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Op-ed: Biden can help unite Europe. A closer political union is the rational outcome for Europe, and a globalist U.S. President can assist even passively

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A closer political union is the rational outcome for Europe, and a globalist U.S. President can assist even passively, writes former Romanian PM Mihai-Răzvan Ungureanu, in a joint op-ed with two US experts. The op-ed released to CaleaEuropeană.ro is published as an epistemic response to a piece authored by Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Klaus Leggewie in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung calling for a German-French Federation as a “breath of fresh air” for Europe. 

By Robert Braun, Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu and Dan Perry

The incoming Biden Administration is expected to break with its predecessor’s obsessively transactional foreign policy, enabling progress on issues ranging from global warming to international trade to human rights. An important consequence, not obvious from headlines at the moment, involves Europe.

Outgoing President Trump’s evident disdain for global cooperation, supranational governance and the European Union in particular has had a devastating effect on those who yearn for greater European political union. It emboldened the UK’s Brexiteers, Euroskeptic leaders in the east and nationalists in almost every country, creating a paralytic continental bad karma. Trump’s departure holistically offers a moment for the European Union to regain its ambition, boldness and creativity.

The EU embodied a successful economic vision, but failed to transform that business case into a shared political values to an extent that could drive action. The treaties of Maastricht and Rome ultimately amounted the rhetorical flourishes and bureaucratic advances that could not sweep aside nationalist resistance. This is now best exemplified by the  Polish-Hungarian effort to derail the European budget and halt political oversight over individual countries’ authoritarian practices.

If Europe is to make its mark in the world, it needs a bold vision for political union: tighter control over exploitive and corrupt practices of local and multi-national companies, an inclusive social net with universal basic income, a welfare system socially and economically strengthening unions and representation bodies, and safeguards for the independence of the free press, of universities and of civic-cultural institutions.

A unified Europe can be a beacon of progressive values and modernity to the world. This should be the response to those in the world who derided Europe as an ossified vessel of yesterday while benefitting from its values. 

This will strengthen Europe, and make it a better partner to a rejuvenated, post-Trump United States – and to other democracies. It is a vision that the new U.S. Administration will be able to get behind.

Of course, this is not currently the direction of things, nor will it be without an electrifying course correction. In theory, there would be a variety of ways to shock the system. We’d like to throw our support in favor of constitutional unification of Germany and France, an idea floated recently by French MEP and 1960s student leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit and German political scientist Claus Leggewie.

France and Germany have fought bitter wars, and can view each other through a narrow lens of stereotype and historical grievance. They have different labor market politics and instincts about fiscal and monetary policy. They speak different languages, and each possesses a profound patriotic instinct that may seem at odds with a ceding of national sovereignty. France is also more interested than Germany in a European security mechanism independent of the United States.

And they both have fostered business interest, sometimes at the expense of others in the European Union, that were grounded in “nation first” ideals.

And yet, France and (West) Germany are the two largest founding members of the European Economic Community that grew into the EU of today. The differences between their political and economic structures are minor when one considers their common fealty to Western and European values of the post-Renaissance and Enlightenment.  They are also the two strongest forces for political union among major EU members; there is a scenario where they agree to blaze the path.

A constitutionally unified, politically strong core would create economies of scale – combined population of 151 million and GDP of 6.73 trillion that make up 40% and 44% respectively of the bloc with the UK factored out – that would be irresistible, and prove that language need not be a barrier in a world in which English (ironically in light of Brexit) and innovation are unifying forces. 

Different languages may pose a challenge. But Canada, even with succession initiatives in Quebec, proves community and understanding are more about shared values than similar languages. Respect for different cultures and strong compassionate leadership are at the core of New Zealand’s political success. There is real reason to assess that a successful Franco-German unification would soon draw in an essentially liberal and internationalist countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark, linguistic satellites like Austria and Luxembourg, and then large countries of the southern cone like Italy, Spain and Portugal. 

What of former east bloc countries where populist nationalists currently hold sway?  The euphoria of expansion was driven by both idealism and business interests, and while it yielded economic growth for the East it also left many in that region with resentments about a perceived neocolonialism, yielding a nationalist backlash.  Deft political diplomacy and considerable sensitivity will be required to avoid a repeat. A strong European political union may create the political momentum to rejuvenate a progressive urban electorate in Eastern Europe as well. Western European politicians should also find ways to acknowledge that peoples east of Vienna are valuable beyond picking asparagus, caring for the elderly and doing menial jobs for less. 

It seems far-fetched today. Nations tend to wait for crises to break established paradigms. We propose getting ahead of the curve. Germany and France can jump-start the process of European unification.

National identity – indeed tribalism – has been one of the building blocks of civilization. The question has always been granularity.  Right now, what is needed for stability, prosperity and global impact is a European identity.  It won’t be easy, because local identities are strong. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Quite probably, very much lost.

* * *

Historian Mihai Razvan Ungureanu was prime minister and foreign minister of Romania. Social Theorist Robert Braun was a top aide to Hungary’s prime minister and is a senior researcher at Vienna’s Institute for Advanced Studies. Dan Perry was Europe-Africa Editor and Mideast Editor of the Associated Press news agency and is managing partner of the Thunder11 communications firm.

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MEP Vasile Blaga supports a fair green transition for Romania: Gas and nuclear energy must be considered transitory

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© Vasile Blaga / Facebook

MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) reaffirms his support for a fair green transition for Romania, in which gas and nuclear energy are accepted in order to achieve the objectives set by the European Ecological Pact.

The European Parliament hosted yesterday, 30 May, a public hearing whose guests were several experts who debated, together with members of the two committees ECON and ENVI, the inclusion of gas and nuclear energy in the taxonomy of the European Union. Many of the opinions expressed push the debate towards a rejection of the European Commission’s proposal of March whereby nuclear energy and gas are considered, under certain conditions, green.

I reaffirm my support for the version proposed by the European Commission. There are many reasons why gas and nuclear energy should be considered transitional in order to achieve the objectives set by the European Green Pact. One of the reasons, and perhaps the most important one, relates to the realities on the ground in each Member State. France has a significant share of nuclear power, just as Germany is heavily dependent on gas. The decisions that the European Union needs to implement in order to achieve the objectives – already set and agreed by all Member States – need to be balanced first and foremost”, EPP MEP Vasile Blaga told European Way.

“Countries like Romania or Poland need a realistic transition towards the targets set by the Green Pact. Cohesion and solidarity in the European Union means that each Member State must take into account the other and, as a whole, decisions must not ignore any reality, be it further West or further East”, added the EPP MEP.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: “New sanctions package against Russia is a strong sign of EU solidarity with Ukraine”

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MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP) welcomes the agreement reached by EU leaders on the latest sanctions package against Russia.

“The progressive embargo agreed yesterday evening by the European Council is a consistent step towards blocking the financing of the war unleashed by the Russian Federation in Ukraine. The sanctions will initially target 75% of imports of crude oil and petroleum products, rising to 90% by the end of the year”, the MEP told caleaeuropeana.ro.

According to the liberal MEP, the Council’s decision puts an end to a fundamentally unacceptable situation – condemning Russian aggression in Ukraine while financing it through hydrocarbon imports into the EU: “This is a necessary step in the attempt to force the Russian Federation to stop the absurd war in Ukraine. Of course, there will be voices saying that the 10% represents hesitation, failure or lack of solidarity. I place them squarely in line with those propagating pro-Russian rhetoric. The European Union also has a degree of heterogeneity, especially in terms of the degree to which economies are dependent on Russian hydrocarbons. In this context, blocking 90% of imports at the end of the year is undoubtedly a victory that I welcome”, said EPP MEP Vasile Blaga.

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MEP Vasile Blaga: The most effective weapon against Russia’s blackmail to turn off the gas tap is EU solidarity

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© Vasile Blaga/Facebook

The cut-off of gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria should be the start of the EU finding solutions to disconnect Europe from the Russian Federation, said MEP Vasile Blaga (PNL, EPP).

The MEP stressed that the most effective weapon against Russia’s blackmail to turn off the “gas tap” is EU solidarity.

“A generalised and overnight disconnection of Europe from Russian resources is not realistic, but in the medium and long term it is the only solution. The dependence of large EU economies – such as Germany’s – is a major obstacle to this necessary disconnection, but a united reaction, comparable to that during the pandemic, can provide the solutions to get out of this situation, which is immoral to say the least”, said the liberal MEP for the CaleaEuropeana.ro.

According to the MEP, it is necessary, as a first step, even if only in principle, for all EU Member States to speak “with one voice” on eliminating energy dependence on Russia.

“It is obvious that the European democratic architecture is incompatible with the immoral paradox of financing Russia’s war machine in the context of military aggression against the sovereign state of Ukraine. Then, without delay, we need to take concrete steps that will bring us within a reasonable timeframe closer to this priority objective”, added the EPP MEP.

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