Was reading about the whole brouhaha about the words of Franz Timmermans shows how emotion can sabotage a rational response.
What he said was the following:
“The Poland today is more sovereign, free, has borders that are more secure than for centuries in the past. It has been perhaps a thousand years [that] the Polish people have been as free to decide about their destiny. Poland was pushed around on the European map. If Germany was powerful Poland would be 300 kilometers to the East. If Russia was powerful Poland would be 300 kilometers to the West but Polish people did not get to decide where the country was. Now it does.”
Putting aside his sloppy English (he is Dutch), it is quite clear what he said (there was apparently a translation error – the translator was doing this on the fly obviously). He was not directly threatening Poland.
But… as they say, on the other hand:
- right afterwards, he says that the EU creates sovereignty for Poland. I think I understand what he meant but still the idea that someone else gives you sovereignty is bizarre to say the least and Orwellian at worst
- talk of “border” changes does contain a veiled threat (one made recently by Anne Applebaum (who still manages to keep her recently acquired Polish citizenship)) and if Timmermans did not mean to utter it, then he is clearly rather tone deaf
- to state that the borders of Poland are secure is absurd to say the least – after Schengen they are as secure as the borders of the EU as a whole and how secure those are, I think need not be explained
- the statements he made are, of course, untrue and, likely, represent a rather shallow understanding of Eastern European history which should be disturbing to anyone concerned about personnel standards at the EU Commission. Obviously Poland was free in 2004 when it joined the EU. If it was not then the whole accession process is bullshit and we ought to start over again.
What is most silly about all of this is the Commission’s rhetoric which basically comes down to this: if you do not agree to what we want then you are not a European, you do not share our values, etc. In the next step, if you cannot be shamed then we will start the talk of penalties and implied threats of border changes or leaving you out in the lurch. This would, if displayed by a toddler (or a Trump), be called a tantrum.
When the EU came together it came together with the idea of economic cooperation within a broadly defined democratic consensus. Yes, there was movement of goods and people but only from within the EU and subject to various limits. And the size of a banana was only relevant to porn producers.
But why should the EU decide whether the death penalty should be legal or not? One can be for or against the death penalty but it is preposterous to state that being for it is being anti-European. Unless, of course, you believe that the history of Europe began with the EU and before that it was all dark ages. The so-called “European values” are a fiction and no more European than the various prescribed values of Europe’s past – both good and bad.
In the years since the EU Commission, as all bureaucracies, with the aid of organizations that have nothing to do with the EU, has expanded its prerogatives. It now can apparently rule on a whole plethora of internal laws and scrutinize the most minute details of internal politics. If you look at its statements, it clearly even feels that it can define who is and who is not European and, more relevantly, who is and who is not an Englishman, Czech or German.
These are extraordinary power claims. Under EU rule, countries might end up with less power versus the central government than US states versus the US federal government. If that is not a loss of sovereignty then I do not know what is. To be sovereign is to be able to make these kinds of decisions on your own – right or wrong – not to have, like a child, someone else decide for you.
To be fair, there are many in Eastern Europe that, for one reason or another, honestly do want their countries to lose sovereignty. They want the cultural-economic package that Brussels is offering. They feel closer to the Western European elites than to their own people. This is a value choice and not an unreasonable one – for them. But, they should not have the power to make that decision for everyone else. That is, of course, not democracy.
Which is also why this whole fight about the rule of law is BS. It has nothing to do with that. It is an attempt to stamp out national separatism in Eastern Europe. To show who the alpha dog is on the question of refugees. (To see how true that is, it’s only necessary to observe that no one has punished Germany for having a very similar judge selection system as Poland is trying to put in place).
As regards Timmermans, he’s said plenty of things in the past that should have alerted any rational person to that man’s views of Eastern Europe as an object of both history and future such as this patronizing gem:
“Any society, anywhere in the world, will be diverse in the future — that’s the future of the world… “So [Central European countries] will have to get used to that. They need political leaders who have the courage to explain that to their population instead of playing into the fears as I’ve seen Mr Orbán doing in the last couple of months.”
Given this statement, who are these “Polish people” that Timmermans speaks of above? Can he define them? Does it mean anyone who lives in Poland? What if we replaced the entire population of Poland with people from somewhere else. Would these somewhere elsers still be the Polish people to Timmermans? Does he really believe what he says? Because if he does then we have a much bigger problem.
Timmermans speaks (like many others) of nationalism as the cause of all wars. But this is bullshit – plain and simple and he knows it or should know it. What of the all the religious wars? What of all the petty dynastic squabbles? What of the wars between nominally Communist states? What “nation” murdered a million people in Cambodia?
The trope of WWI is also false. World War I was not a war between nation-states. Austria-Hungary was as diverse as it got back then. So was the “Russian” empire and even Imperial Germany had legions of Poles within its borders. The war was not a product of “nationalisms” – it was a product of elites fighting other elites (often from the same family). It was a family squabble that dragged Europe’s nations into it. The nations were tools but not actors. The resentment of that fact is partly what elevated various disturbing figures into power after WWI. The other was Communist agitation. There would have been no Nazis, had there been no Communists. That’s why the Communists, correctly, called them (and anyone else who opposed the Communists) “reactionaries”. Some people conveniently forget this. If you fuck with people, you tend to get a reaction.
Nor is it clear that “wars” are the thing that causes the most suffering – at least in a war you get to fight. But what about all the victims of the Holodomor? Or of Soviet military tactics? Or Mao’s victims? Their numbers are in the tens of millions. And what about those nationalities that fell victim to the whims of a dictator who ruled over a multinational, “diverse” empire? Just think of the Crimean Tatars, the Volga Germans, the Jewish doctor’s plot accusations or, more prominently, the NKVD’s “Polish operation” or the Holodomor perpetrated on the Ukrainians.
If you think that “nationalism” causes the most suffering just check out these books for a start (there are many others):
But, the Eurocrats say, the answer is democracy! Except that that is not really what they want and the idea that democracy can withstand the bringing together into a cauldron of so many diverse peoples is, to put it gently, untested.
But, the Eurocrats say, the answer is America! Yes, except in America, dollar is king and that is what drives everyone to put aside their petty squabbles and brings them together. Crass commercialism is a wonderful equalizer and destroyer of prejudices. Except that the European ruling classes do not want crass commercialism, they want a boring social economy whose paychecks excite just about no one.
So if Timmermans and his ilk get their way, they won’t get democracy, they won’t get economic growth but they will get a lot of disenchanted, young people from various cultures living next to one another.
Finally, if you want to know why learning history is useful, note that the various aid programs that Merkel has invented or the various extortionist payments to be made to Turkey are nothing more than what the Roman and Byzantine Empires ended up paying to the Goths, the Huns or the Avars – they are tribute to be left alone – pure and simple.
The strong do not make payments. Which is also why Poland’s claims against Germany may actually stand a chance. If Namibians can make them for 50 years of occupation then surely the a millennium and a half of Frankish occupation of all the lands east of the Saale should produce a settlement too. And the price tag for the Frankish occupation will be much higher.
Charlemagne – the original Eurocrat
Let’s see, Poles could sue the Franks for:
- tacit support for the Communist regimes (50 years worth)
- WWII (of, course)
- the economic war between WWI and WWII
- creation of Communism (Marx, Engels &, of course, the fact that they put Lenin on that train)
- WWI and German conduct of war operations on Polish soil
- 123 years of partitions’ occupation (Germanization, land theft and so on)
- Prussian conduct of war operations on Polish soil before that
- Prussian betrayal during the Swedish Deluge
- land theft and various exterminational operations of the Teutonic Knights
- the Rape of Gdansk in 1308
- occupation of Brandenburg and Pomerania
- occupation of the Elbe-Saale lands
- and, if we are correct, the theft of Suavic lands to the Rhine and beyond all the way through the Morini and Osti to the Veneti of Bretagne.
With interest this might exceed their ability to pay short of surrendering northern France, Germany and chunks of the Netherlands (Belgium’d be gone, of course, too).
And don’t forget the Saxon claims!
Incidentally, according to the sponsors of the Charlemagne Prize the prize “reaches into the future, and at the same time it embodies an obligation – an obligation of the highest ethical value. It is directed at a voluntary union of the European peoples without constraint, so that in their newfound strength they may defend the highest earthly goods – freedom, humanity and peace – and safeguard the future of their children and children’s children.”
It should be called the Terrible Irony Prize.
Hey, don’t forget the Slavs!
As Timmermans claims he is Dutch he should be the first to start paying – after all much of the Slavic east Germany was colonized by settlers from the Netherlands – who knows if Timmermans’ ancestors were not Slav slave holders.
PS If you want to know where this is going, all you have to do is read the Economist – which is a frequent platform for people like Anne Applebaum – see here – this plan for Britain reads like material from a neo-Nazi recruiting pamphlet. The folly of forcibly creating a Homo Europaeus is no lesser than the folly of forcing the creation of a Homo Sovieticus or a Homo Yugoslaviensis but, hey, repeated failure is only proof of impending success. Just need more government edicts and all will be all right next time.
We get the arrogant Brussels pronouncements that are both offensive and counterproductive. People grow together if they want to. Yugoslavia failed but both the Croats and the Serbs then wanted to join the EU. What does that tell you?
And for all of its problems, the state of ethnic relations in the US is much much better than in Europe and at least part of the reason is that intermarriage and associations of various peoples are developing naturally – not at the point of a Eurocrat’s umbrella.
In Europe, the danger is that we will eventually end up either in a Soviet-like (albeit capitalist) society where – as in many such countries – ethnic peace is maintained at the barrel of the gun – or in a reactionary, violent state. Or in a state of internal conflict. The European Community was, as originally conceived, a pretty decent idea. Who benefits if it falls apart?
It should also be clear that while other powers may want to limit Eastern European sovereignty, the EU wants to actually end the Eastern European nations as we’ve known them for a millennium and a half.
There is no reason to bring hot coals for Timmermans to walk on. He brings them himself. In his world people are passive – things just have to be explained to them.
No one likes to be talked down to. And nothing is inevitable. We should not pretend we have no choice in any of this. Though we should also understand the consequences of any choice made on this topic.
And the various “eurosceptics” should finally stop pretending that they can reshape the EU. They are too weak for that and they will only get weaker (see economist article link above). Moreover, were they actually given power, what would they do? They should say so so we’re all clear.
Why does this matter for our history? Well, if you want to know why Slavic history is being falsified (now as opposed to before – the why before was different), the answer is right here. Apparently, we’re all immigrants because the Slavs too came to Eastern Europe 1,500 years ago… If that is the standard of the discussion then we cannot even agree on the meaning of the most simple of words.
And, what if the Slavs did not actually come from anywhere but were always here? What does that do to their narrative? Don’t tell me that history was politicized by the Communists or before WWII. In Europe it is always politicized.
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