Resolving the Kissinger-issue – The Weekly 08

Márton Gyöngyösi

22/05/2020

           

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?   

In the past decade, the fragility and vulnerability of the European Union has become visible from how its institutions reacted to the crises within its bounds and in its immediate neighbourhood. The lack of strategic vision and concerted action, let alone a single line of communication were more than apparent in all cataclysms recently faced by the EU. The failure of offering a viable and sustainable financial recovery program for ailing Greece within the Eurozone or reacting promptly to the geopolitical crises in the North-African, Middle-Eastern region or indeed the Ukraine are clear manifestations of malfunctioning of European institutions. 

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.  

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