In a world hit by corona and experiencing insecure, complicated, fluid and unusual conditions and rapidly developing conditions, with Biden winning the US elections, which have made the current situation unique, Europe is trying to play a more prominent role in international developments by renewing relations with Washington. The fact is the trend of developments in the late 20th century in Europe and superiority of the market economy and western democracy over the closed and centralized economy of the Communism camp changed the balance to the benefit of the leaders of the green continent and now that two decades of the third millennium has passed, while being fragile, the European Union has become a tangible reality, and superior economic power especially in foreign trade, which includes a large part of Central and Southeastern Europe. However, this union has not managed to prevent the emergence of a cycle of ethnic and national challenges and problems, along with expansion and development, especially for its weak and medium-size members. A pressing question is: Why populism, nationalism, authoritarianism and to some extent the Greens have been on the rise while the traditional parties declining? And the more pressing question: To what extent will this trend influence the integration process of the Union across the green continent and the international developments? The third question: Have the two Eastern and Western fronts entered a soft confrontation between authoritarianism and democracy?
Europe’s failing to reach a comprehensive success in obtaining a democratic identity is an important issue, becoming the main challenge of this political foundation in the domestic and foreign arenas, which we have witnessed its un-democratic and varied approaches in the foreign policy matters like response to Russia’s political and military behavior, or fulfilling Brussel’s commitments under the 5+1 Iran nuclear agreement; that is, the union has not reached its goal of League of Democratic Countries around a set of precious values, and continuation of the current trend will facilitate Europe’s disintegration. It goes without saying that most of the problems have economic roots and the imbalanced economic growth and east-west rivalry in Europe have left the green continent being the land of rich-poor divisions, and as stated by Eurostat one fifth of the green continent’s population is under the poverty line, comprising about 100 million people. This fact has been confirmed in the majority pf polls and more than 70% of the Europeans see poverty a big problem, with 89% maintaining their states need tackle poverty.
Nowadays, the Eastern Europe countries are concerned about Russia’s movements, especially after Biden took office in America; concerns that are rooted in the Ukraine, Georgia and Nagorno regions’ developments and Brussels’s too weak reaction and Josep Borrell’s February trip to Moscow. It is an open secret that the representative of the European Union had a weak performance in negotiations with Russian officials and in sending the Union’s message of discontentment with Moscow, especially in dealing with Putin’s opponent, Alexei Navalny, so that, immediately after the meeting, the European Union’s parliament convened and Josep Borrell had to defend his trip to Moscow at a public meeting on February 9, and even the defense was unconvincing. in the end of the meeting, more than 80 members of the European parliament, mostly from Central and Eastern Europe, signed a petition, asking for Josep Borrell ‘s removal, which was too weak in performing his duties.
The fact is, from the standpoint of European analysts, defending Europe’s top diplomat is hard, and in many’s view, it was West’s real contempt by Russia. Discussing Borrell is a distraction, because it is the EU’s foreign policy that must be analyzed not the performance of the High Representative, and on the other side, the big European countries such as Germany, Italy and some Eastern European countries like Hungary and Bulgaria have no will to counter Moscow’s aggressive approach. It is worth noting that the EU issued a statement on March 12, 2021, extending its sanctions on over 200 real and legal Russian entities for 6 more months, declaring that it would extend Sevastopol and Crimea-related sanctions imposed in 2014 against 200 real and legal Russian entities until September of 2021. Also, in a statement concerning the EU’s sanctions against Russia, the EU Council declared that the current restrictive measures would include travel restrictions, freezing assets, and barring the sanctioned people and institutes’ access to Europe’s financial and economic sources. The EU’s sanctions against these 177 persons and 48 institutes are going to stand.
The subject of rule of law and the government’s non-interference in judicial affairs ,too, has become one of the main challenges of the Union in dealing with Central and Eastern European countries like Hungary, Poland and Romania, and the EU is determined to economically punish these countries. On Wednesday, March 10, the European Council was a theatre for political wrangling between Europe’s centrist and left-wing parties and the representatives of right-wing regimes of Central Europe, and it was stated that the efforts to shut down the media were beyond Hungary and Poland, but the current law of the EU means that the European commission does little in this regard. In Hungary, the nationalist government of the prime minister, Viktor Orban, has been watching his wealthy friends buy newspapers or ordering them shut or selecting the editors-in-chief that back the party. In Poland, the government-sponsored media only advocate for the incumbent party and government’s goals and approaches , what was called by the former Pole foreign minister the” Goebbels Propaganda”, and the government is trying to levy taxes on digital ads, a measure designed to undermine independent media. In Slovenia, the prime minister, Janez Janša, is accused of creating an atmosphere of intimidation for his verbal attacks on the newspapers, like his notorious tweet in which he called two journalists “washed-up prostitutes”. At a parliament meeting, a number of representatives declared that similar abuses were ongoing in Czech and Slovakia, while in Bulgaria, ownership of the media by the government-backing oligarchy, had destroyed the free newspapers as in Hungary and Poland.
- The Eastern European countries, especially Romania, Poland, and the Baltic republics, due to the US exaggerated propaganda, are deeply concerned about Russia ‘s behavior and approaches; a subject which has triggered a soft and cold war in the Black sea.
- Some leaders of Eastern and Central European states, especially Poland and Hungary, have exploited the complicated international situation arising from the pandemic and sped down the road of populism and authoritarianism.
- Rome and Budapest, due to various reasons and their dependence on Russian energy have not managed to take influential steps, due to Russia’s imbalanced behavior.
- Although the US, during the Trump era, had expansive cooperation with 14 countries of the region in the form of the Three Seas Initiative (the Baltic, Adriatic, and the Black sea), but with Biden taking office, there will be changes in, especially, the US defense and security approaches and setting the type of relations with Central and Eastern European countries and Moscow.
(The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)