1. Story of the Week
Less about what happened and more about what is about to come. The EU election 2019 is upon us as the second largest festival of democracy, after India, begins today with 4 days of voting for a potential 427 million people and 28 member states (see country by country) choosing 751 MEPs to set the path for Europe in the next 5 years. So far there have been 3 major spitzenkandidat debates between 6 candidates (most of the time) ranging from flat to feisty but never authoritative or influential to an average audience in the hundreds of thousands who don’t know who they are and they will probably not even get the job in the end. On the other side of the campaign, were the better known Salvini and Le Pen and their alliance of trolls plotting to take over a third of the seats with a little help from an American, as well as the usual help from the Russians, and a good fake news boost by this unholy alliance in social media ahead of the vote. If you don’t believe us, something poetic emerged in Austria last Friday. The nexus between the far-right, Russian interference and corruption was laid bare in a video that could prove ominous for the EU elections and elections more generally.
Why it matters
The EU will not get another chance to get this right. The next five years will be the most crucial in the history of the European Union and by proxy the history of the West. Fifteen years since the big bang expansion, over a decade since the financial crisis, just 3 years after the Brexit vote and 12 years until the UN’s prediction of irreversible climate damage, the EU is against the ropes and the double punch of political nihilism and political opportunism are knocking it out. Political nihilism and political opportunism are two scourges that have infiltrated EU politics. Both have been on display during the European election campaign. The nihilism has spread to the electorate already despite the EU being more popular than ever. The opportunism has manifested itself in the cowardice of national politicians who have shifted the blame to the EU whilst appropriating its virtues. Many will denounce poorly educated people voting for demagogues on the right but what many won’t do is self reflect that a lot of subtle demagogueries has been living in the political center and especially the European political centre. The spitzenkandidat debates showed the main European parties compete to win in what looked like the ‘woke’ Olympics with leaders saying all the right things for all the right votes. Similarly, the far-right has been rallying a nihilistic anti-EU, anti-migration, anti-trade rhetoric for not much else than political expediency — all the wrong things for all the wrong votes.
In a tripolar world, where the US has taken the nihilistic role of nationalistic insularity and China is the opportunistic economic dictatorship, the EU should reject both approaches towards a role of radical hope with pragmatic solutions which protects its citizens. What Europe needs is not an opportunistic old guard spewing all the latest ‘woke’ talking points, but candidates who represent Europeans and represent that ‘wokeness’. Whether it is remediating the climate crisis, managing migration, promoting gender equality or fair technological innovation, Europe will not be taken seriously on the international stage if member states undermine leaders whose credibility can be questioned outright. Nor will it be taken seriously by its alienated population who see Brussels as an elite and are attracted to populist rhetoric arising out a lack of social cohesion and years of austerity. Therefore, Vote!, not for lip-service or trollish nationalists but for real Europeans with real ambition who are not afraid to reform the EU from within towards a deeper, more united and social European Union from where it will derive both its world power and internal legitimacy.
2. Tweets of the Week
3. Numbers of the Week
The number of months’ that Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz coalition government has survived. The 32-year old millennial leader was the envy of the centre-right all over Europe when he managed to the pull far-right Austrian Freedom Party under his wing. On Saturday, however, he announced new elections after his Vice-Chancellor, and leader of the Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, was caught on tape flogging political influence for campaign finance from some Russian characters in Ibiza in 2017. Faustian bargains have consequences, and this is as true for Strache as it is for Kurz.
The percentage of Erasmus students that find a job within three months of graduating. The flagship EU educational programme and progenitor of one million babies is also good for your employment prospects according to two new surveys by the European Commission.
The percentage of Swiss citizens that support restrictions on automatic and semi-automatic weapons. In a referendum held on Sunday, the country, where 48% of the population own a firearm, voted to approve EU measures on the weapons which was adopted after the 2015 Paris attacks. Switzerland is not part of the EU but follow the rules and regulations applied in its Schengen area, of which Switzerland is a part.
The EFF — European Future Forum held its first general assembly at the European Parliament in Brussels, bringing together a large variety of NGOs and civil society organisations to share their projects with each other, workshop new initiatives and improve their communication skills and methodologies.
The EFF is the first European Communication and Project Development Network. It is open to any organisation and individual. For more information, visit their website.
4. Quotes of the Week
“I knew delivering Brexit would not be simple or straightforward”
The words of UK Prime Minister Theresa May in a press conference on Tuesday. In front of a confusingly long slogan ‘Seeking common ground in Parliament’, the embattled PM gave her ‘hail Mary’ offer to opposition MPs in order to get her three-time-rejected Brexit Withdrawal Agreement finally through Parliament. This included a compromise to have a temporary Customs Union with the EU giving the Parliament the option to vote for a confirmatory referendum (see second referendum carrot dangling) only once they had voted the Withdrawal Agreement through. As far as ‘hail marys’ go, Theresa will be saying a lot of them as her party turns against her.
“Migrants, minorities and people of colour are an undeniable fact of Europe’s reality. It’s time Europe reflected that.”
The take from Sarah Chander from the European Network Against Racism. As the EU goes to the polls, the striking lack of ethnic minorities in the Brussels bubble is highlighted as elected officials and is seen as a crisis of legitimacy for a Europe that is ever more diverse in ethnicity, religion, and race. Much like in the US midterms, however, there are a slew of progressive ethnic minority female candidates from all over Europe set to win a seat in the European Parliament and ready to take it by storm just like their US counterparts.
“We live in a farcical age and it’s time to embrace absurdity to the full.”
The words of Otto English, the pen name of playwright Andrew Scott. His take, ‘The Milkshake Party Manifesto’, irreverently delves into the rich history of milkshaking, custard-pieing and whipped creaming as political protest. The manifesto comes after Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage was the latest of several right-wing political figures in the UK to be hit by a milkshake during canvassing. The milkshakes were all in a variety of flavours but with the same rejection of the receiver’s ideologies.
5. Video of the Week
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