Glen Ruffle: Europe’s contribution to increased instability

The modern world is characterised today by anarchy. Only twenty years ago, there was clear hegemony, providing structure and order. Now, as that fades, so new forces are emerging, and we live in the dangerous ‘in-between’ time. The European Union does nothing to mitigate this risk.

International Relations theory has tended to look down on state-centric ‘realist’ views of the world, in which states compete, seeking their own self-interest. The alternative liberal model sees states cooperating, building institutions to govern their behaviour, and integrating for safety. The increasing complexity of their ties, and the increasing sharing of their powers, leads to peace and security.


Fallacy

Or so they say. In fact, it leads to confusion. America is a case in point. The US in the past sought its national interest: the pretence of a UN resolution when invading Iraq was largely something Tony Blair urged on Washington: the reality, clear to all, was that Iraq had oil and the US wanted it. You either joined in, or you stepped aside. Everyone at least knew where they stood.
Yet in the space of ten years, so much has changed. American power, clearly waning under Obama, has seen Al Qaeda bounce back, benefitting from the largest recruitment surge in its history. Rather than just seeking US interests in Syria and bombing Assad out of the war, the US was beaten diplomatically by Russia by going the UN route, and not seeking its own interests. And America and NATO are withdrawing from Afghanistan, leaving Al Qaeda stronger than ever. A clear idea of what was in America’s interest in the first place would have avoided the whole occupation and saved thousands of lives.

The reasons for these events lie in loss of vision: replacing national interest with liberal internationalism. The result has been an increase in anarchy and unpredictability across the world. The same is true on the other side of the Atlantic in Britain. With the exception of the Thatcher government, Britain has suffered from half a century of parliaments fatally compromised by liberal thinking and no idea of national interest. This culminated in the 1973 manipulation, when Britain was led into the European Union, cutting her off from the Commonwealth and her natural network.

The fruit of Brussels

The EU and the dream it represents is the crowning testament to the folly of idealism. In Greece, the far right Golden Dawn party has exploded onto the political scene. Switzerland planned military exercises on the basis of an attack from France, imagining a French assault, angry at the prosperity enjoyed by the non-EU Swiss. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the Far Right in France, is at her strongest ever.

Spain, lying in economic chaos, has been trying to stir up nationalism and divert attention by causing trouble over Gibraltar. Meanwhile, Basque separatism continues as a force, as do other nationalist movements, such as the SNP in Scotland, threatening to break states up and cause yet more anarchy. Across the EU, as a direct result of the EU’s freedom of movement for people, anti-immigration parties are on the rise (such as UKIP in the UK), opposing the erosion of communities and identities resulting from the policies made by the elite and out-of-touch powers in Brussels.

Meanwhile, tension is mounting on the Eastern borders of the EU with Russia, as suspicion over Brussels’ real plans for signing an association agreement with Kiev mounts. As a result, all of Europe could suffer gas price hikes or shortages, and push Moscow and Russia’s resources further towards China. The EU is thus making every state in Europe poorer.

Bulgaria and Romania, both new entrants into Europe, have been crippled by the economic crisis and seen vast numbers of their people leave. They are suffering from crime, corruption, and unemployment, suffering tickings-off from the Commission, but not receiving concerted help. Indeed, most of the south of Europe, as widely documented, is stuck in a recession precisely because the countries cannot devalue their currencies, and because they are trapped in the Euro.

Safety in selfishness

It may seem anti-logical, but when everyone knows that a state is looking out for its own interests, then this creates order, by giving predictability. You know how to assess and deal with a state that is seeking its own interest; and that state knows how to deal with you. Structure is created, and structure provides the ability to predict, and to understand consequences. Idealism and liberalism have removed the ability to predict, and in so doing, increased disorder and the potential for conflict in the world.

In the past, when in trouble, a state could pull together an alliance, and other states would be able to flexibly choose whether or not they wanted to participate. Upon having accomplished the task the states came together to do, they can fall apart again, forming new alliances in the future. The EU means that none of these things are possible. The pro-integration Germans are hampered by the anti-integration British. Pro-market Berlin is pulling against pro-socialist Paris. Traditional societies in the strongly-Catholic areas of Europe have to accept laws forcing them to legalise behaviours they understand as wrong, but which are normal in, say, Amsterdam. And all the while, tension rises.

Responsibility

Despite attempts in the Treaties to ensure subsidiarity, the multi-layered process also leads to inefficiency and muddled decision making. In Poland, the Constitutional Tribunal places the Polish constitution above EU law, and the German Bundesverfassungsgericht views German law as superior; and yet EU law also claims to be the primary binding force across Europe! Article 4(2) of the TEU creates a grey area, saying the Union must respect the national identities of member states, while the ‘Costa’ case saw the Court of Justice of the European Union ‘make’ EU law supreme, without the involvement of politicians!

The EU-fog makes nothing clearer: as uncovered in the 1985 Humblot case (112/84), France had introduced a tax on higher-horsepower cars, for which French cars did not qualify.  Despite a ‘single market’, France was just one of many countries that were (and still are) manipulating the system. It is thus difficult to know: who is on whose side? If the UK is spying on Brussels, and sharing information with the US, then how can it also be a part of Europe? Once again, clear delineation is lost, and a haze emerges, compromising everyone.

Simpler models of states being governed in their own capitals by their own peoples really are better. Democracy appears to be the force stopping countries going to war, not international sovereignty-sharing. It is far better to treat Europe as a flexible alliance, instead of as an illusory paradise, in reality hiding suppressed tensions.

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