“The EU does not solve any problems, it is a problem.”
Henryk Broder: “We are witnessing the last days of Europe”
For writer Henryk Broder, the EU is the most massive attempt to de-democratize a society since the downfall of the Soviet Union. Therefore he sees no chance of survival — even if the passengers on the Titanic do not want to notice the iceberg the old continent is approaching. Deutsche Mittelstand Nachrichten documents Broder’s angry speech.
An old Russian proverb says that: “There are no ugly brides, only insufficient vodka.” But this does not apply to the economy. The bad mood cannot be turned good with a feast, even if the firm’s party is held in a Hungarian brothel. What is lousy, remains lousy. Nor can one remain in peace and comfort singing “Merry Christmas!” when one knows that one’s neighbor’s home is in flames. Because one can guess that fire will spread to either one’s own home, or that one will have to feed and accommodate the homeless neighbors. It is hard to say which one of these scenarios is worse.
We are witnessing the last days of Europe. Not at the physical, but rather the philosophical and metaphorical level. Just as Karl Kraus foresaw it in his monumental work published in 1922 “The Last Days of Mankind”, so are we just witnessing “The Last Days of Europe”. No, they are not only here. They literally leap at us.
Last Monday, thanks to the ARD TV, I watched the live broadcast of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the award being given to the European Union. I had just taken an overnight flight from Washington to Frankfurt and I still felt a little dizzy. But this kind of dizziness sharpens the senses. Although one sees everything a bit obscurely, one also hears the subtle nuances much clearer. I suppose that I’m the only one in this room who watched this celebration. Because it took place at a time when ordinary people are working and only single mothers, royalty and members of the Brussels bureaucracy can afford to sit in front of the television without having to decide how to pay the GEZ fees [fees of the “fee collection center of public-law broadcasting institutions in the Federal Republic of Germany”].
So, I followed the handing over of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU and did not know whether to laugh or cry. Awarding it to the EU because they have kept the peace in Europe is as silly as awarding the Salvation Army because it has not engaged in dealing with alcohol, drugs, prostitutes and weapons. Or as honoring the International Red Cross on grounds that it does not engage in the running of concentration camps. Moreover, a peaceful Europe is not the guarantor of peace, but rather the result of a military intervention, without which today we would not sit together so comfortably, and if we did, then it would be probably only to celebrate the recent successful operation of the Condor Legion.
The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the EU reminded me of something that was stored deep in my memory. And because I was tired, it took a while until the memory had made its way to the surface. Yes, that was it! It was just in this way that the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union celebrated itself! They awarded each other medals and confirmed to themselves that they had made an extremely important contribution to peace and security in Europe and in the world.
Being myself a person who had spent the first years of his life in Poland, I have a slight allergy to the word “peace”. Not because I’m for the war, but because “peace” is the general alibi with which each and every barbarism can be justified. The Berlin Wall was also presented to us as an inevitable — today one would say: “without alternative” — peace-making and peace-keeping measure. And when I now look at the actions of the peace movement, which is passively watching the massacre in Syria, but does not hold back at protesting against the deployment of German soldiers in Afghanistan and against the deployment of Patriot missiles in Turkey, then I arrive at the conclusion that pacifism and cretinism are close relatives.
One day after the ceremony in Oslo, the capital of a country whose population has twice rejected joining the EU, I read an article in Die Welt about the Brussels “Vanity Fair”, in which disputes over who should speak at the ceremony and who should accept the prize lasted till the last moment. The President of the European Commission Durao Barroso, President Van Rompuy, and the President of the EU Parliament Schulz allegedly had, despite their busy schedule, argued like tinkers and tried to brush each other away. As usual in Brussels, a compromise was found in the last moment. Van Rompuy and Barroso together received the document, whereupon Van Rompuy was allowed to touch it first. He was also presumably allowed to take it home, take care of it and finally put it under his pillow. Martin Schulz had to be satisfied with being able to introduce his head through the neck chain holding the medal. But in the end there was a group photo which suggested unity and oneness — and this is another parallel to the morals in the CPSU Central Committee.
If you are looking for an explanation to this Vanity Fair of the alpha males of Brussels, I recommend that you visit their respective websites.
Jose Manuel Barroso has in any case studied economic and social sciences and lectured at several universities. His Social Democrats are a conservative party which belongs to the European People’s Party fraction in the European Parliament. He was Foreign Minister and Prime Minister of Portugal before being appointed as President of the EU Commission in 2004.
Herman van Rompuy, the first permanent president of the European Council, began his political career as deputy chair of the youth organization of the Flemish Christian Democrats, and, due to his unremarkable and reserved demeanor, earned the nickname “the sphinx.” During his time as Belgian prime minister, he was also unknown to most Belgians. It is just as puzzling what function he fulfills as the permanent president of the European Council.
His appointment calendar — to be found on the homepage of the European Council — shows the following for Thursday of last week:
- 1700 hours, meeting for exchange of views with the president of the European Parliament Martin Schulz.
- 1730, group photo
- 1745, first working session.
- 2000 hours, dinner discussion, followed by press conference.
What an exciting, fulfilled existence in the service of the European idea!
Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, is a jolly Rhinelander, with whom one might like to spend every week celebrating Women’s Carnival. In his previous life, he was mayor of the community of Würselin near Aachen and as such responsible — we read in Wikipedia — “especially for the construction of the leisure-time pool Aquana.” In regard to the budgetary situation of the town, this decision was later “seen critically.” That is to say, the leisure-time pool weighed heavily on the community’s pocketbook. But it qualified Schulz for an important position in the EU. In his cabinet, he employs a an office manager, a deputy office manager, a number of assistants and advisers, also an adviser for the assistants and the assistants of the advisers, four press spokespersons, a spokesperson, a speech writer, an appointments administrator, an interoffice messenger, a valet de chambre and a driver. All in all, 38 employees who travel with him between Brussels and Strasbourg. The royal household of a Eurocrat.
As Comrade Chance would have it, Hamed Abdel-Samed and I recently visited Martin Schulz, to interview him for a follow-up of our Europe Safari. During that interview, he said, among other things: “If the EU were a state and making application to join the European Union, it would be rejected. Lack of democratic substance.”
For instance (he said) the EU Parliament has no right to initiate laws, but merely consecrates the decisions of the European Commission.
One of the representatives we met spoke of a “protocol parliament” and was reminded of the conditions in the People’s Parliament of the German Democratic Republic.
A commissioner explained to us why there is no contradiction in the EU subsidizing the growing of tobacco and simultaneously financing campaigns about the dangers of smoking. That, after all, is a win-win situation and everyone will profit, both the tobacco industry and the smoker. And besides, a commissioner for tobacco subsidization and another for the anti-smoking campaign are both permanent.
Since our visit to Brussels and Strasbourg, I have no more illusions. The EU does not solve any problems, it is a problem. Since the end of actual socialism — to which in the opinion of its adherents there was no alternative — the EU is the most massive attempt to deprive citizens of the right to judge for themselves, and to de-democratize society. We hear over and over that there is no alternative to the EU, because the disintegration of the Union would not only mean the end of prosperity, but also the revival of old conflicts, including class warfare in individual countries and warlike confrontations between them.
In practice, this means that we are being asked to trust unconditionally those who have driven the car into the side wall of the house and are now assuring us that they are capable of repairing not only the totaled car, but the damaged house.
But would we give a second chance to a surgeon who had removed our appendix instead of our tonsils? Would we trust a money manager who had blown our money? Would we check into a hotel again where we had once been robbed because the alarms did not function? No, we would not. But when it is about Europe, we do it because we have no choice. The matter is alternativeless.
So we keep on, not because we are convinced that it is right, but because we have passed the point of no return.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I really did not intend to destroy your Christmas spirit. But I did not want to miss the opportunity to call your attention to the disaster we are heading towards.
In conclusion, allow me to ask: Who among you believes that the EU will exist in its present form in three years? Show of hands, please.
It seems to be a bare majority.
That is how a vote among the passengers on the Titanic would have turned out, shortly after sailing out of the harbor at Southampton — I wish you all a pleasant trip.
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Henryk M. Broder works as a reporter for the Welt-Gruppe. This speech was given at a private Christmas party in Berlin.