?  Next:  José Ignacio Soler responds to Nigel Jones.

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    • Euroskepticism and Xenophobia Again (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 07/29/18 5:55 AM)
      In response to Nigel Jones's 28 July post on the EU, first of all, I should perhaps apologize to him when I called Europhobes fundamentally xenophobic. I was not trying to be offensive or rude; however I still believe this to be the case.

      Answering Nigel's question about if I ever was employed by the EU, I have never been. I am only an ordinary citizen who has traveled all over Europe. I do not believe it is necessary to work for the EU to perceive (as a curious observer) the obvious economic and social benefits of EU membership for most countries. In a continent with a long history of conflicts, wars as well as social, political and economic disputes, the elimination of borders is a success to me, not a failure. Besides, I am still waiting for Nigel to present any valid or objective argument to convincingly demonstrate that the EU is undemocratic, totalitarian, dictatorial, or corrupt. In the meantime, his accusations, I insist, remain chiefly rhetorical.

      The full consolidation success of the EU remains to be seen. Nevertheless it is evident that even in the so-called poorest member countries, standards of living have increased, and every member of the EU has benefited since its creation--even the British, the Germans and the French. To achieve a national identity is another matter, because the diversity of cultures is too strong.

      I believe it was never intended for the EU to be a consolidated supranational state, a "nation" with only one national identity. To transform a set of extremely different cultures and languages into such an entity would be a utopia, a miracle, and if ever possible, it would take ages, a very long time. However it is understandable that the EU is intended to consolidate itself as a supranational institution. It is also logical that many European citizens perceive this as an intrusion and even perhaps a loss of their own sovereignty. Is there not always some price to pay for the sake of peace, general well-being and mutual benefits?

      Nigel asked, "Why can't EU supporters get their heads around the fact that to oppose the openly undemocratic EU is not to be anti-European? Quite the reverse!" I never made the claim that being anti-EU it is to be anti-European!  What I meant is, I repeat, the most likely reason for the negative opposition to the EU in some countries is a combination of fear of immigration, particularly African and Islamic, resulting in strong xenophobic feelings, because of the supposedly humanitarian immigration policies of the EU. That is the case in Hungary, Italy, France, Germany, perhaps Poland (?), and Great Britain, where nationalistic-xenophobic political movements are on the rise. I believe that is not the case in Spain--yet!--despite of the recent waves of uncontrolled immigration.

      Perhaps the EU policies regarding immigration are wrong. Sometimes I have doubts myself, but this fact does not fully discredit the EU´s achievements.

      A final reflection. I always had the felling the Europeans, in a general sense, seem to be xenophobic, even racist in many ways, despite it is very difficult to think of a pure race or a "pure" nation in Europe. Europeans are mostly mestizos, mixed-race or multicultural states, the product of centuries of immigration, invasions, conquest and shifting borders. Take my family blood line for instance. I am from Spain, but I have certainly genes from Romans, Greeks, Jews, Arabs, Irish, Germans, French, etc. How could I despise any of them?

      Traditionally, in the past and very likely in the present, the British used to despise the French, the French rejected Spaniards, Spaniards rejected the British, Germans rejected Italians, Italians despised Croatians, the Polish despised...Russians? And so on! Is it not time to leave behind and overcome this atavistic resentment and nationalistic feelings?

      JE comments:  If the EU implodes, then what?  The re-establishment of borders and national currencies is the obvious answer.  Germany and Russia would then vie for continental hegemony, with France thinking it is also taking part.  Who would benefit from this, other than Vladimir Putin?

      Ed Jajko weighs in next, with a historical perspective on Eastern Europe's Islamophobia.

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      • The "New Illiberal International": John Lloyd in "New Statesman" (Nigel Jones, UK 07/30/18 12:41 PM)

        By way of answering José Ignacio Soler (July 29th), may I pray in aid an article that has just appeared in the left-wing UK weekly The New Statesman by John Lloyd, an eminent left-wing journalist (now an editor on the Financial Times)?

        I can't find a link but it can be easily accessed by Googling its title "The illiberal international."  It will tell anyone who is interested why the
        EU is doomed. And it has not been killed: It has committed suicide. RIP.

        JE comments:  Try the link below.  The term "illiberal democracy" is from Hungary's Viktor Orbán, who waxed admiringly about the economic progress of what I take to be his model nation-states:  Singapore, China, India, Turkey, and Russia.  The leaders of this new anti-immigration "axis," in Lloyd's view, are Kurz (Austria), Orbán, and Salvini (Italy).  Let's throw in Babis and parts of Poland, and you have the old Habsburg Empire.

        The first two "Internationals" (Communist and then Fascist) didn't fare so well.  Is there any reason the Illiberal International will turn out differently?


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        • The "New Illiberal International": Will the Austro-Hungarian "Axis" Destroy the EU? (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 08/01/18 3:43 AM)
          Nigel Jones (30 July) forwarded an article titled "The Illiberal International," by John Lloyd.  I read the essay. Please forgive me, but I do not see the relevance of this article for Nigel's intended purpose of answering my previous post. But thanks anyway to Nigel.

          The core of the article seems to address the threat of an EU collapse through the actions of the so-called populist illiberal democracies in Hungary, Austria and Italy, as well as Poland, together with Brexit and support from Mr Trump. However, the question I proposed to Nigel J and John E (which were directly related to Nigel's arguments) was that: a) the main motivation for Europhobia was the immigration problem, xenophobia and racism, and b) I challenged Nigel to give direct evidence of his rhetorical accusations against the EU as undemocratic, totalitarian, dictatorial, or corrupt.

          Regarding xenophobia and racism (point a), I believe the Lloyd article precisely reinforces this argument. From my understanding of the article and recent public events, the rising populist-nationalistic-xenophobic-racist-illiberal-authoritarian political movements in those countries are mainly and strongly motivated by such feelings. On my second point b), nothing is said in the article.

          As for Nigel's hope, the final collapse of the EU, this remains to be seen. I agree there is an obvious crisis, to deny it would be foolish, but to clearly declare and inexorably anticipate the end is another matter.

          JE comments:  José Ignacio Soler has found the Mother of All Compound Adjectives:  populist-nationalistic-xenophobic-racist-illiberal-authoritarian political movements.  Speaking of hyphenization, I nonchalantly wrote "Austro-Hungarian Axis" in the subject line here, to refer to the illiberal governments of Kurz and Orbán.  Then I proofread and had a eureka event:  "Wait a minute:  we've seen that compound adjective before..."

          It could be a coincidence--or not?--that the old Hapsburg nations are leading the illiberal charge.  But we historical types cannot fail to notice the irony of Modern Europe's original multi-lingual, multi-ethnic empire turning so sharply inward.  (Note that the American First Lady is also from a Habsburg nation--Slovenia.)

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