This Friday begins the first European Council meeting to be held since the spread of the pandemic on the continent. Merkel, Sánchez and Conte are on a tour visiting and lobbying the governments of the Netherlands, Austria, Denmark and Sweden. At stake are the rescue funds on which Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Croatia and even France depend to provide the state budgets. And yet, it is not even the most dramatic issue: the war in the Mediterranean is a growing threat and the Summit is also divided on how to respond.
The rescue funds
Preliminary meetings between prime ministers are serving to do little more than establish the opposition of interests. Rutte reminded Sánchez that as of today the possibility of agreement is tiny and with his usual lack of enthusiasm he pointed out that Sánchez has to look for solutions at home. Merkel sounds more and more pessimistic about the scarce results of her pressure.
And the truth is that she is pushing but she doesn’t feel that compelled by the Mediterranean rush. With negative interest rates, the credits requested by the German state in the current pandemic have already left the German treasury income of 10,000 million euros whose only basis is the risk that finance capital associates with the debt of the remaining states. And above all, the closer the new Hanseatic countries see the appearance of real European budgets and therefore a future such as that of the Mediterranean countries, in which national budgets ultimately depend on the situation in Germany, the more they reject any solution involving mutualization or federalization and the more they are willing to give in to other areas. For example, the operation of the Netherlands as a de facto corporate tax haven. And the more impotent the Mediterranean countries appear to be in relation to the Hanseatic countries, the more the latter are prepared to discipline themselves around a Germany that has definitively displaced France.
In other words, Merkel’s game is continuing to bet that the crisis will lead to a political and economic recentralization of the EU around Germany … which will also come at a cheap price. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to get it. Conte, already open even to some form of intervention or control of Italian public spending, displayed something more than urgency in his meeting with the German chancellor:
If we let the crisis pass [without federalizing the EU], it would mean the destruction of the internal market in a very short time.
It’s hard to sum it up better. The EU is faced with an alternative in which one option – the federalization of budgets – is dangerous for the stability and future of the states; and the other – the erosion if not the end of the common market – is hell itself for the capital that they represent.
The EU and the war in the Mediterranean
To all this we must add the contractions between the imperialist interests of each of the different national capitals, all needing access to markets, all seeking to maintain dominance of their internal markets. It is very significant that the German press interprets the EU as being in a spiral of weakness in which internal contradictions prevent an imperialist assertion powerful enough to impose itself not only on the US or China, but also on Russia and Turkey.
This European Council will be the one that tries to reach a consensus on a policy towards Turkish expansion. The Prime Ministers of Cyprus and Greece attempted today to reach a common position. The stated goal of Greece is to prepare a real European blockade with sanctions and reprisals that would destroy the Turkish economy to the point of making military spending impossible. And that… means quite a lot of damage.
Erdogan responds with insolence: today he made it public that on Saturday, when the European Council discusses the Turkish issue, a Turkish vessel will extract hydrocarbons in Cypriot waters. To top off the symbolism, on Saturday, it will also be the first day that Hagia Sophia serves as a mosque.
Libya appears within the European calculations. After some bombings finally attributed to the Emirates -although they were thought to be French at first- the Turkish capabilities to ensure the air defense of Tripoli have been questioned. This is increasingly encouraging Egypt, which has also received a request for help from the parliament of Cyrenaica inviting it openly to invade the country in the coming weeks. If this were to happen, not only would we have an open war between states, but Turkey would have to relax its pressure on the Mediterranean and the Aegean to concentrate its forces on defending the government of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tripoli.
The cherry on top of the European summit will be the Eastern Balkans: Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Bosnia, Northern Macedonia and Albania. In April the EU made it clear that there would be no rapid integration, but it did insist on less proximity to China, Russia and Turkey … with the only promise of participating in some form of health aid.
The main goal of Brussels during these months has been to try reconciliation between Serbia and Kosovo to win the vacuum left by the USA in the Albanian region. But at this point it seems clear that it is difficult to move forward without the collaboration of the United States itself. In Serbia we saw last week how destabilizing the US can be when it loses direct influence. Nor have Russia and Turkey waited in any way for European diplomats to make good on their promises. Today there are elections in North Macedonia. The alternatives are divided into pro-EU and pro-NATO (social democrats) and pro-Russia (nationalists). The confluence of Russian and US interests in Europe is evident here: both powers are supporting ethnic nationalist forces to weaken the EU. In contrast, Turkey, historically linked to the Muslim minority, is indirectly supporting the Social Democrats.
In other words, the EU depends on Turkish imperialism in the Balkans to be able to counter the influence of Russia and the US, while it depends on the ability of Russia and Egypt – a US ally – in Libya to stop Turkey’s feet in the Eastern Mediterranean.
An inconclusive summit?
It is very difficult for the summit on Friday and Saturday to reach a consensus on the fundamentals of the rescue funds, but it will almost certainly flash its teeth in some way to Turkey in the hope that the situation in Libya will worsen enough to avert the immediate threat of Turkish military action in the eastern Mediterranean. The EU, one of the most contradictory imperialist projects both among its partners and in the global imperialist arena, will probably be one step closer to imploding.