For more than twenty years, the European Union has regularly manoeuvred itself into a mess in a number of very severe crises of its own making. In addition, many of these crises have been predictable and preventable. The significant politicians of the EU have not acted to prevent this. Since the beginning of each crisis, the European Union has acted indecisively, late, and in a cowardly way. This has put both EU citizens and their neighbours under stress. Financial losses have been measured in hundreds of billions of euros, but the most terrible one is human loss which has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
During the current refugee crisis – the largest since the Second World War – even the most moderate observers have been forced to recognise that there is something wrong with the EU. Indeed, the enormous multi-million refugee camps – in Turkey, Lebanon and elsewhere at the borders of Europe – did not happen yesterday or the day before. Gangs of cynical and ruthless people-smugglers did not create their routes in a matter of days. Refugees have been transported across the Mediterranean for some time and the unfortunate have also been drowning for several years.
Is it possible that EU bureaucrats hadn’t known or understood this? Federica Mogherini, the current High Representative of the EU Foreign and Security Policy, is a politician from Italy where the problem of refugees has been acute for many years. The same can be said about the French and politicians in other countries. It is not that they did not see the countless tragedies unfold in the Mediterranean before their very eyes. They all knew, saw and understood it. The question is very clear – if it was common knowledge, then why did no-one act?
What is currently happening in Europe is simply a human disaster. Unfortunately, it has a familiar theme – thousands drowned, hundreds of thousands of desperate asylum seekers crowding over Europe, outbreaks of radicalism and xenophobia, clashes with the police and the building of border fences. The values and benefits which Europe has striven to build over decades are now crumbling. Murderous and cynical groupings of traffickers are literally sneering at mighty Europe.
Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, recently announced that some foreign leaders use the vast influx of illegal migrants to politically weaken the European Union. Perhaps, however, top politicians of the EU and national leaders need to recognize that the European Union is being attacked and used for another reasons – not to weaken the EU, but rather because it is already weak. Put in simple terms – it has no balls! It is not able to predict crises or act in a timely manner; it is not capable of protecting its borders and to effectively restrain a variety of criminal or political criminal networks. Jackals usually attack the weak, feeling the smell of fear, indecision and weakness.
No matter how severe the refugee crisis could be, it alone cannot be the basis for the harsh words mentioned previously. Unfortunately, even a little insight into history reveals that serious crises in Europe have occurred regularly. Challenges and problems on their own do not indicate that there is anything wrong. The real weakness of the European Union is its inability to see events clearly and in a timely way and anticipate, act and solve problems effectively. It behaves like an asexual being who rolls the eyes and stares helplessly when faced by the aggressive and cynical.
One of the most tragic pieces of evidence of the cowardice of the great European powers has been the recent six wars in former Yugoslavia which lasted from 1991 to 2001. At that time, according to different estimates, 140 000 to 300 000 people were killed. Several million were forced to flee. Tony Judd, the British historian, wrote that literally a couple of hundred, even a few dozen kilometres away from the European metropolis, hundreds of thousands of Europeans suffered terrible atrocities – serial sadism, degradation, harassment, murder and rape. Mass rape was perpetrated on tens of thousands of women. Europe again experienced bloody ethnic cleansing and mass murder. In 1995 in Srebrenica more than 8 000 unarmed people were murdered under the very noses of ineffective Dutch peacekeepers.
It is possible to debate lengthily over wars and their consequences. However, what can be quickly pointed out is that a dangerous trait has emerged in Europe that could threaten the entire European Union. European powers have appeared to be unable to resolve the former Yugoslavia conflict for almost a decade. Several times this indecision has encouraged aggressors. For example, Bernard Janvier, a French general and a commander of the UN Protection Force in Bosnia, personally prohibited air strikes on Bosnian Serb forces in Srebrenica. This led later to accusations of his partial responsibility for the subsequent massacre. Ultimately, this long-standing conflict was put to an end and resolved because of the decisive intervention of the US government. It happened belatedly and unwillingly, as the US had waited a long time for the European powers to deal with it themselves. This did not happen. The Europeans only held endless and, as it turned out, meaningless conversations and debates. The European powers appeared to be simply unable to act decisively and effectively.
It can be said that the crisis in the former Yugoslavia was successfully resolved, but then it would also be relevant to examine how the E.U. handled its next crisis. This was also entirely predictable. The eurozone was established in 1999; in 2001 it was recognized that Greece had fulfilled all the necessary criteria and it officially joined the Eurozone. Even then it was clear that Greece had not actually complied with many criteria – some of them were met only in a formal sense and some not at all. However, the European Union bureaucrats were either not able to see this or deliberately turned a blind eye. In fact, the Greek political elite was given a clear message that the financial rules of the EU could be manipulated and used to the advantage of an individual country. The consequence of this has been debt problems which have affected not only the Greeks themselves but the whole of Europe. Unfortunately, it seems that this problem has still not been solved but has once again been postponed.
Greece also partially ignited the next crisis in Europe – that of the Eurozone itself. It started in 2007 and lasted until 2010. Formally, it was attributed to the so-called PIIGS of the European Union countries – Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain. In reality, at least some of these countries were financially responsible and had met all the financial requirements at that time. The real problem was that the EU banking sector was poorly regulated and there was a large outflow of money. These problems had been noticed in good time and could have been resolved. Warning signals had been sounded in good time too – often and loudly. Yet again the EU proved unable to recognize and deal with the issue in a timely manner.
No sooner was the European debt crisis over when the next crisis began – the Ukrainian conflict. It is difficult to blame Europe for a situation that it couldn’t foresee. Despite numerous conspiracy theories, it looks that this time, the greatest part was played by the paranoia of the Putin regime and the trend of acting first and thinking later. However, some would claim that a responsible organisation such as the E.U. needs to be able to consider Putin’s widely-known character. Whatever the arguments pro and con, once again Europe was thoroughly shaken and has still not been able to find a solution to the situation. Putin’s regime has brutally occupied parts of the land of a neighbouring country and has continued to lie blatantly. Let us not forgot that Russia went uncensored for downing a passenger plane containing nearly 300 passengers, including 80 children. The reaction of Europe has once again been slow, hesitant and cowardly. A solution to the conflict is still not in sight. Putin continues to blackmail and manipulate Europe openly. All this is happening despite the fact that Russia is economically only an eighth as strong as the E.U and that their military forces are technologically and structurally hopelessly behind the European powers.
Naturally, every crisis can be discussed at length. Nevertheless, in short it seems that the EU countries have demonstrated that they have not been able to, and still cannot, solve crises quickly, effectively or with confidence. Europe is one of the world’s largest and most powerful economies; it has a strong modern army and is a huge economic power. However, it has stood aside while the Putin and Assad regimes have acted with impunity and has allowed radical religious fanatics and mafia traffickers to scoff at it. The borders of Europe have been undermined, hundreds of thousands of hungry and angry refugees are now wandering along these borders and the Mediterranean has turned into a mass grave for people who have gone to their watery deaths.
It is pertinent to ask what the well-paid Eurocrats are doing about this? It appears to be the same as usual – talking hot air with little substance. EU citizens have the right to ask – what’s going on here? The coarse answer is – the EU has no balls! The smart response is different – the inability to predict a severe problem, act quickly and effectively is a sign of deep-set organizational problems. At this moment, following a number of severe crises causing hundreds of thousands of deaths, hundreds of billions of financial losses, insecure and weakened borders, it raises the question of whether or not the time has come for the European leaders to develop and maintain the ability to see solutions and act powerfully and effectively. The European Union will be respected by its citizens and neighbours, friends and opponents only if it shows it has a strong backbone. Of course, a mixture of strong personalities cannot alone provide a sustainable solution. Every leader, no matter how strong, is a human being. The European Union needs systemic reforms that enable strong leaders to project themselves in its methods of management and ensure continuity. At present, Europe is limping from one crisis to another. Brussels has become a very expensive fire station with not enough powerful water to contain the fires that are burning. Yet, still the European power elite looks disapprovingly at each other but remains jealous when someone suggests an initiative.