In the time of Robert Schuman, when the European Union was created, the analysis of the mechanisms of power was quite simple: chain effects would be created by economic unification, resulting in political unification. His contemporary Jean Monnet, in the same style, thought that Europe was not just mathematics. It will not be created with just one move nor as a sum of aggregate structures. It will be the fruit of a long process. According to the fathers of Europe, political Europe with its united nations should have been the cherry on the top of the political cake.
Fifty-two years later, the creators of the euro still share the belief that the official currency will strengthen the EU’s political solidarity. There is no doubt that the Eurocrats believed in the integration power of the economy. However, economic globalization has faced unexpected effects. It did not meet the predictions for the global prosperity of the people. On the contrary, it made the rich richer, marginalized the poor, and broke the foundations of liberal democracies. In this world where the logic of Armageddon rules, the message of Pontiff Francis even sounds naive and left-wing cosmopolitan and humorous: “Stretch out your hands to the poor and comfort them not with empty words, but with deeds of life.”
But the words of the genius Holy Father Francis, who with his enthusiasm put back Macedonia on the world map, barely touch the populists’ emotions. The more deeply involved in the analysis of the functioning of the European Union, it becomes clear that it is far from political solidarity. It is now clear that economic integration has not galvanized political integration. If they want to establish a solid and efficient EU, new political solidarity and synergy of the EU leaders is necessary. But in the past, the EU rarely included such initiatives. This explains the message of French President Emmanuel Macron: “The EU must reform itself before thinking of taking on new members.” However, this does not mean that it will strongly oppose the date for accession negotiations with our country.
Although criticized by French populists and the extreme right-wing as a pan-European and European federalist, which at the height of the election campaign is a pejorative qualification, Macron whose rating is on the rise, is silent now for the EU’s enlargement to the Western Balkans. At this point, as Nicole Gnesotto wrote, Western democracies are facing the so-called “la bete immonde” syndrome, which Bertolt Brecht perceived as a symbol of all forms of right-wing extremism to fascism. We live like in the thirties of the last century. The extreme right is on the rise everywhere. In Brazil, a president from the far right was elected in 2018. In the United States since the election, President Donald Trump is practicing unconditional populism through traditional media, posting provocative tweets and radical criticism at the expense of democratic multilateral institutions. In the EU, at least 10 member states are governed by populist and far right parties, either independently or in a coalition.
The proudest of the right-wing renaissance are the populists in Hungary, Poland, Italy, Slovakia and Romania. In Austria, Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister of Interior, all come from the far right.
Such a political option was unthinkable just ten years ago. In 2006, the EU Council threatened with the suspension of Austria over the election victory of extremist Jürg Haider. Today the EU Council is tolerant of such phenomena.
How can the EU face its own populi-cracy, xenophobia, vulgarity, authoritarianism and manipulations? Pierre Verluise, the founder of the powerful Parisian website Diploweb said: “It is not enough to criticize and attack populists and extreme rightists, but to devise new strategies for marginalizing them. It is of primary urgency to understand why the need for authoritarianism in Europe is growing. What is the responsibility of the EU and its European politicians?”
There is no doubt that the EU has shown insufficiency in crisis management, that is, in managing migrant waves. Perhaps they underestimate social inequalities and new vulnerable categories. Probably showing myopia for the social status of the old population? Finally, the poisoned alliance between collective economic impotence and poverty, just as during wild capitalism, has crushed the individual to survive according to the principle of “each to their own”, “everyone manages independently”.
In the Republic of North Macedonia it was best felt during Gruevski’s populist rule. The most important for the Eurocrats was the security and stability of the Republic of Macedonia at the cost of democracy. That’s why Brussels was silent about Macedonian populist rule. During that time, Orban’s student persistently imitated the Hungarian authoritarian populism burdened with the Hubris syndrome. Had the changes not occurred, the RNM was likely to degenerate to complete deinstallation of democracy, its demolition, but also the tragic end similar to the Latin American dictatorships. Probably the citizens of our country are still not sufficiently aware of what they dealt with three years ago, and how we would have lived in the conditions of the Macedonian populi-cracy.
The second urgency for the fighters for Europe is the determination for all the challenges that threaten the rule of law. This diagnosis is valid especially for the aspirant countries for which the EU has penalty tools. But the situation is very cynical with EU members such as Hungary and Poland. After a long hesitation, the EU finally decided to activate Article 7 against these two countries without any chance of succeeding. Namely, they would mutually exercise the veto right to one another. Will financial penalties be more effective? In Brussels they say that every year Poland spends 15 billion euros, or four percent of its GDP. When the Europeans showed maturity through the imposition of political unity and would have punished Poland, their populi-cracy would be shattered, said Nicole Gnesotto.
The next major weakness of the EU is the threatened rule of law both in populist regimes and among Western aspirants. This disability is complemented by Brexit, Italexit, as well as the lack of leadership in the European Union, which Macron and Merkel tried to show at the recent meeting with the Western Balkans in Berlin.
The RN Macedonia, in 2017, stopped using populism as a ruling political model, but was apparently not done with party populism. The populism in our country as a political style was combined with the traditional political culture and ethnic nationalism that with the project “Skopje 2014” cost the citizens of our country nearly one billion euros.
The populist style here, as in other regimes, relies on several perceptions. One of these coordinates is the antagonism between the good, wise, sacred, canonized, biblical people, and the ruling class of politicians who changed the name and is despised, which the people will judge for conspiracy and betrayal. “Listen to the people, the people know best, I am the servant of the people, I have met our people, I will never utter North Macedonia, I kneel before you, Macedonians.”
We heard these populist slogans in the recent presidential elections. If necessary, new vertical and horizontal enemies of the people will be invented, traitors who sold Macedonia to the foreign rascals. If necessary, other surrealist conspiracy theories will be spread. All this transformed into a political system is called populi-cracy – a system that we, if memory serves us right, survived between 2006 and 2016.