With Angela Merkel’s comeback on the European stage, right-wing leaders in Central Europe are losing the legal fight against imposed migrants’ quotas for EU states.
After several terrorist attacks in the West, some nationalist governments in the region are employing a false discourse of ‘nation-state pride’ and ‘European identity’ to escape from Brussels. Their attitude empowers the intolerance spreading across Europe and does nothing to fight actual terrorism effectively.
The awakening of dangerous sentiments
Since joining the EU over the last twelve years, all Central and Eastern states have remained in secondary place when dealing with important decisions made by the common block. From investment to their national agenda, highlighting possibilities brought by a free movement of labour to the West, the pressure for economic growth and integration of such young democracies almost obliterated any sense of power they could have in front of their fellow ‘EU leader nations’ and Brussels. They have made, to a certain extent, huge sacrifices during the last years in order to be able to escape their tumultuous past and even ‘become new Europeans’.
When Europe’s situation seems to have reached one of its lowest points ever, the attitude of certain established actors (and now completely instrumental members of the EU) in Central Europe is shifting.
It is not hard to notice how very few citizens and especially politicians consider the growing instability to be a critical threat to EU’s survival. This despite a ‘wrong’ Brexit vote, socioeconomic inequality and the ongoing migrant crisis accentuated in 2015.
The problem, of course, with the Central and Eastern European states is primarily incompatibility. From their traditions, to their toxic national identity with its preference for homogenisation, especially when pitted against Western Europe’s multiculturalism, the seeds of discord have always been there.
The triangle formed by Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic perfectly reflects this.
Grabbing power whilst lying to your citizens
Hungary, governed by Orban’s pseudo-autocratic nationalism, has indeed experienced the biggest migrant arrivals crossing from the Balkans and heading to northern Europe and Germany. Of course, no one expected this situation to be handled perfectly as only proper prevention would have stopped its escalation. However, Hungary’s approach on the Syrian refugees and the treatment they received has shocked the entire continent.
The sudden appearance of euroscepticism in the region, followed by increasing voter support for right-wing movements is not a total coincidence. Their position towards Angela Merkel’s asylum policy is by now the harshest one and, as they have shown, solutions include building fences on borders with neighbouring EU countries and hurting vulnerable people.
The huge influx of Syrian and Middle-Eastern refugees into Europe has revealed some entrenched weaknesses that Brussels used to hide. But it also liberated a bigger sentiment of Islamophobia that exists in literally every corner of the EU, and beyond. Judging by the millions of pejorative comments on social media, it’s clear that Central and Eastern Europeans are not the only ones worried about the ‘loss of identity’ we apparently face.
The UK, Germany, France and other western states are also filled with rejection towards Muslims, perhaps mixed with fear. The big difference, which causes such trouble for Warsaw or Budapest, is that nationalists have not come to power in the multicultural West; neither have xenophobes — continuously fought by liberal and left-wing movements.
To put all this in factual perspective. Two years ago Hungary started displaying government adverts on the streets which read: ‘If you come to our country, do not steal our jobs’. Well, it is now inviting ‘only western Europeans’, preferring to conserve its Christianity and cultural identity.
Europe, and especially Eastern Europe, is being hit by a huge ‘clickbait’ wave encouraging ordinary, poorly educated citizens to systematically join a trend of manipulation, intolerance and recalcitrant social discourse on immigration.
Unreal solutions for real problems
The inclusion of these millions of refugees in our advanced societies is quite a challenge, and Chancellor Merkel admitted it will all change our way of living in the coming years.
When cowards take advantage of Europe’s uncertainty and commit brutal attacks in our cities, the rhetoric coming from Eurosceptic forces cannot lead us to any solution. The reason is simple: this so-called ‘decline’ of Europe will not be solved by encouraging more fear and isolationism — more likely, it will provoke aggression and disunity.
Recent changes in migrants’ routes heading for the west of the continent have seen other European states face unpredictable arrivals on their ports and beaches. It is happening in the East and also the Mediterranean, and yet, none of these countries seem to be using the crisis as a means of grabbing power and isolating their society.
The ‘rebel sons’ of Germany already seem to be giving up their challenge on EU’s refugee quotas, but they will never actually mean it. Their withdrawal is not on account of a change of heart but because of their absolute economic dependence.
We should continue to be on our guard about how such forces might take Europe for granted; being prepared to look again to the East and discard democracy in favour of preserving their ‘European identity’.
Who are they kidding? Are we less European if we do not believe Orban’s idea of billionaire George Soros destroying European nation-states and imposing Liberalism?
Someone should explain to us how allowing radical powers to radicalise European societies will help us to better fight possible terrorists entering through the migrant wave. There is no truth in this self-proclaimed: ‘True Europeans’ .