Monday, May 23, 2005

They Have Politics In Europe?

As ever, politics roll on beyond the pale of Washington. There is yet more problems in Europe. The French are about to defeat a treaty to streamline and codify laws and rules concerning the state of the European Union. This event, coupled with a few others, could mean some big shake-ups in the politics in several of the EU's key players.

Read the story on France in the International Herald Tribune.

At the same time, there is quite a flap brewing in Germany that started with the Social Democrats, the party of Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder, lost a key local election the the Christian Democrats in the province of North Rhine-Westphalia (the old, industrial heartland of Germany). This has forced Schroeder to consider his place in the stem and make a push on the German President to call elections as a vote of confidence measure. This really shows that he is worried about his future and the future of his party. His popularity is at all-time lows and the SDP are worried about the growing support for the conservative CDU especially in the rural areas like Bavaria and the industrial areas like North Rhine-Westphalia and the Rhur Valley. This could prove a turning point for Schroeder, as the EU treaty vote would prove a considerable defeat for Jacques Chriac.

Read the whole story on the BBC.

What does all of this, coupled with the re-election but possible retirement of Tony Blair in Great Britain, mean for Europe in the years to come? I think that this shows that a process like uniting an entire continent with such cultural differences, different political cultures, different interests and influences, is not the easy process that was envisioned at Maastricht in 1992 when the EU charter was signed.

It has been a decade of change on the continent with the breakup of the Warsaw Pact and the subsequent integration of former Soviet satellites into pan-European organizations. Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary, three great post-Soviet success stories, became members of NATO (1999) and the EU (2003). NATO also welcomed seven new countries in 2004 (Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania). Turkey, a NATO member but not in the EU, is also pushing to become a part of the EU. The protestations of the Turks may be hampered by a more conservative government in Germany or (to a lesser extent) France. Germany, who has a considerable population of gastarbeiters from Turkey, might be disposed to have problems with Turkish entry into the EU, especially from the conservative or radical nationalist perspective. The same goes for the small but vocal party of Jean-Marie Le Pen in France.

Is there a trend in Europe towards more conservative politics? I think that not much can be made of it continent-wide. These domestic developments, however, may have considerable influence on the nature of the partnerships built around things like NATO and the EU. Europe is uniting but will always be composed of different nations with different leadership and different priorities. As Europe forges into the 21st century, new challenges and old problems still exist (for example, anyone looked at Kosovo recently? Still a mess. How 'bout places like Albania?)

These developments are important for Americans to understand because some of our strongest allies, trading partners and resources lie in Europe. Or we can keep saying "Fuck the French" and close ourselves off from the Continent, occasionally calling the British when we need a favor. We ignore developments at our peril.

Politics don't just go on here, y'know. It is too seductive of a bloodsport to be ignored. And from my perspective, I look to the words of Hunter Thompson who called politics "better than sex."

Amen to that, Good Doctor.

No comments: