Allow me a rare personal anecdote. In 1965 I met Lord Hume, who had just left the post of Prime Minister and we had a mutual sympathy. Lord Hume invited me for lunch at the Chamber of Lords. Over an extremely delicious rump of Scottish lamb, I asked if I was allowed to ask a complex question. I explained that I had started my professional career as a Kremlinologist, which had served me well in following British foreign policy. One day London was looking to Europe as its compass, and another day, to Washington. All this on the basis of small signals, difficult to detect. Could his Lordship explain to me how to address this dualism?
No mention in the media of the dangerous increase in the tension between Europe and Russia and yet Nato has just made operational in Romania a missile system, the ABM, which the United States has declared will protect it from “rogue” states, like Iran.
A new spectre is haunting the world. It is not the spectre of communism, as Marx’s Manifesto famously proclaimed. It is the spectre of fear, which has increasingly become the rationale behind politics. And, as the old proverb says, fear is not a good counselor.
Greece is again in the media, because a new negotiation is due between the embattled country and its creditors. The North-South divide of Europe is coming back with force (while the East-West relationship is increasingly looking as beyond repair). The German minister of Finance, Wolfgang Schäuble , has come back with his peculiar view of the economy as a branch of moral and ethical discipline, and not as a reading of reality. He has asked the Greeks “to not get distracted” by the refugees crisis, and not forget their primary task, which is to pay their debt. The request is to cut 2% of the Gross National Product; in case there will not be a 3.5% budget surplus within 2018.
When the blasphemous anti Islam cartoons published in 2006 by a Danish newspaper left 205 people dead, the then Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Ekmeleddin Mehmet Ihsaoglu, went to see Javier Solana who was responsible for foreign affairs of the European Union. The position of the EU was that there was no islamophobia at all, and this was an isolated incident. Since then, this has been more or less the position of the European institutions.
The publication of the Panama Papers has now been digested, like any scandal, after just a few days. We are now getting so accustomed to scandals, that it is confusing, and the general public reaction often is: all are corrupt and politics is all about corruption.
On the 17th of April, Italians were called to vote in a national referendum, on the extension of licenses to extract petrol and gas from the seas. The government, the media and those in the economic circles, all took a position against the referendum, claiming that 2000 jobs were at a stake. The proponents of the referendum (among them five regions), lost. Italy is following a consistent trend, after the Summit on Climate Change (Paris December 2015), in which all countries (Italy included) took a solemn engagement to reduce emissions.
A total indifference has accompanied the number of refugees injured by Macedonian police in Idomeni, where more than 12 000 people, including 4 000 children have been trapped, since Austria asked Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, to prevent the continuing passage of refugees. Austria has now informed the Italian government that it will send several hundred troops to its border with Italy.
The recent Brussels massacre has created a short term reaction, which ignores a long term projection. All the debate is now about security, police reinforcement, new military strategies, as if terrorism can be solved just as a matter of public order.
The recent German elections went as predicted.. A new right wing, xenophobe party, Alternative for Germany, AFD, has emerged with force, and will bein national Parliament in 2017.This development is unprecedented in German politics since the end of the second world war, and it is widely viewedas part of a general trend - the rise of populist and xenophobe forces all over Europe.
Larry Summers, Clinton’s minister of treasury, has made few friends in life. At that time, he was instrumental in eliminating the Glass Stegall Banking Law, which since 1933 separated the bank’s customer deposits from the financial activities of the Stock Exchange, releasing a flood of money which created the present monster financial system.
The last formal act of European disintegration was the last negotiation between 28 European leaders and the Prime Minister of Turkey. The deal, against all international treaties, is a total capitulation to European values. Europe will give Turkey 6 billion dollars, and in exchange Turkey will keep refugees from coming to Europe. Or better, will screen everybody, and send to Europe only the Syrians who are eligible for political asylum.
It is no coincidence that Boutros Boutros-Ghali was the only Secretary General in the history of the United Nations able to serve only one term instead of the two that have become traditional. The United States vetoed his re-election, in spite of the favourable vote of the other members of the Security Council.
We are witnessing the slow agony of the dream of European integration, disintegrating without a single demonstration occuring anywhere, among its 500 millions of citizens. It is clear that European institutions are in an existential crisis but the debate is only at intergovernmental level.
The rich and the powerful, who meet every year at the World Economic Forum (WEF), were in a gloomy mood this time. Not only because the day they met close to eight trillion dollars has been wiped off global equity markets by a "correction". But because no leader could be in a buoyant mood.