The most commonly quoted questions implying a disturbing cacophony in Europe is attributed to the former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger: Who do I call if I want to call Europe? After the creation of the post of a foreign policy chief, or more accurately the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs by the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union claims to have resolved the issue. Certainly, today a U.S. Secretary of State, the equivalent of a foreign minister on this side of the Atlantic Ocean can easily dial his counterpart.
Does that mean, however, that after the creation of yet another post in the overly bureaucratic EU a single pan-European voice can be articulated?
Brexit and the rise of populism and illiberalism openly in defiance of European values are clear signs of rupture within our community.
In every one of the above named events communication has been of crucial importance. Social media and fake news made a significant impact on shaping the developments according to well-defined interests. Whether we like it or not, communication and media have evolved to become one of the greatest weapons of influence of our times.
Fake news became an instrument of influence used effectively by superpowers in promoting their geopolitical interests in recent conflicts in places like the Ukraine, Syria or Lybia. Russia but also the US enriched their combative arsenal with the use of fake news.
However, it has also been a powerful tool in the hands of autocratic minded governments, in order to tighten their grip on power. Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and his government is an obvious example of the latter. Furthermore, few would contest the role of fake news in the Brexit campaign, which successfully ejected the UK from the European Union, and a propaganda of a unique sort contributed to the tragic and lasting socio-economic consequences triggered by the troika’s series of financial bailouts imposed on the Greek people. Whether a threat to its internal integrity or its external security, the EU failed miserably in responding effectively to any of these crises.
If the European Union wants to become a geopolitical player, as leaders of the current Commission envisage, it needs a strategy for creating a single voice for Europe in the form of a common European public broadcasting network.
This shouldn’t be designed to function as a propaganda instrument of the EU, nor as a tool to replace national public broadcasting, such as RAI of Italy, ZDF of Germany or BBC of the UK. Establishing a common European public space to facilitate the evolvement of a common European narrative would help fend off external interference via fake news, hence strengthen Europe’s sovereignty, a prerequisite for becoming a geopolitical player. Moreover, it can contribute to building a European identity essential for the future of European cooperation.
Only a common European narrative based on a strong European identity can end up resolving irrevocably the Kissinger-issue and the greatest threat of our time.
If there is anything that all Europeans can be proud of regardless of their nationality, origin or identity, it is most certainly the rule of law, transparency, access to legal representation and equality before the law. We can be proud of how our continent has been governed by these principles for centuries and, even if an aggressive regime has occasionally been able to drag its country away from them, we could always find our way back to them eventually. On the other hand, there has always been another system lurking at the frontiers of Europe, ready to spread its untransparent and self-interested laws – let’s call it tribalism, clan mentality or mafia. Weak monarchs or governments have been known to give in to or at least co-exist with the mafia or the oligarchs but strong leaders and strong societies refused to tolerate them.
For a long time, we may have thought that the European Union was such a strong community since we have heard so much about its values and strict but fair laws. We Hungarians had long been hoping to become a member of this alliance because we thought that its norms and regulations would protect us once and for all from the backward forces that have regularly attempted to drive our Central European country to another, Asian road. In short, we thought we would be protected from the political mafia, the oligarchs, the obscure informal networks and the consequent vulnerability, weakness and general social deprivation.
Parliamentary elections held in Serbia last weekend did not hold too many surprises for those familiar with recent political developments in the small Balkan republic. In an election originally announced for 26 April but postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic, Alaksandar Vučić’s populist right-wing Serbia Progressive Party (SNS) snatched over 60 percent of the vote and some 190 mandates in the 250-seat Skupština, the Serbian parliament. The dominance of SNS is further underlined by the fact that virtually all real opposition parties dropped out of parliament regardless of parliamentary threshold cut down to 3 percent prior to the elections. Ivica Dačić’s Socialist Party scoring second place with just over 10 percent of the vote functions more like a satellite organization in a permanent governing coalition with the SNS. Thus, the strongest and only opposition party in the Serbian parliament will be the novel formation of Aleksandar Šapić, barely scraping through the threshold.
Let us be clear at the outset: it is entirely unacceptable when a police officer kneels on the neck of a defenceless person until they suffocate. However, it is equally revolting when some take advantage of the tragedy of George Floyd and use it for their political purposes to annihilate opponents. Brutality of US police is a long overdue problem that roots deeply in American society. It did not start with the inauguration of Donald Trump as some would like to see it, and it is not only aimed at black people. It is undisputedly related to the ultraliberal right to keep and bear arms or the enormous social inequalities characteristic of the US.