European Union – The European Union will have to rediscover itself if it joins Ukraine

In early May, after being re-elected, French President Macron proposed adding a confederation of associated countries to the European Union in its current form, rather than constantly expanding it. With this proposal, Macron may have wanted above all else to avoid or at least postpone the admission of Ukraine to a very distant future, which is now widely needed. Indeed, it is true that the EU could easily overstate Ukraine’s integration, just as it actually overstretched it with earlier projects such as the euro.

For Macron, of course, there may also be a consideration that Ukrainian agriculture will present serious competition to French farmers. However, his proposal was immediately met with strong rejection in Eastern and Central Europe. So it is doubtful that there is any chance of even discussing it seriously. This is unfortunate, because further eastward expansion of the EU would undoubtedly pose enormous problems.

Disagreement in dealing with sexual minorities

Financial costs are not even critical. Even more serious is the fact that, even before the Ukraine crisis, there was growing opposition between Eastern Central Europe and the old core countries of the European Union even over central issues such as core political values. In Poland and Hungary in particular, there was no willingness to accept Western liberal understandings of the rule of law and democracy, apart from concrete disputes over issues such as refugee policy or the treatment of sexual minorities.

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The accession of Ukraine, of course, will lead to an increase in the weight of Eastern and Central European countries in the European Union. Last but not least, this makes the project, especially in Germany, of the eventual abolition of the nation-state as an object of politics more hopeless than it already was. Because countries that were under Soviet rule until 1989 joined the European Union to secure their existence as nation-states, not to escape from it, like Germany.

This would apply more to Ukraine. A people who fought to survive as a free nation with so many sacrifices are unlikely to believe that nationalism and patriotism are by definition Satanic. All this is likely to escalate the disagreement over the values ​​that should guide the EU in the future, especially since there are policy drafts that have their roots in very different political cultures.

Between post-democratic liberalism and illiberal democracy

In Brussels itself, but also to a lesser extent in some Western member states at the national level, a political culture that can be described somewhat exaggeratedly as post-democratic liberalism has prevailed, said political scientist Stephen Orr, who studies in Hong Kong, emphasized recently in His book “European Secession: Democracy, Sovereignty, and Contingency Politics” states that: the rights and privileges of minorities are always better and more strictly guaranteed, but democratic elections can influence less and less directional decisions, since the most important things are already regulated in European regulations with The actual constitutional situation or already decided by the courts, if decisions are not made in emergency and crisis situations until they are taken entirely by institutions such as the European Central Bank, which are not accountable to any constituency whatsoever.

In recent years, some countries in Eastern and Central Europe – most notably Hungary and Poland – have faced this kind of post-democratic liberalism, which in some cases also has a national equivalent in countries such as Germany, with its version of “illiberal” democracy trying to protect the right of Opposition and the capabilities of institutions considered opposition. Such a system threatens fair competition between parties and tends to encourage corruption, there is no doubt about it.

On the other hand: as an ancient tradition of constitutional law theory, to which the name of Ernst Wolfgang Buckenforde refers, he has sometimes asserted in the West also, that “a free secular state (…) lives in conditions which it cannot” guarantee itself. You don’t want to let it get that far. This can of course be rejected and the methods used to constrain social pluralism, but the position of the EU’s liberal elites, who present their position as there is no alternative, is problematic in dogmatic exaggeration.

Stronger focus on East Central Europe

The eastward expansion of the EU will allow for the escalation of disputes on such issues, especially since the war itself has significantly strengthened the position of Poland and its conservative nationalist government in the EU (of course, the same does not apply to Hungary, since Orbán tends to sympathize with Putin). Is this a convincing argument against Ukraine joining the EU in 10 or 15 years? No, not in and of itself, because one could also see a benefit in the greater weight accorded to Central and Eastern Europe, as this would often put in its place the aggressive behavior of the elites, who hitherto dominated Brussels.

What is certain, however, is that the EU will have to rediscover itself if it accepts Ukraine. In a zone of military conflict whose final de-escalation would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, the EU would line the immediate frontier of a country that, even after a possible defeat, would not give up its imperial ambitions any time soon. Especially since Russia as a purely nation-state cannot really be imagined without this imperial dimension; will collapse.

Imperial trains

The European Union is already struggling with the conflict in Northern Ireland that has been dragged into by Brexit, so how is it supposed to deal with citizenship disputes in the Donbass? Shouldn’t the EU itself take on imperial features in such a constellation, as French Finance Minister Le Maire suggested on behalf of President Macron? Perhaps this meant demanding the EU to be able to act as a global power in terms of security policy, with its areas of interest and influence, for example in Africa, where France has always represented such a policy, but also in Eastern Europe.

However, there are usually not citizens of empires, but subjects and also a clear center that can impose its rules on the periphery. One might want the latter in Paris, and see his country or at best the six founding members of the European Economic Community such a position, but such a vision cannot be implemented in the European Union today. But there is another point: if the EU becomes involved in a permanent confrontation with Russia, it will question its entire political culture.

In a depoliticized world

In the past three decades, EU citizens have increasingly become accustomed to living in a depoliticized world, where there are no longer any problems that cannot somehow be resolved, or at least largely defused, here too, through endless dialogue and talk you agree with Stephen Auer. The EU has mostly understood how to put conflicts of interest and central values ​​into perspective through compromises of all kinds, and through a complex system of decision-making based on consensus, to ultimately make them unknown or at least opaque. Basically, from the point of view of the European Union, it is pointless to ask the question of where the actual seat of sovereignty is, and who has the final decision in a crisis or emergency situation, responsibility is distributed among too many institutions and actors, their role is often opaque In individual cases.

This, of course, depoliticizes conflicts. Decisions are more likely to be legitimized by often opaque measures and by the economic success that the EU has long championed and continues to support in some countries and regions, rather than through classic democratic majority decisions. However, with the frequent crises of recent years, and especially with the Ukrainian crisis, this form of politics has reached its limits. Suddenly, in Europe, too, it is again necessary to clearly distinguish between friend and foe, and decisions must be made on war and peace or on very painful punishments.

Central-minded EU Parliament

Ultimately, EU institutions do not have the necessary legitimacy for such steps; It can only be legitimized sufficiently at the national level, where the post-democratic culture has not yet fully established itself. But are the people in Brussels willing to see that, or will they, led by the Commission and with the enthusiastic approval of the always central-minded EU Parliament, use the current crisis to withdraw more powers from nation-states, as has been the case for the past 12 years as the norm?

This could be a dangerous move because, as has already been emphasized, Brussels has neither the necessary resources of legitimacy nor the capacity to act to compensate for the weakening of nation-states it has self-inflicted, as has been repeatedly demonstrated in recent times. years, as well as in the context of the permanent euro crisis. If there is no change here, and such a change is hard to imagine, the EU would be better off not giving Ukraine the prospect of full membership. As in many other areas, one will only take the second step before the first, hoping that somehow things will go well – as is the case with the euro. In the end, you will encounter unsolvable problems.

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