What’s next after the Bratislava Summit?: A European parody

30 September 2016
Les Echos Paris

The latest EU leaders’ meeting was a fiasco for the EU. The time has come for the Union to focus only on the members willing to move forward, argues French consultant Edouard Tétreau.

“Da boul. Daboulganiech. Kouroukoukou roukoukou stach stach !” Fans would have no trouble recognizing the first bars and chorus of the emblematic 1998 French song led by French comic Michaël Youn of the Bratisla Boys, Stach, Stach!. And they are precisely the only group that comes to mind when evoking the flopped EU summit held recently in Bratislava, a forlorn border town somewhere between Vienna and Budapest, capital of Slovakia, a country of 5 million whose economic output is 5 percent of the GDP of France.

The town would be dead without the billions of Euros that Brussels has shelled out since the country joined the Union in 2004. Nothing ever happens there, except when European summits come to town or the country is asked to make a very small effort to help Europe with foreign refugees. Such was the case in June 2015 when there was an outcry because the Union asked Slovakia to welcome 471 migrants from Italy and 314 migrants from Greece. One seventh of the population of the “jungle” in Calais.

And the public expressed its outrage through ultra-violent protests and riots, akin to militant French union rioting, resulting in 140 arrests. And so it came to be that this backwater capital of the country that would have nothing to do with European solidarity and humanitarian decency was chosen to host the Union summit.

One couldn’t ask for a more fitting demonstration of the gap between the well-intentioned hot air of the Union and the snowballing violence and protectionism out there in the real world! The final press release of the summit which was supposed to rise to the historic stakes, given Brexit, was instead in the leagues of a Bratisla Boys sketch.

The preface set the tone: “We need to improve the communication with each other. [...] We welcomed the State of the Union speech of the President of the Commission.” And the roadmap was merely some bullet points jotted down on paper, comparable to a draft presentation by a junior consultant. The high points? “Concrete measures” on the hot topics of the day—migrants, defence and security: “full commitment to implementing the EU-Turkey statement” [six months after the fact] “work to be continued to broaden EU consensus. [...] Intensified cooperation and information-exchange. [...] Start to set up a Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias). [...] In December: decision”.

Mighty weapons to intimidate Daesh, the Arab name for ISIS, and make the British regret leaving this parody of political authority! Let’s be blunt: the behaviour of the European Union as a whole three months after Brexit is a darn shame. In its current form, this institution will never be able to rise up to the challenges in this world where the stars are Donald Trump in the United States, Recep Erdogan in Turkey, Marine Le Pen in France, Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, the Eastern European fascist parties, the proponents of Brexit in England, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Islamic State in Africa, the Middle East and among us. This is a world in which one of the rare studies of the Montaigne Institute reveals that 50 % of the Muslims under 25 in France prefer the rigorous laws of Islam to those of France.

Such a world cannot make do with a plodding, cowardly, and indecisive 27-member European Union. Not any more. Since Brexit, I have been calling for a Union narrowed down to a few major countries determined to move forward together. Countries which have the will and the means to share sovereignty and capacity, including military resources and budget, to together destroy Europe’s common enemy: Islamic terrorism.

Translated from the French by Rita Smith-Lemaire

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