February 24, 2009
President Klaus’ recent diatribes against the Union which he is supposed to be presiding must have ruffled quite a few feathers in Brussels. The depth of his anti-EU feeling is, to be sure, worrying. To many a Western politician, this kind of counter-performance in office must look rather puzzling: was he under the influence, or what ?
Alas, no such luck. The mistrust against the Union’s leadership among Central and Southeast European politicians is on the rise. At the heart of the matter are the sovereignty transfers in favour of the Union’s political structures – its Parliament and the European Commission – and the control, however mild, the Union exercises over their national affairs.
Last year, the Polish president Lech Kaczynski has stubbornly blocked the signing of the EU-Russia new treaty for months. Like Vaclav Klaus, he was brought to power by a centre-right coalition, headed by his own Law and Justice Party. He’s in the habit of regularly upsetting the Union’s leadership with his ultra-Catholic views and misguided warnings.
For Romanian and Bulgarian politicians, the Union’s insistence on enforcing the rule of law and on eliminating corruption in their countries must seem downright outlandish: doesn’t the Commission realize the Balkans are the traditional cradle of corruption ? In protest, they are quietly sending to Strasbourg ineffective MEP’s, ones whom they happen to be displeased with in national politics.
Most of the 12 new member-countries were, like the United States a few hundred years ago, colonies of Central, Eastern European or Asian empires. American policymakers know this only too well and are using anti-Western or anti-Eastern sentiment in that region to their advantage. I believe it is fair to say that although these countries are now members of the Union, their political elites would rather be led by Washington. After all, their American counterparts do not have OLAF, and know how to tickle the oversized ego of smaller countries’ national leaders.
Unfortunately, as I was telling the Estonian Ambassador to Paris last November, smaller European countries, especially the ones on EU’s fringes, have the potential (and are in the habit) to drag much larger European nations into conflict, political or otherwise, with non-Union military powers (Serbia and Georgia are just two examples coming to mind).
This being the situation, the political leadership of the EU, be it legislative or executive, should avoid paying too much attention to ex-Soviet “pensioners” bent on paying back their former colonial power for past misdeeds. Nor should Union officials be too upset by the antics of so-called Euro-sceptics, as they are bound to see a Soviet-type Union in every supra-national structure, including the one they agreed to join by their own free will.