UNITED EUROPE FORUM – ABOUT US AND OUR MISSION
In many ways, Europe is now at a critical point in its recent history. The combination of a festering financial crisis, rise of Eurospecticism, serious geo-political challenges on the EU’s borders (such as Russia and Syria) and the migrant crisis have left the EU and its leaders in an unenviable position. As could be expected, problems breed ill feeling and disunity – this is evidenced for instance by the UK’s serious moves towards leaving the Union, while other Member States in the east have also at times (and for various reasons) made similar noises – Greece over its harsh treatment over the bailout conditions, Slovakia due to the migrant situation.
These events have highlighted a number of fault lines within the EU. UEF believes that there is another major divide, often remaining unmentioned and unaddressed, which may threaten to damage the unity within the EU if no action is taken. To be specific, this is the divide between the older “western” Member States and the newer Eastern Bloc Member States. These divides may sometimes manifest in cultural terms, other times in economic terms. The problematic thing is that they are there. We have already seen that one effect of the financial crisis and rise of austerity across Europe has been to bring forth a wave of xenophobia, nationalism and a resurrection of small minded insular mentality. We see this when demagogues of every shade appear and thrive in national elections across the EU - in this at least Europe is united with far right extremist parties coming to popularity in every region of the EU – from the UK’s UKIP and France’s Front Nationale, to the Sweden Democrats and Greece’s Golden Dawn, to name a few. While there is never a shortage of “fruitcakes, loons and closet racists” as British Prime Minister David Cameron once described UKIP, perhaps more worrying is the fact that even more main stream parties are being forced to adopt divisive and downright racist language and actions against foreigners. While the UEF deplores such positions and actions being targeted at any one group, the aim of the organisation is to deal with instances where EU Member States deploy such attitudes and actions against one another.
At a time of serious external challenge in the EU, there is no place for such attitudes. In that regard, it is the UEF’s position that the governments of older/Western Member States must do more to ensure the proper integration of newer, Eastern Block Member States into the EU as full-fledged and respected members in deed as well as word. This extends most of all to combating discrimination against nations of any Member State in the labour market, in the media and in any other forum. This also involves interacting with newer Member States in good faith and a spirit of partnership – something not always present currently. As became evident during the recent crisis in Greece over the latest bailout terms, external actors (such as Russia) stand at the ready to pick at disenchanted Member States in the east and seek to draw them away from the EU in some fashion. It is not inconceivable that a combination of further economic and political difficulties, along with diplomatic mismanagement from Brussels and leading EU capitals may lead to some of the newest Member States choosing to break off from the EU. For instance, Eastern Europe shares strong cultural, historic and often economic bonds with Russia – in fact, Russian influence is still palpable in most such Member States. This is a factor which cannot be ignored and which could, should the Russian led Eurasian Union prove a success, cause the aforementioned secessions. Allowing something of this nature to occur would be catastrophic to the European project and its creed of “ever closer union”. The UEF exists to fight against such a bleak future for Europe – our aim and indeed, our mission, is that the EU moves towards a fairer and more egalitarian reality at both Union and Member State level, and through this its future be safeguarded.