When I think about the near future of Europe, I’m at a loss. My thoughts run between a dynamic and at the same time crumbling Europe, a fully integrating Europe and an existing Europe, a Europe of political timelessness. The following milestones are most likely to be critical:
Thanks to long-term pressure, and despite attitudes “our planet is blue, not green” and Greta Thurnberg’s efforts, most Europeans have come to realize that averting the climate threat is entirely in human hands and that there is only one way to go: move away from carbon energy and bet on alternative energy.
But the devil never sleeps. This time the devil sat on commodity exchanges, and created rocketing rise in energy prices. Alternative energy, despite being called upon for so many years, has proven again that it is completely unprepared to take on the role that traditional energy sources have hitherto played.
Richer countries may be skirting the new poverty brought on by the energy crisis, but poorer and Central and Eastern European countries are not. It’s no coincidence that the most skeptical voices are heard from the places, where the energy need is not – and can not – be covered by alternative sources.
The alternative energy network depends on the whims of the weather and sunlight. So as alternate energy, we must also throw in nuclear energy (in praise of France) and natural gas power plants (in praise of Germany).
There will be a wide-ranging debate on energy in Europe. It will be accompanied by strong words and threats from various sides. Energy markets will be dominated by persistent uncertainty, exacerbated by Russia’s political instability. And like any uncertainty, this will be reflected in negative price dynamics. “Energy poverty” will continue to creep across Europe.
The only solution is to openly admit that the transition to alternative energy will require not only further investment in its infrastructure, but also massive social security for those who do not tighten the expected increase in energy prices on their own. It’s time to admit that twice or three times the capacity of alternative sources installed today will not eliminate the risk of energy poverty, unless more stable resources are available.
The Belarusian dictator Lukashenko hit the Achilles’ heel of Europe surprisingly accurately when, at his own expense, he began importing refugees into the country under the promise that he would get them into Europe via the Polish (Latvian, Lithuanian) border. Europe tightened its eastern borders, and armed soldiers and police are guarding barbed wires. It seems that Lukashenko didn’t notice that he had shot himself in the leg.
Common sense suggests that Europe should be able to view the refugee issue in a different way. After all, Europe has unquestionable obligations to them as part of her destiny and existence. However, the price Europe has to pay for it today seems too high, perhaps rightly so.
Look at Sweden. From time immemorial, a source of refuge for refugees. Today, refugees fully integrated into the society are the backbone of Swedish organized crime, more dangerous than ever before.
In traditionally friendly refugee countries, such as neighboring Austria and Germany, various semi-fascist or openly fascist movements are successfully feeding on opposition to refugees, increasingly succeeding in the provincial elections, even in the parliamentary elections.
The mere hysteria caused by irresponsible politicians concerning their statements on refugees, which do not exist in our country, was enough for the Czechs to behave similarly to some Germans or Austrians. Waving the banner of a non-existent Sudeten German threat helped Miloš Zeman win the first presidential election. The refugee threat, real or fictitious, helps wins elections not only in our country but also in many other European countries.
Lukashenko’s actions have resulted in the construction of new “Berlin” walls. He who builds the “Berlin” wall, even though it doesn’t seem so at first, will hurt himself the most in the end.
In 2005, the German Constitutional Court acknowledged the Christian Democratic Union challenge, that over-indebtedness of German state finances, practiced by Chancellor Schröder’s red-green government, could become unconstitutional and jeopardize democracy in its very essence.
Such thoughts regarding over-indebted public budgets, especially in the southern European countries, do not go that far. But they are salt in the eyes of the Nordic countries, the so-called “savers,” who view every government bond issued in Spain or Italy as an attack on their own economy, linked by a common currency, the euro.
In the new German government, the liberal Christian Lindner as head of the Treasury, considers debt to be a useful tool, but only in extreme and exceptional cases. His arrival on the European financial scene is therefore praised by the Nordic “saviors,” who expect to enforce more effective controls on the development and burden on national budgets on a European scale.
This will not only provoke the southern European countries, but also countries such as the Czech Republic, where cries that our sovereignty is inviolable will mount. Examples of the Poles, where national legislation takes precedence over European legislation will be pointed to.
So what will Europe be like?
Here, much depends on how the presidential election in France turns out. France will probably remain in the EU, but helpless political timelessness will continue. Here and there, someone will come up with something, only to be praised and sent home again, accompanied by the relief of those present.
I certainly do not expect any Member State to decide to leave the Union. The example of British political stupidity is warning enough. This does not mean, however, that a country like Poland or Hungary, or even us, will not do something wrong, something defiant.
But one thing is certain: It will be a long time before the rest of the world begins to regard the Union as a sovereign and respectful partner … If such a thing ever happens.
Translated and edited from the Czech original published on January 17th 2022 in Přítomnost.
published: 24. 1. 2022