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Publicat în 27 iunie 2012, 17:30 / 301 elite & idei

Oana Popescu for Stratfor: Elections without choice. Europe needs to stay the model

Oana Popescu for Stratfor: Elections without choice. Europe needs to stay the model

A few weeks ago, in a debate at the Copenhagen Business School, moderator and CNN anchor Richard Quest was asking panelists and students which of the numerous and important elections this year would be more instrumental in setting the tone globally – both from an economic and political point of view. US? France? Russia? China? Greece? All of the above? Or will none change the course of the world in any radical way?

(…)

In brief, the West can and needs to do just this: understand that our universal values are no more universal perhaps, in others’ view, than we consider theirs to be, so we need to make them attractive and worthy of their efforts to adopt them, should they ultimately do so. We need to stay the model.  

However, looking at European elections, in Greece and France, of late there also doesn’t seem to be as much actual choice in the word ‘election’ as the dictionary assigns to it. (…)

It still remains to be seen however if EU leaders can also propose meaningful options for a sustainable economic and political arrangement, a revigorated European project, beyond momentaneous firefighting. The absence of such alternative ideas being submitted for public debate by mainstream politics has so far generated the flurry of fringe parties, whether populist, extreme right or extreme left, gaining ever larger support everywhere on the continent. The problem with these ‘outsiders’ is not just that some of their ideas are morally and politically unacceptable, but also that they challenge the system itself. French economy Professor Catherine Samary says “yes, but when the system is underperforming to such an extent and seems to be so deeply compromised, I think we should accept that it be challenged; it’s the only way to help it regenerate!”   True, but if the mainstream does not find ways to integrate the acceptable ideas into its core structure, while rejecting the ones incompatible with its values and purpose, the risk is that even its most intrinsic and valuable principles may suffer or be lost. Amid growing worries about European competitiveness, stability and recovery from crisis, the Europe/US-bashing and China/India-praising rhetoric is gaining ground. The West is losing its value as a model and its credibility, not just for the world outside, but even internally.

Thrown into a defensive stance, the EU is increasingly seeing xenophobia, neo-fascism, neo-communism, racism, restriction of basic rights (see Schengen border controls, ACTA etc) at home. The European vicinity (the Western Balkans, Ukraine, the Caucasus) is losing the fascination with the West which prompted speedy reforms starting with the early ‘90s in former communist bloc countries which are now full members. Hence, EU neighbors are drifting away towards Russia or Turkey or are simply plunged into internal confusion. Glorification of the BRICS may be well deserved in many respects, but it also indirectly contributes to promoting values which are often opposed to modernity and human dignity.

If the EU and the West as a whole cannot find ways to bring choice back into their formulation of both policies and a grand strategy, into the relation between institutions and citizens (re-energizing democracy and leadership, in fact!), the course of the world may well be determined this year by a selection, with very little democracy to it, namely the succession process in China, rather than by the numerous other elections everywhere else. It is already, undoubtedly, one of the leadership changes to watch most closely, with long-term impact and most significant consequences globally. But China will need to work out its numerous and dramatic challenges back home before it can become a beacon for others and a responsible mentor, as Europe or the US have been for the past hundreds of years.

By Oana Popescu, for Stratfor

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