Little Iceland changed its mind about the EU. It decided it was better off on its own. The reality is, obviously, slightly more complex. It should not be forgotten that economical agreements with the EU are already providing this country plenty of advantages, and the internal opposition to the decision of the present government – of a different position than the previous one, who had demanded joining the EU – is anything but insignificant, which means that a twist in the situation is more than likely in a not necessarily distant future. The main topic of divergence is fishing, one of the country’s main activities. This fact places Iceland’s decision in the wider Euro-sceptic movement that promotes economical protectionism. Nonetheless, comparison stops here, as the small island in the North is not confronted with the pressure of immigration, does not oppose the euro currency, which was seen not so far ago as a life belt after the great banking crisis. It is also the case of Romania, whose population is at the time being among the least Euro-sceptic nations of all members of the Union.
How may anyone explain this attitude of Romanians? First, there are the inherent advantages of a marginal country that has exited half of a century of Communism – in a version that was even more retrograde than that of Romanians – undermined by an endemic corruption, with an impressive number of candidates to migration and among the poorest countries on the continent. Besides, the political impact is quite consistent. Pressures showed results. From dis-incrimination of homosexuality to massive rights provided to ethnic minorities, from economical drainage measures to an institutional strategy against corruption, local opponents were forced to step back. Obviously the battle was fought at the level of national politics but European pressure also mattered a lot. But did Romania really have more to gain than to lose by joining? No matter how much data we own right now, a global evaluation is hard to make. In any case, almost the entire political class counted on the fact that isolation might be fatal, as the feeling of discontentment would be more psychologically lowering for Romanians outside the Union than for those inside.
Also, there’s an impression that Romania did not conduct a tougher negotiation with the EU for increasingly favourable conditions – unlike the much more combating Poland – and that Romania did not struggle for a more visible position in the European elite.
Therefore, Romania seems one more state that is slightly less trouble-causing than Greece but, still, a state that does not really count when taking strategic decisions and also, a terribly vulnerable one. If Romanians are supporting the European project so intensely, it seems that it is a gesture made mostly out of weakness.
We might also say that Romania goes against the flow, now that Euro-scepticism is increasing in most parts of the continent. Indeed, in politics, waters are frequently troubled, and clues are not always revealing. Sometimes, certain Euro-sceptic right-wing parties are gaining votes out of different reasons than their position to the EU; by example, for their firm opposition to lax policies on massive immigration. The explanations of these positions are indeed unimportant; whether it is racism, fear of neglecting aspects related to security, the crisis of identity, suspicion to cultural alterity – it is important that these could lead to the refusal of a Union without internal borders and of lax external borders.
This is just an example of a wider phenomenon: the partial withdrawal of politics in favour of a primarily economical speech. After the blocks that lead to the failure of the European constitution, politics became more cautious, unable to restart the debate. The consequence of this withdrawal is the relaunch of Euro-sceptic movements. Some of them are right-winged, others are left-winged. Most of them are right-winged and use national specificity as a pretext. A mention needs to be made: the conflict is not between national and European status, but between autarchy and solidarity – which are relative anyway. As for the left, the anti-globalization tendencies induce a perspective where the EU is merely a tool in the world capitalism domination. Therefore, a “monstrous coalition” appears against the European project. A real effort of political creativity is the only thing that may genuinely save it.
Initially, a purpose was to avoid future wars among European nations. This danger is, obviously, an eternal presence. There are not just the differences of neighbours for regions and communities, but also the spectrum of imperialist invasions – Russia, by example – a threat that may be constantly actual. The war is possible at any time. Under these circumstances, the alliance of European states preserves its prophylactic virtues.
But the EU is also a project of economical development. The war is a social one, as well, and it is, perhaps, harder to manage. The problem is that any significant local failure has a handy scapegoat: the terrible image of the EU. But wars are not supposed to be avoided merely by a massive infusion of “pacifism”, conflicts must also be creatively sublimed, by efficient political projects. Instead of dropping ideological debates, European politics may, on the contrary, assume them. If Italy complains for many years that it is left to deal on her own to cope with waves of clandestine immigration, there is also fear to enter to deep in the ideological confrontation that accompanies the issue. Some people firmly reject the cultural change associated with an increasing number of immigrants. They keep bringing up the identity of the West – whether it is the lay identity or the Christian one. Others, on the contrary, see an opportunity in these geographic mutations. They consider that supporting the integration of these immigrants in the European society is not just a humanitarian gesture, but also a politically desirable one. One needs courage to enter the heart of this conflict, because, without new coordinating principles on immigration in European politics – which is merely one of the disturbing issues – divergences may have unpredictable consequences. Actually, there is need for a new Europeanist culture; with its own intellectuals, ideologists and leaders.