Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The EU as modernizer

The EU likes to see itself as the big modernizer. Their favorite success story is how they absorbed the former dictatorships Spain and Portugal and made them into stable democracies. And how later they repeated the trick with Greece.

I have never believed much of that story. On the one hand Spain had become a rather prosperous country and - as I have mentioned before - prosperity - and with it a growing middle class - makes a democracy much more viable. Portugal and Greece also saw a rise in prosperity after becoming EU members, but that was caused to a large extent by money from Brussels and not by real development. We basically bribed those countries to stay democratic. But the price was that those countries have a dubious kind of democracy where you can vote how much you want but nothing really changes. The political dynasties of Greece are a good example of what is wrong. The EU isn't bothered too much about this fake democracy. Most rules come from Brussels nowadays in a very undemocratic way and the EU wants obedience more than anything else.

But nowadays the EU seems to be losing it. They no longer seem able to maintain even a semblance of democracy in all those countries they aim to modernize: they simply have too much to bother about. Nearly half the EU countries are former dictatorships, then they have the Balkans, the former Soviet Union and the Arab World and finally there is also the economic (euro) crisis. They really dropped the ball with Hungary that adopted a couple of very authoritarian laws without being bothered by Brussels. The recent complaints about how Serbia is implementing its judicial reform fall in this category too.

The basic problem is that the EU operates like a mafia. If you don't behave like they like they will send in some tough guys (or girls like Merkel) who make some veiled threats. The EU has strayed so far from its ideals that it no more remembers how it once did the trick with some gentle moral persuasion.

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