This article has been published online by the Magyar Nemzet on March 28, 2021.
The question of „quo vadis, union, quo vadis, Europe?” appears more and more often in European public opinion – especially considering that the current European Commission (not) lead by Ursula von der Leyen has failed spectacularly in organizing an EU-level pandemic vaccination. In fact, the Commission’s vaccine-related rather suspicious impotence is downright scandalous.
However, this failure is only the tip of the iceberg – the EU as an alliance of nations has been split and broken along many fault lives over the years. These include worldview-ideological conflicts; to name just a few of the important ones: the deep, insoluble debate over the management and perception of migration, the conflict of gender theory and traditional family politics, and the debate between federalist principles vs national sovereignty. And this division is especially sharpened by the fact that we are split according to the older Western European Member States and the new Central and Eastern European members (of course with several exceptions on both sides, take for example Denmark).
I concluded one of my previous articles by pointing out that in 1951, six economically and culturally similar countries allied themselves through the European Coal and Steel Community – and their cooperation was quite successful for a long time. Today however, 27 Member states are trying to harmonize 27 different geopolitical positions, economic levels, aptitudes, histories and national traits. This is obviously a very big challenge and in order for the EU to stay together, it requires radical change – meanwhile, the EU is certainly not known for being a quick sailboat, but rather a giant ocean liner.
The leaders of the European Union recently announced that there will be a series of conferences on the future of the EU starting in May; therefore, now is the time for us Hungarian to express our opinions. There are essentially two options for the future of the EU: first, the alliance of nations stays together, or second, it eventually becomes inoperable and ceases to function. It is worth considering both options and evaluating what would happen in each situation. In other words, the question is before us again: can there be life in Europe without the Union?
If the EU remains united, I see four potential options.
The first is that the will of the “big powers” – central powers (Germany, France), the Brussels elite, and the global players behind them (such as George Soros and his network) – prevails and the EU step-by-step, becomes a federal system. They will do so by introducing majority decisions for more and more topics including immigration, foreign affairs, and budgets. This would most likely happen if the European People’s Party gives in and sacrifices its principles to join the globalist-federalist political party families.
In this case, the Central European, sovereignist Member States would simply be crushed according to the reasoning that they do not respect rule of law and democratic values and thus deserve punishment (politically and economically). They would create a two-lane model for Europe by classifying certain countries as „second class”.
The second option – which is not at all unlikely – is that the EU debate between the federalists and sovereignists will not be resolved, but also will not be decided in one direction or the other. Rather, a complicated and volatile relationship will form between the individual institutions where the Commission, the EP and the Court of Justice will represent supranationalism while the Council will represent intergovernmental cooperation (Member State sovereignty); thus, any agreement between these institutions will be characterized by the almost 70-year trend of varying “power relations”. Operating this way, the EU could continue for a long time, in a world of perpetual and renewable compromises – but the Union would continue to erode.
The third option is enforcing the sovereign principle which would primarily be embodied by V4, Central and Eastern European countries making independent decisions regarding immigration, multiculturalism, rule of law, democracy, globalization, gender issues etc. – even despite EU majorities by forming a minority opposition block. This could push the EU towards a confederation, i.e. a loose association of states which would cut back certain areas of cooperation, bringing back the age of a common economy but with even less ideological binding ideals between Member States. If the EU survives, I consider this option optimal for Hungary.
Finally, the fourth option would be most reminiscent of the declining German-Roman Empire. In this case, some Member States would pursue permanently different policies in various areas, which would eventually turn into grouped, separate alliances, splitting the EU into several pieces. (Previously, such separate alliances included EFTA, initiated by the British in 1960, the Nordic Council, established by the Nordic states in 1952, and of course the Benelux countries.) The cooperation of the Central European V4 countries could play a leadership, managerial role here with their absorption effect to draw in more Balkan and Eastern European nations into an alliance of confederate Central and Eastern European states; this could in turn inspire the renewal of older alliances between Member States (French-German axis, Benelux countries, Scandinavian alliances, Mediterranean countries alliances). Thus, EU dissolution would not be official, but it would function like the German-Roman Empire: flesh-and-blood political decisions would be made by individual nations and their varying alliances.
But what happens if conflicts escalate further and the EU eventually falls apart?
It is a valid question. Remember: would we have thought, even in the mid-80s that the 70-year-old Soviet Union would come to an end? No, not really. Yet it still came to an end and the seemingly eternal Kádár regime went with it to the garbage pile of history. In other words, history has taught us that unimaginable things can one day come true because crises emerge that no one could foresee. Who could have predicted the 2008 economic crisis, the 2015 migrant crisis, or the 2020 virus crisis? And is there not possibly a chance of an eventual brutal cyber-attack that could nullify the world’s financial system?
And this does not at all mean that we would expect the fall of the EU just as the fall of the Soviet Union. It is clear that an improved EU, based on equality between Member States, is better than no EU at all. But it is still worth playing with the idea: what would the disintegration of the EU mean?
In my opinion, it would be an opportunity for Central Europe and Hungary.
First of all, breaking with the top-down nature of the EU, nation states could form loose alliances between nations on a voluntary, free and equal basis organized from the bottom up. This is what the Central European states can do with the V4 alliance being an excellent starting point for this – but cooperation among sovereign nations could be extended to the Baltic, Balkan and Adriatic nations, along with Austria.
Secondly, if this alliance is created, it will become a real geopolitical factor in both economic and political terms. As a bad habit, small Central and Eastern European can be easily suppressed and controlled by bigger powers – but with a Central European alliance it would be very difficult to do so.
Thirdly, we can see that China, for example, considers our region a factor with their Belt and Road Initiative; and although they are in competition, Russia is also open to working with Central Europeans. The latter also has a geopolitical interest because it can keep the United States farther from its borders while China considers our region important in regard to competition with the United States. Russia would rather prioritize us for political reasons while China for economic reasons. But of course, opening up to the East cannot mean joining any sort of new Chinese or Russian “association”, because big powers will always act as big powers. Thus, we must always preserve our sovereignty in dealing with China and Russia as well.
Fourthly, after the collapse of the EU, the great powers of Western Europe would not be able to afford putting us in “economic quarantines” to avenge our “disruptive” actions in the EU. This is because they would not be politically or economically strong enough to do so, and they would no longer be the only alternative in the region.
Fifth and lastly: a sovereign regional alliance can be much more resistant to global financial background powers than a globalist-liberal union.
In summary, a huge dream would collapse with the end of the EU, but old dreams could come back to life. I cannot put it more wisely than the old English saying: Everything changes but change itself.
The author is a political scientist and research consultant for the Center for Fundamental Rights