The pro-EU argument on euroscepticism is shifting just as the demand for exiting the EU is decreasing. The case against right-wing politics in Brussels is extremely telling about the motivations of EU-supporters.
On Twitter, I stumbled upon a piece written in German for a blog called “Der (europäische) Föderalist” (“The (European) Federalist”), run by Manuel Müller. While I do not think that Müller is particularly relevant, his argument is representative of what we’ll increasingly see from the pro-EU side during the upcoming European elections. In the piece, titled ““Reform” instead of exit: right-wing eurosceptics change their attitude towards the EU – and thereby become even more dangerous for the future of European integration“, Müller makes the case that nationalists such as Matteo Salvini in Italy, Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland, and Alexander Gauland in Germany have the intention of reshaping the European Union in their own image, rather than attempting to make their country exit the EU.
He accurately describes the fact that attitudes towards exits have changed, as the Brexit process has proven (and is proving to be) complicated. Reformists are now likely to take the European Parliament by political storm in the European elections in May. An Italian-Polish nationalist alliance, paired with other eurosceptic movements across Europe, could comprise a significant political group in the EP. With consistent parliamentary work in Brussels and Strasbourg, this political faction could shape incoming directives towards a more conservative and nationalist agenda.
People were told that’s what they should do
The most upsetting aspect of Müller’s piece is not the facts, because those are correct. The conclusion, however, is so blatantly politically transparent that one has to wonder if there is any self-awareness on the pro-EU side.
For years, the argument against countries leaving the EU has been centered around the position of “change it from the inside”. If you don’t like how Brussels works, take over the political process and institute reform from within. Now that a larger alliance of parties is attempting to do exactly that, this federalist and many others are terribly upset. “How dare those of different opinions interfere with the grandiose project of European integration the way WE see it!” The only correct and democratic option of governing the EU is by doing it the way EU-supporters want–say those who happen to support the agenda. C’est la caricature.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not a fan of the aforementioned politicians, either. I’m just a libertarian with a particular interest in EU politics and policy, and I can’t help but notice that the argument of the advent of the evil right-wing has convinced nobody in recent years. In fact, while the left-wingers were busy demonising the right for political purposes, the right has figured out how to weaponise the EU for its own ends. This was inevitable.
It seems to have finally occurred to EU-supporters, as well.
Müller ends his blog entry by writing:
“Consensus structures and a far-reaching interweaving of levels do not necessarily make a constitutional order more resilient, but can even serve as a political lever for an authoritarian minority once it has reached a certain size.”
You don’t say! Could it be that the decentralisation argument against the European Union was correct all along, and those arguing in favour of integration are just finding out now? It’s fine and dandy to have a massive political structure such as the EU, provided it reflects your political ideals. The day that the Le Pens, Salvinis, Kaczyńskis, and Orbáns of the world take over, the centralisers will come crying that the system has been hijacked is now being used against them. Decentralisation and disintegration should be at the core of the values of those who support liberal democracy. Every power you give to a political institutions should be presented with the understanding that your worst nightmare could take it over in the near future.
This seems to be slowly dawning on EU-supporters. But it may already be too late.
This article was first published by Values4Europe.
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