After 70 years, is the EU still strong?

  Several months after the outbreak of the full-scale military conflict between Russia and Ukraine, on the early morning of June 16, the main leaders of Germany, France and Italy took a special night train arranged by the Ukrainian government and quietly arrived in Kyiv, starting a long-awaited field trip. . In the town of Irpin, which was shrouded in artillery fire not long ago, the three EU leaders walked grimly through the ruined apartment buildings, the wreckage of cars hit by rockets, and the “Victory” industrial park. Under the watchful eyes of soldiers with live ammunition and the local people, they listened to the introduction of Ukrainian President’s Special Envoy Chernyshov.
  In terms of political experience and past international image, the three visitors are far superior to Ukrainian President Zelensky, who is a film actor, dressed in an olive green T-shirt and camouflage sneakers. However, in the past few months, their popularity in the Western world seems to have been far removed by Zelensky, who is a half monk. In the face of Russia’s “special military operation” that has been brewing for a long time, the Ukrainian regime has not quickly collapse. The three EU leaders who initially took a cautious stance, also under pressure at home and abroad, finally decided to visit Kyiv and made a statement on Ukraine’s “joining the EU”.
  As the most important republic of the Soviet Union between the Caucasus Mountains and the Baltic Sea, Ukraine’s urge to “enter Europe” westward not only constitutes the kinetic energy of periodic tensions in Russia-Europe relations since 2004, but also is the direct cause of the current tragic conflict. one. What has been changed by the Russian-Ukrainian conflict is far more than the two directly involved countries: 25 years after the Russian-European natural gas pipeline was connected, the EU Brussels Extraordinary Summit decided to gradually stop the import of fossil fuels from Russia within two years, and completely give up The “North Stream 2” pipeline project, which has just been completed and cost more than 10 billion euros, has just been completed. The sudden change of more than one-third of the annual energy import volume in Central and Western Europe has not only caused the price of oil and gas in the international market to rise, but also caused a large number of large-scale manufacturing enterprises that use “Russian gas” and “Russian oil” as raw materials to fall into a supply chain crisis. The potential economic losses are in the hundreds of billions of euros. The reform plan called “Watershed Moment” announced by the German government on February 27 started the process of rearmament rearmament, which had lagged behind the largest country in Western Europe for nearly 30 years, and made the famous philosopher Habermas issue a “third World War II is not impossible” exclaimed. As for the “East” and “West” disputes within the EU that have been brewing in the past few years, the energy crisis has also been looming: the “solidarity” caused by the war is far less solid than it seems.
  The European Union, where did it come from, and where will it go from here?
  Although historians trace the origin of the European Union back to the “core six” of the European Community when the Paris Agreement was concluded in 1951, and describe it as a product of the reorganization of the world order after the end of World War II, it is not difficult for onlookers to see that, The factor of the times that really promotes the EU as an independent political-economic community on the world stage, and then becomes a prominent player in a multipolar world, should be the end of the “Cold War”. The threat of large-scale war and even nuclear strike has been eliminated, and the huge defense budget has been transferred to the fields of social welfare and industrial iteration.
  It should be pointed out that during the transition process of Eastern European countries, neither the “core six” nor the “double heads” of France and Germany have provided financial assistance in the name of the state. Arrangements similar to the huge solidarity and mutual aid tax during the reunification of the two Germanys have not been extended to Poland, Hungary and other countries; the EU has only set the minimum threshold “Copenhagen Standard” for the former “Eastern countries” to join the Union, and then required its government to enter the Union. Bearing the cost of meeting the standard by itself also paved the way for the grievances of the “Visegrad Group” in the future. It was not until 2004 that the “A10 Group”, which includes the three Baltic countries and four former “Warsaw Pact” countries, was allowed to formally join the EU. After 2007, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia were added.
  Even during the “good old days” of the 2000s, the contradictory nature of the European Union was evident. In Central and Western Europe, where the aging trend is increasing, young immigrants (including illegal immigrants) from the “Eastern countries” and the Mediterranean coast supplement the depleted labor market, but it is the local residents who enjoy more social benefits. The existence of nation-states has not been dispelled by the empty “European way of life”, but has ushered in new volatility due to the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008 – those who barely squeezed into the EU Council or the ECB a few years ago The new member states of , having just tasted the “sweet” of budget transfer payments, had to endure the almost paranoid austerity policy of the “leader” of the German government. When the “Visegrad Group” publicly challenged Berlin on the refugee issue in the Middle East, it was not only pointing at social order, but also revenge on history.
  As the most successful example of regional political and economic integration in the post “Cold War” era, the “EU model” relies to a considerable extent on the shaping of geographical environment and accidental factors: Russia, with a single industrial structure, provides it with abundant fossil fuels, from Africa, The influx of migrants from the Middle East and even Eastern Europe has taken over the low-end service industry jobs, and the emerging Asian markets are the main customers of advantageous export products such as aircraft, automobiles, and machinery. Half of Europe, from the northern shore of the Mediterranean Sea to the Baltic Sea, takes advantage of the dividends of the times provided by the entire Eurasian continent, and even Northwest Africa, but only needs to bear the minimum amount of effort.
  The backlash against this privilege in Eurasia began with the political upheaval in the Arab countries at the end of 2010. In just a few short years, from the flow of refugees in the Middle East, the rise of the terrorist organization “Islamic State”, the “Brexit” of the United Kingdom, and the impact of the “pandemic” of new coronary pneumonia, world politics is taking back Europe in various unexpected forms. to their “debt”. The full-scale outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict in 2022 is the most violent hurricane recently: it not only destroyed the basis of energy security in Central Europe, but also made Eastern Europe face the test of a real “hot war” for the first time since the end of the “Cold War”. .
  The concept of “European values” has been discussed with great fanfare more than once over the years. During the Greek and Cypriot debt crises, in the face of the threat of global terrorism, and in the context of the flourishing of nativism, isolationism and even Euroscepticism, politicians in Brussels, Berlin and Paris have repeatedly reiterated this so-called “” Sublime” but vague concept. Yet so far, little has been known about how it will be implemented: During Trump’s five years in the White House, the EU was seen as the number one defender of the principles of free trade and of global multilateralism. However, other than passively coping with the negotiations on a new trade agreement proposed by the United States and further expanding energy cooperation with Russia, Western Europe has done little. The restart of the war between Russia and Ukraine is another sign of the EU being left out: neither the two-phase Minsk Agreement pushed by Germany and France nor the mediation of Macron’s personal visit to Moscow has been able to stop the essence The above is a “special military operation” based on geopolitical logic. There is indeed a real “watershed” in Germany and Europe as a whole, which means slower gains and greater responsibility.
  Exactly 30 years after the end of the “Cold War”, the EU still retains its own unique advantages on the world stage; from the sound development of the capital market to the gradual recovery of foreign trade, and even the relatively fair distribution of social wealth, all of which are the next stage for Europe’s global The character retains momentum. However, like the test of the globalization process itself, for Brussels, Berlin and Paris, the dividend period of a single energy center is over, and Europe cannot protect itself through trade barriers and closures – history has repeatedly proved that any Forms of “exceptionalism” have their own time frames.