With Brexit the European Union has lost a voice of reason which in recent years was able to prevent the worst from happening by speaking up whenever state intervention was promoted over the market economy, and centralism over the diversity of European identities and concepts of order. Those in Europe who rejoice at the warning that the UK sends Brussels with its departure will soon be longing for the good old days. “If only they had stuck with it”, they will say. Perhaps the chance of driving the essentially intransigent European Union to reform would have been far greater.
Now things are turning out the way they should not. Europeans had a first taste of what to expect as soon as the new European Commission – established amidst the usual birth pangs – took office. No one will rule out the possibility that a rapidly growing world
population, with its current economic systems, will have an impact on the climate.
Nobody will deny that it is the task of responsible politicians to address this issue without joining in the doomsday campaigns of radical anti-capitalists. However, the so-called “Green Deal”, of which the new EU Commission, under its President Ursula von der Leyen, has championed the cause, does not fulfil its remit. Spin doctors were at work here, with the intention of achieving a PR coup, but neitherclimate experts nor even bureaucrats, with all their expertise in keeping such a complex construct as the EU afloat.
Above all, however, and this is something of which the President of the Commission is particularly guilty, an idée fixe of German domestic policy, which can only be understood in a few other Member States, has been elevated to a European paradigm. At the end of the Merkel era, the prevailing view in Berlin is that, soon, a socially acceptable and majority-capable government alliance will only be possible between the once-conservative Christian Democrats and the once left-wing Greens. A common basis for this is being investigated right now in Berlin. But in most EU countries there are neither effective Christian Democrat nor relevant Green parties: those nations still focus on the classic issues of how to combat youth unemployment, maintain standards of living and avoid poverty in old age. There are many countries that are concerned about internal security, and some, particularly in the East of the continent, even external security. Almost everywhere people would like to have an answer to the question of manageable, humanitarian migration.
Were the “Green Deal” merely an otherwise inconsequential German imposition on an ultimately uninterested public, or perhaps even an honest attempt to redirect the economy ecologically, without collateral damage to third parties, it could be ignored, or even accepted. However, the fanatical determination with which the new EU Commission seems to want to make over-arching European history through the Green Deal does not allow easy acceptance. In EU countries, the economic and innovative strength of which has been flagging for decades, and which remain mired in a financial crisis that has yet to be overcome, it could spark further massive upheavals. Even though every state and every alliance of states has the indubitable right to weaken itself economically if other goals are valued more highly, and if others are not affected, from the outset the Green Deal is revolutionary. Once again, Europeans know better, have finally discovered a new global political mission, and those who will not listen will be made to suffer.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, von der Leyen put forward the idea that CO2 duties might be levied on imports from companies – beyond the reach of EU regulations – that undermine European climate policy. Perhaps it would be better in Brussels to consider where and how existing trade barriers that still hamper prosperity might be removed instead of threatening new, ideologically motivated obstacles. If the EU does not put a stop to the euphoric, navel-gazing hubris of its Commission, it will not only increase its disintegration, but it will continue to lose its global relevance.