Opinions on a federalised Europe

Blood on the flag.

An article was published today on the website of a respectable Romanian think tank – an article called For the first time in history, people die under the EU flag. And they are right. While people on the Euromaidan may not be there just in correlation with the EU and the rejection by Ukrainian administration of the Eastern Partnership deal, there is nonetheless a link with the EU. There are flags waved and there is a general feeling of support from the EU, be it politicians or regular people. And there are a lot of regular people within the EU who think their cause is just and right.

Back in the late 40’s and early 50’s, when Romania was becoming ever more enslaved under the red boot there was a general consensus in Romania that things will be saved – The Americans will come!. People believed it, and expected it – they expected the US to come and do something to help. It didn’t happen, for a wealth of reasons we know today. On Monday, while commuting, I read a report by the CIA, drafted in 1949 for President Truman, on the situation in Romania. It recognized within the general expectancy of the population. And nothing is different today – everybody in the EU central administration knows that the people of Ukraine expect the EU to do something. And I draw upon this the idea that for once help with democracy is not expected to come from thousands of miles away, but from right here, next door – the EU has become the beacon of democracy in Europe. And it is not some self proclaimed title any more – people have died under the flag. This is a reality.

Messages of support and press releases can only do so much. Action is needed. But what type of action? Ukraine is none the less an independent country. We can’t just walk in and do something. We can’t punish the leaders in question in Ukraine without also punishing the people. The beacon of democracy has its hands tied behind its back. The emergency meeting of Member states Foreign Affairs ministers called for tomorrow in Brussels is bound to be a tight one – veto is possible, because we as an Union still depend on MS’s to agree on a set of actions. We still allow local interests, be they justified or mere mushy political interest, to shape our actions. We have not yet managed to pacify our status as beacon of democracy and human rights with our internal politics. We still have bad politics here and there, there are still discriminating policies amongst us. We have the standard but we lack the means.

What we need to do is show our unity. What we need to do is show that we understand the great responsibility placed upon this construct. It is no longer just about us. It is no longer about our petty quarrels amongst ourselves. We now have a greater mission. It is without doubt a cornerstone of EU evolution.

There is blood on the flag. Will we wipe it clean with the back of our hand and just keep talking or will we pick up that bloodied flag and proudly act under its legacy? History will judge our resolve. And I want it to talk proudly of this moment.

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  1. The call goes out that the EU must do something. No one could condone what is going on in the Ukraine but before we all get too excited two hard questions for which we must have credible answers.

    Russia supports Yanukovych, and any hard action by the EU is likely to result in a similarly hard response by Russia. According to Eurostat the EU imports 54.1% of its energy. Russia is by far the biggest supplier of oil (34.5%), gas (31.8%) and hard coal (27.1%) We know from previous experience it takes about five days for Russia to stop gas supplies to the EU and it is probably safe to assume that it takes the same or less to cut off oil and coal. Are we able to remove our dependence on Russian energy in four days ? If the answer is no, then I wonder how many people would be happy to see their power for heating and cooking cut off and their places of employment shut ? In short we have far more to lose than Russia.

    Given the speed the situation is deteriorating it is not much of a step to imagine Ukrainian military units being deployed on the streets. If they get involved in shooting protestors what does the EU do? Are any of us ready to countenance our own nation’s involvement in such a dangerous situation by deploying forces? I find it impossible to imagine any popular support in the UK for any form of intervention even if it was remotely possible; it simply is not sufficiently crucial. Russia on the other hand has shown a marked preparedness to become involved in full scale hot wars, Chechnya and Georgia spring to mind and from their perspective Ukraine is a crucial part of their sphere of influence.

    So essentially you are left with pretty meaningless gestures, visa bans for Yanukovych and his political allies, attempts to target specific Ukrainian businesses etc. Experience tends to show that these will have little impact. Let us try to be realistic, the EU (and US) will have to stand on the side lines, make assorted pronouncements but ultimately leave the Ukrainians to resolve the matter themselves, with or without Russian ‘assistance’; ethically extremely unsatisfactory but realpolitik in action.

    1. The people of Ukraine needed international support, visible international support. It’s exactly what led to the Verkhovna Rada’s decision late last night to put an end to violent measures against protesters. It was, as it always is, a tipping point – the point where the legitimate elected parliament went against a rising dictatorship. Will it hold? It’s hard to say. It’s hard to pinpoint loyalties at this time. But it sends a signal. As long as the international community supports this, not just by words and press conferences but by actions things can be overturned. Blocking assets, blocking travel, exercising pressure on third parties to prevent them from delivering safe haven, providing medical assistance and financial aid. There are things to be done.

      Russia is well aware of its blackmail potential. It has used it successfully in the past. But ceding values to a bully is not the way to go. Because it will cost us a lot more in the future to repair this. It might seem easier to do from further west, but trust me, here in the east we learned the hard way that ceding even a little to Russia is bad news.

  2. Let us hope that the worst of the crisis has passed and that a peaceful outcome is now possible. We can only hope that the protestors turn out to be genuinely liberal and democratic rather than simply another corrupt faction with their own agenda which does not encompass the whole country.

    The point I was trying to make about the relative weakness of the EU’s position in relation to Russia is that is severely restricts any action the EU might want to take and hence its relevance to the situation. You can regard it as giving in to the bully if you like, but if you are reliant on Russia for a large proportion of your power then it does limit your room for manoeuvre. Still while we refuse to have a realistic energy policy including fracking, nuclear power as well as renewables the problem will continue.

    Thank you.

    1. While I’m not yet convinced with fracking, I’m a fan of a nuclear & renewables solution. Renewables have come a long way in the past decade and sky is the limit in what concerns the future. I like to think that within a decade we will actually have a solid, dependable, day to day use renewable energy source.

      There are solutions to every problem. Including this overwhelming pressure brought upon by dependency on Russian gas. You have to wonder and outweigh which is long term cheaper – getting your gas somewhere else at a steeper price and having the freedom of building the future without constraint or paying less for gas and accepting Russian dominance. I’d rather pay more and be free than pay less and stay under the Russian boot, because that boot has a long history of getting used to resting on other people’s throats.

      There is no simple and cut-throat solution, that’s clear. But the one thing which is important is that the violence has stopped. My only wish is that it stays that way, and that a democratic solution will be the stable way to the future.

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