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Wednesday, 14 December 2011
The widespread anti-EU sentiment in the UK is in itself an interesting phenomenon. It is not new. It’s been brewing for many years, partly as a legacy of Thatcherism, but above all because being against Europe, “Brussels”, the EU – all these strongly mythicised – has become the core of the post-imperial British, especially English identity. To be English means being anti-European, especially in the sense of “I like Europe, but hate the EU”, as if the two could separated after 60 years of integration. If anyone doesn’t believe the depth and intensity of the anti-European sentiment, they should read the comments in any of the broadsheets whenever a pro-European or even Euro-neutral article is published. It is tantamount to racism. Substitute the word “black” wherever “European” is used and this will be crystal clear in a trice.
The implication of the foregoing is that the UK would hardly be a reliable ally in any struggle to validate the national interests of other EU members. Indeed, the UK brand has become so toxic that everyone else would avoid it like the plague. The intense emotionality of the British attitude makes the Brits unreliable allies in any case.
All this raises the question of the new balance in the EU-26, the new roles of Germany and France, whether the 2004-2007 member states will be able to form some kind of a coalition to secure their interests and, most importantly perhaps, in what way the agenda of the EU-26 will be determined. Clearly France and Germany will play a preeminent role in how this agenda is set.
This doesn’t necessarily mean accepting a French or German agenda wholesale, but it does say that on balance there are invisible benefits to Europe that cannot be measured in monetary terms, the cost-benefit accounting favoured by the Brits that is unable to integrate soft power and goodwill into the calculus. For Europe, of course, this is good news, above all if the EU-26 succeed in constructing a stand-alone Brit-free zone where they can integrate to their heart’s content without UK obstructionism.
The German problem that the integration process was supposed to solve, on the other hand, will require new thinking. The essence of this problem is the structural disparity between Germany and everyone else in Europe. As long as Germany’s commitment to integration was all-encompassing and seen as such, the structural factor didn’t matter. The other EU states could live with an outsized Germany, especially if Bonn and Berlin had to pay attention to France and the other large states or, indeed, occasionally, a small state. What has changed in recent years, though, is that the structural problem has returned to the agenda because Germany has become a so-called “normal” state overtly pursuing its national interests, even to the extent of overriding or ignoring its EU partners, like over the North Stream pipeline which was clearly directed against the interests of Poland and the Baltic states. Besides, the German constitutional court in Karlsruhe has repeatedly blocked integrationism on various grounds.
So the question is how this Europe of 26, revolving around Germany, will actually work. If the new order means that Germany will insist on things being done exclusively in the German fashion, then a diverse Europe will fly apart, quite apart from the likely anxiety that will flow from overwhelming German power. The chances of anti-Germany coalitions forming in the EU are high. Crucially, Germany will have to exercise its power with a conscious commitment to self-limitation, to paying heed to what other Europeans want and accepting their diversity.
In this context, the treatment of Hungary by the German media (not to mention much of the rest of the international press) does not augur well. Regardless of what actually happens in Hungary, the German media have brought into being an imaginary Hungary where all the evils of Europe are collectively rampant. Read any article dealing with Hungary in the German (and Austrian) press and you will discover a dystopic land where anti-Semitism, anti-Roma sentiment, neo-fascism, xenophobia, populism rule. The recent series of neo-Nazi murders in Germany itself has done nothing to disturb the polarity. Thus the depiction of Hungary is no longer based on evidence, but has become a naturalised fact, something that is taken for granted. The thought that journalism should be evidence based, let alone aim for objectivity and neutrality, is no more. And if Germany opts to treat its other EU partners in the same way, then Europe can look forward to an uncomfortable decade or more.
All this has a curious parallel. The poisonous and poisoned attitudes of the British Eurosceptics – certainly two-thirds of the British population – the irrationality, the unresponsiveness to evidence and the moral certainty of “evil in Brussels” resemble German attitudes towards Hungary most strangely, at any rate as mirrored in the media and as a media construction of a symbolic target. Hungary can thus be held up as the negative polarity to Germany’s positive end, in the same way as the British press attributes virtue to Britain as against a symbolic Brussels.
It may even be that this imagined Hungary and imagined Brussels are used as a tactic of evasion, of deception and self-deception, that while there may be things in Germany and Britain that are shameful or undesirable, matters are much worse, deplorable etc. in Hungary and Brussels respectively. And it is decidedly helpful that the voices that are actually heard in the case of Hungary – those of the Hungarian left – support the mythic German narrative; likewise, Eurosceptics with Brussels experience perform an analogous function for the British narrative. Voices that do not support this mythic narrative are silenced or not heard and evidence to the contrary is dismissed.
Thus the mechanisms relied on by the German media and the British Eurosceptics are remarkably similar, though they would certainly reject this comparison, reject it indignantly I suspect. But looking at the structure rather than the detail reveals much, much that those affected prefer not to see. In this instance, the structure is something like this – identify a place where evil can be located, it should be a real place of course, invest it with demonised qualities, elaborate this with corroborative detail which is necessarily decontextualised and screen out any evidence that disturbs the narrative. This last easier if the voice of the contrary evidence is in any case weak, because the affected parties suffer from a discursive deficit. It is also helpful if the target has no allies within your own camp or, if they do exist, they are uninfluential or can be shouted down.
In both the German and the British case we are looking at a species of Orientalism and, for what it’s worth, coincidentally the target is indeed geographically to the east. Who knows, maybe a decade from now the phenomenon will be recognised for what it is by the next generation, as a covert exercise of power, undertaken deviously, deceitfully and self-deceptively against a target that has been reduced to subaltern status, reduced at any rate in the minds of the narrative constructors.
Saturday, 10 December 2011
- Gombár Csaba: Úgy érzem magam, mint a száz évvel ezelőtt élők
- Heller Ágnes: Orbán Viktor szembefordult a Nyugattal
- Lengyel László: A jövő befejeződött
- Gyurcsány: 20 év legkártékonyabb külpolitikai döntése Orbáné
- Gyurcsány: Orbán az unióból való kiiratkozás szélére sodorta Magyarországot
- Scheiring Gábor szerint kormányzati bohózat játszódott le délelőtt
- Az LMP parlamenti vitanapot követel (miután erről maga a miniszterelnök biztosította a magyar Országgyűlést!)
- Mesterházy Orbán lépéséről: a hülyeségnek is van határa
- EU-csúcs - A Jobbik elutasítja a megállapodást (ja igen, a Fidesz-szavazógép érvelés is előbukkan)
- Orbán és Cameron fityiszt mutattak az eurónak
- Orbán félreértette 26 kollégáját, vagy őt értették félre 26-an?
A baloldal ezt persze tudja, mert eleve mindent tud: csak arrafelé léteznek demokraták és az európaiság is kizárólag egy baloldali monopólium. A Fidesz politikája, legyen az akármi, nem minősülhet elfogadhatónak, legalább is onnan nézve, és ezzel le is van írva a magyar társadalom. Heller Ágnes amúgy is felvilágosított bennünket, hogy a magyarok szolgalelkűek, tehát a nép képviselete, ill. a demokratikusan megválasztott miniszterelnök mit sem ér.