What next for the EU? The post-Merkel era has arrived


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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the longest-serving German chancellor at the EU leaders’ table, said goodbye to her colleagues on Friday after the EU summit. It was the end of an era. Merkel was always the tongue of the scales. She was a sober thinker, always striving for balance. With her individuality and political credibility, she was able to settle serious differences.

Interestingly, or perhaps quite understandably, political analysts did not immediately name Macron when it came to who should take the baton. You could say that two ‘veteran’ politicians, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, stole the show, as they say. Both politicians have been in power since 2010 and are currently giving two extreme representations of the future of the EU. Many thought a few years ago that Orban would be easily swept off the table by the EU. This was not the case.

Today, Orban is one of the EU’s future manifestations. Rutte represents the other extreme, he is the standard-bearer of liberal-based federalism. The Hungarian opposition would be happy to stand under Rutte’s banner in the belief that the Hungarian electorate has not yet lost faith in a united Union, but that this direction offers(s) them an opportunity to get rid of Viktor Orbán.

A few years ago, many thought that Orbán was alone and would be easy to deal with. Who would have thought that more and more people would have dared to stray from the path of political correctness and honestly say what they really think and what they really believe, as opposed to what the EU is telling them to say. A few years ago, Orbán was the sole advocate of a policy to stem the tide of migrants. He was heavily attacked for building a fence on his country’s southern border. Today, more and more Member States are daring to speak out, with Denmark recently taking a stand against the EU’s decision and daring to say that migrants should be stopped outside the border and those trying to enter interrogated there. Of course, the EU was immediately incensed, as if there were an EU above the member states, which determines how the member states, from which the legal basis of the EU itself derives, should behave. Earlier, the Czech Republic and, in the middle of last week, Austria sided with Hungary on the migrant issue.

It is the two extremes of federalism and illiberalism, represented by the two veteran politicians, that will now be the EU’s hallmark. The fight is already on, and at last week’s EU summit the flames were so high that – as has never happened before with heads of state and government – the debate became personal, which is unacceptable and unacceptable in political circles of this level.

Orban in the blue corner, Rutte in the red corner. One of them has to win, because neither ideology can be fully realised unless the other is finally eliminated. With no referee in the ring at the moment, the fight could go on indefinitely. The European Commission is helpless, the threat of Article 7 is an empty bluff, EU money will never be taken away from Hungary.

Although many in the Hungarian opposition hope that the ‘rule of law’ will be the better hook to knock Orban out, this is more the dream of the liberals in the European Parliament, and it is only thanks to the violence of Renew Europe that the weak Commission, after much prodding, has finally been willing to take a small step on this issue, but they don’t want it on their backs either. It is interesting that only the third party group in the size of the European Parliament, the Liberals, christened Renew Europe, control the whole body. The two strongest party groups, the European People’s Party and the European Socialists, are covering their ears and tails, marching silently along with the Liberals, completely oblivious to the policies they are supposed to be pursuing.

The artificially created LGBQTI debate has come in very handy to cover up the truth: the cracks are getting bigger in the EU. The ‘rich’ (officially: stingy) northerners don’t want to ‘support’ the southerners, and the easterners are confronting the westerners, no longer allowing themselves to be seen by the west as second-class members, interested only in the market they can capture. The slogan of the Hungarian governing party, ‘We will no longer be a colony’, does have an economic basis!

Politics is cruel. Today we can be nostalgic about Merkel’s departure, but from Monday a new week begins, and in politics it is all about who is in the ring. Anyone who quits will be forgotten very quickly, whatever their merits.

We EU citizens are left to watch with bated breath as the EU rows forward in an increasingly fragmented Europe.