There is a sense of events moving forward in Europe, again. President of France Emmanuel Macron has published last week his proposal pour une renaissance Européenne ‘ for European renewal’ (available in all European languages). This is published in light of the Parlement Européen elections in May 2019.

It has gotten a number of responses by European luminaries. On 11 March 2019, Mr Jean-Luc Mélenchon, another French politician, an internal competitor of Macron, has responded by saying Europe should ‘leave those stupid treaties’ binding us together, and create a different kind of Europe, saying that the threat to democracy arises from Paris, not from Moscow. It is likely that the response is meant for domestic consumption.

More importantly, CDU (German Christian Democratic Party) chairman Ms Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has responded in more dulcet tones yet the substance of her response is equally severe. The fact that she has such a difference of opinion with Mr Macron is worrying for our European common future. She is the heir apparent to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and will have a great influence on European political developments.

Can Germany lead Europe?

There are only two countries in Europe where the political class, and a sufficiently large section of the population, have global ambitions; where they believe that what happens in the rest of the world concerns them. Only in France and Great Britain does this occur. Great Britain is out, and in any case if its political class were to do anything, it would be more likely to work against us, due to alignment with the Anglosphere and emotional distaste for Europe from a lot of them. Lukewarm support for a NAFTA-style free trade area does not really count.

The premier European power, Germany is whacked by constant reminders of its past. Hollywood, endlessly churns out movies where Germans are the “bad guys”. And Europeans keep watching feeding the stereotype of the bad German. Three Winston Churchill movies, for example, were released in the two years after Brexit.

Thus Germany does not permit itself any global ambitions. It tried for its “place in the sun” and now is content to be eternally confined to the shade? More importantly, the German electorate is too averse to any intervention or rhetoric. Perhaps we can say it is still trying to be Switzerland, while being the 4th largest economy in the world.

Italy does not really have global ambitions. It also has a hollowed-out political class. Most other European countries are too weak or too corrupt.

How will our future be like?

Yet the risks keep growing.

We are less than three weeks away from Brexit, and the belligerent political class of Britain will do all it can to oppose us.  

China is moving, growing, expanding. It gains European member-states as its allies, quietly building influence in far-flung capitals. Italy has recently subscribed to the Chinese One Belt – One Road initiative, handing future control of critical infrastructure to China. The European Wolf’s leg has been shot off.

The USA has shifted its rhetoric towards opposition. It criticises our trade policy and our defence spending. At the same time, it admits that it is prepared to sacrifice parts of Europe to the appetite of the sclerotic Russian bear.

The European Wolf is paralysed. China is slowly closing its legs in a vice. Events are moving forward, and we risk being overcome by them.

So, for those of us that wish for the ship to keep floating, we don’t have many options. France has a great republican tradition, world class educational institutes and legacy influence in various parts of the world. Germany is unwilling to step-up, Italy seems to be unsuitable at the moment, and Great Britain has different interests. Thus, it is in France that, by necessity, our hopes must reside.

There are a lot of caveats in this proposition. However, for those who will criticise it, it is not enough to criticise but to also offer a reasonable alternative.

Crédit photo: Markos Loizou

Nicolas Mavreas was born on what later became Europe’s eastern frontier, on the island of Cyprus. He lived through Europe’s enlargement and the turmoil of the early 2010’s. After completing his two-year compulsory national service, he went to the University of Cambridge to study. He observed the Brexit debate and result. Being a European in another member-state sharpened his awareness of the European “we” and spurred on a search to understand the European interest.

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