UK Is Dropping a New Curtain Down between East and West
Adelina Marini, 29 November 2013
A little after World War II Europe was ideologically divided by an Iron Curtain, an expression which is attributed to the then British Prime Minster Winston Churchill. This division reaffirmed the separation of an east and west, which left deep consequences visible even today. In the end of 1989, however, the old continent was overtaken by a strong emotion with the fall of the Berlin wall which, practically, marked the fall of the Iron Curtain. A stormy process of unification of the continent began which is still ongoing, but is more and more getting stuck in the daily dynamics of the economic crisis and the lost ideological anchors.
In his this year's speech in Berlin on the occasion of the fall of the wall, European President Herman Van Rompuy said that this was the moment that closed the post war chapter of the European history. Two decades later, however, the euphoria is giving way to populism. As Mr Van Rompuy describes it, this is "an outlet for anger and resentment, the promise of a restored identity, the illusion that closing a fence can turn back the clock, the lie that you can survive on the global market without efforts". The success of populism, the European president added, is due also to the crisis of traditional politics in many of the member states, of falling trust of voters in their representatives. From Berlin he advised the leaders to tell the truth. And it is that there are no easy solutions. That reforms for growth and employment take time. Another truth is that the response to the crisis is not in financial instruments (funds or bonds), nor is it in returning to national currencies, but in changing the real economy. And another truth - "the cost of non-Europe would be unbearable".
Free movement within Europe needs to be less free
Less than a month after Herman Van Rompuy's speech on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, the British prime minister wrote a text with precisely that title: "Free movement within Europe needs to be less free". Right in the middle of his term David Cameron is facing a non-optimistic picture. On the one hand, Europe is moving fast away from him as the process of integration is going on, while he only wanted a single market of the size Margaret Thatcher designed for it long before globalisation, the fall of the wall and the Internet. That is why he challenged Europe with a ultimatum either to reform, naturally, again, after the British size, or the UK will hold a referendum to decide should it stay or should it go. With this desperate move he opened the Pandora's box. You will find it hard to see a different topic in media on the Island than that of its future relations with the EU.
Against this backdrop, the opinion polls show that eurosceptic and populist Nigel Farage is winning more and more fans. Traditional parties in Britain are endangered by extinction. Ed Miliband's Labour fail to at least maintain (not to mention increase) the acceleration which is the legacy of the reformer and author of the "third path" Tony Blair. Cameron's Conservatives are losing grounds to the advancing UK Independent Party (UKIP) under the leadership of Mr Farage. The cabinet us subjected to a huge pressure that is echoing in all the corners of the European Union. Even the European Commission chief, Jose Manuel Barroso, afforded himself to join the debate by not quite politically correctly ridiculing the tories in the European Parliament, attacking their wing in Strasbourg - the group of European Conservatives and Reformists, led then by Martin Callanan - telling them that they are a poor copy of Nigel Farage's eurosceptics.
EU and Bulgaria of Doom
Against this all, Britain found the scapegoats it needed - Bulgaria and Romania, which, as of January 1st, 2014, the last restrictions for the labour market will be removed for. A topic that replaced much more essential issues on Britain's agenda. The culmination was on November 27th when in an article for The Financial Times Mr Cameron wrote that his country always supported EU's enlargement and the possibilities to increase the prosperity of the citizens that grew up on the other side of the Iron Curtain. But things went wrong, he believes. Currently there are one million people from central and eastern Europe in the UK. That is why some lessons needed to be learnt. The first is income disparity. The second is the failures to bind migration policy more tightly to welfare and education.
And to correct the mistake, the UK prime minister proposes a change of rules so that those who go to the country be not eligible for social benefits in the first three months while waiting to be employed. If after three months a EU citizens needs benefits they will not be paid incessantly, but only for six months, unless a real employment perspective is proved. The conditions for getting social benefits will also be tightened. Cameron points out in his article also that London is not alone in this effort. Behind it are also Holland, Austria and even Germany. In conclusion, he says that accepting new countries in the EU for the sake of peace and prosperity remains one of EU's greatest strengths, but it should not happen on the basis of the past. New arrangements are needed too slow down the complete access to labour markets "until we can be sure it will not cause vast migrations".
Bulgaria's Foreign Minster Kristian Vigenin described the measures as "discriminatory", while the former top diplomat and now a member of the European Parliament Ivailo Kalfin (S&D) sent an open letter to the British premier, reminding him that while he speaks about one million citizens from central and eastern Europe in the UK in the same time nearly two million British citizens live across the continent. He begs the premier to look at the facts, like, for instance, that the Bulgarians who work contribute to the economy and pay taxes in the country or pay education fees.
On November 9th, in Berlin, Herman Van Rompuy admitted that Europe is still in a process of "coming to terms" with the new situation. "We have not yet reached the moment to say: 'The 'new Europe' has become just that, 'Europe', for all". Alas, he is write. 23 years since embarking on the path toward a "new Europe for all" the "West" got tired of the effort to help with the damages from the communismoniño (a game of words between "communism" and the natural phenomenon "El Niño"), as this week was said in the Croatian parliament with regard to the devastating developments of the 20th century. For now, the dropped curtain By London and several other states is soft and permeable. How much time will be necessary, however, the curtain to toughen and become once more iron? Precisely at a time when Putin's fist is hanging with new power above the as exhausted (and hesitating) by communismoniño countries.