It’s as though Europe was at war. What kind of war, it’s hard to tell. On the one hand, there’s Russia and its hybrid conflicts in Ukraine, Georgia and just about everywhere else, in one form or another.
On the other, there are the conflicts bedevilling the European Union internally. North against South, East against West, populists versus refugees, neoliberals versus leftists. There’s no let-up.
Nothing underlined the situation better than Wednesday’s Westminster attack in London. In keeping with previous incidents, it was carried out by a British native, who was also an ethnic minority.
As much as we’d like to think that such violence is a consequence of the ongoing wars in the Middle East and foreign incitement, it is inseparable from the indigenous stresses plaguing Europe today.
Hence the timing, falling on the first anniversary of the Brussels attacks and ahead of the Rome Declaration on Saturday. The linkage is consequential ideologically, as well as circumstantially.
Europe is more and more a place of hierarchy. The distinctions between the haves and the have-nots are growing exponentially. Think of the differences between Luxembourg and Greece. They couldn’t be any clearer.
One is a ‘debt colony’ full of formerly middle class people who can’t afford basic healthcare and have trouble buying groceries. The other is a tax haven for American companies, where it’s hard to not find a job at Amazon.
The discrepancy between their situations is profound. And yet they’re supposed to be part of the same mega-state and have the same attachment to it.
The fact that the Greeks want to remain a part of the EU is a testimony to the draw it still has. Not just as a bank machine but as an ideological project.
No matter how bad policymaking in the Union can get, its commitment to transnationalism always holds out the promise of something better. Given Europe’s disastrous experience with fascism, there’s no alternative.
But there are big problems. And that’s where events like the violence in London come in. Despite its breadth and diversity, not everyone is welcome in Europe. Not even the locals.
Ethnicity and religion are increasingly important signs of citizenship. The fact that they can be even controversial reflects a yearning for older forms of community better left in the 19th century.
What matters is not that they are signs of primitive cultures, imposed on Europe by outsiders, but that they arouse anxiety and are easily appealed to as scapegoats for social ills.
That dynamic works both ways and minority terrorism is no different. Violence is illiberal in all its forms, and only invites more of the same.
However, it can also highlight how problematic the EU’s language about solidarity is. If we really are all equals, Islamist terrorism wouldn’t be an option.
It shouldn’t take an attack in posh London to remind those behind the Rome Declaration of that. On the 60th anniversary of the founding of the European Union, the experience of déjà vu should be instructive.
THE INSIDE TRACK
Watch the AfD freak out. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved a measure to wipe the criminal records of gay men convicted under a Nazi-era law. The proposal would offer men convicted €3,000, as well as €1,500 for each year they spent in prison.
Just say Orbán. Every day, hundreds of refugees enter Serbia. Most of them hope to cross to reach the West. But Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans arrive only to get stuck at the border with Hungary.
Our man in Belgrade. Serbian presidential candidates are criticising the EU, blaming it for tolerating the authoritarian leanings of the government’s candidate and current Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, in exchange for concessions over Kosovo.
Get a clue. Macedonia just can’t figure out how to get into the EU or NATO. Whether it’s the conflict with Greece, which has a northern province also called Macedonia, or its inability to fully enfranchise its Albanian minority, the former Yugoslav republic is forever at the door.
Ottoman Empire was here. The two main candidates in Bulgaria’s upcoming parliamentary election singled out Turkey on Monday in separate interviews for what they see as interference in the campaign. Bulgarians will vote in a snap parliamentary election on 26 March.
Austria for Austrians. Austria’s parliament is set to decide on banning foreign politicians from campaigning on its territory. Under pending legislation, Turkey’s ruling AKP party would be prohibited from mobilising its supporters in the alpine republic.
Trump said spend the money on defence. Romania’s regional development minister has told the nation’s mayors that there is no more money left for co-financing European projects, since the limit has already been reached and the country is trying to keep its deficit under 3%.
Must be a Commie. A Czech think tank has slammed Federica Mogherini for spending two years avoiding taking the Russian disinformation threat seriously. The appeal has been signed by high-profile personalities such as Gary Kasparov and a former president of Estonia.
Destination unknown. EU leaders are meeting in Rome to discuss the future of European integration. The Czech Republic is still not sure what to do.
Heaven help them. A US-led battalion of more than 1,100 soldiers will be deployed in Poland from the start of April, a US commander said this week, as NATO sets up a new force in response to Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.
Don’t stop believing. Michael O’ Flaherty, the head of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, insists that the bloc has not given up on Poland and that Brussels is capable of dealing with the problems it currently faces.
Stop destabilising the Middle East. The first anniversary of the Brussels attacks provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on the challenges posed by jihadist radicalisation, according to Alexander Ritzmann and Andrea Frontini.
Time to go vegan. The EU insisted Brazilian officials attend an emergency meeting on Monday to explain themselves regarding a scandal involving rotten meat at the country’s two largest exporters. Meat producers bribed health inspectors to certify tainted food as safe for consumption.