Thursday, December 13, 2018


In less than one week Mike Pompeo, American Secretary of State,  and Gordon Sondland, hotelier and Trump's ambassador to the EU have made anti- European tirades. They betrayed both unfamiliarity and prejudice. Not that all is well with the EU, but criticism rooted in glee and class welfare might well "boomerang". The demise of civilized language from this White House is becoming the hallmark of this administration. This goes for the form but the content is equally unsophisticated, a horizontal Goya-like firing squad which shoots at all things non-transactional...values, ideas, commitments. Allies are the favorite target. Partners-in-crime get a free pass.

Yes, the EU does not do well. It has become unloved. It missed the boat when there was still time to reconsider its workings and come up with a more enlightened projection which might have woken up a wavering attention. Brexit on one side and the populist tsunami on the other have made for an encircling psychoses which is a godsend for Putin, and another alibi for Trump to downgrade the US footprint in Atlantic affairs. In 2019 EU Parliament elections and a new Commission might bring some form of rejuvenation, but innovative thinking is an uphill battle.

Paradoxically, the banalization of danger has made Europe complacent and lazy. The Berlin Wall cemented the will to resist and the need to defend alliances rooted in shared ideas. The Gulag was East, the opportunities were West. After the wall, and a transition marked by a far too paternalistic Western attitude, the will to "be" was muted in a desire to "shop". The example of Germany is illuminating. Former East Germany was integrated with various degrees of success but the disappearance of the Berlin Wall lowered both acuteness in Europe and a moral/strategic imperative in America. The Iron Curtain helped as much as it inflamed. Now everything is becoming equalized. Ukraine is just a lump of sugar diluted in a too hot tea cup. Nobody will lift a finger if...

Europe can do without drama for sure. It nevertheless needs to "face the music". Self-esteem is relevance's twin. Given that Trump killed respect for the sake of some Pharisean deals, the Europeans should start to consider the outline and the broad priorities of a second generation of Atlantic thought. This has to be done with a return of the United States and their future input in mind. The EU council should have a large mandate to come up with a European pillar concept by 2020.

Brexit is a serious European divorce, given that after the United Kingdom became a full partner in the Common Market on January 1, 1973, a referendum was won by two-to-one in favor. It is important not to allow hard feelings and resentment to take over. Too many pieces in the European puzzle are in jeopardy. Reason, plus European self-interest, should prevail. If short-term anti-intellectual sound bites strive in today's Washington, Brussels should remain open to more creative and generous terms. The voters have to come back if the EU institutions want to fulfill their mandate. The EU should get rid of the Spitzenkandidat curse and become again as in Hallstein's days a concert of excellence rather than a depository for political "have beens". Likewise, the Commission should be smaller, albeit with a Security Council rotation mechanism.

The EU should not fall into Trump's paranoid brutal reactive format. Sometimes  a touch of moral class is warranted even as it might be felt as a snub. If there is such a price to pay for being ambitious and if the Pompeo/Bolton/Navarro/ Soudland quatuor continues to play in Washington it is advisable to skip the concert for now.

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