Although news coverage of Europe has been sticking to David Cameron’s pitched battle against Jean Claude Juncker and European federalism, the real emerging story was elsewhere this week. While the Ukraine crisis rumbles on, a number of seemingly unconnected events in Eastern Europe are building up increasing instability.
Red faces abounded in Warsaw earlier last week following the leak of bugged conversations between senior members of the ruling Christian-Democratic Civic Platform Party making disparaging comments about Britain and the United States.
The revelation was sufficiently damaging to the reputation of the Polish government that there was talk of a snap election, and the cabinet was subjected to a vote of no confidence in the parliament on Wednesday. In a parliament of 460, Donald Tusk’s government scraped through with a majority of only 34.
Meanwhile, another EU nation bordering Ukraine was reeling from a bugging scandal of its own. Already maintain a reputation for being amongst the most corrupt nations in Europe, Romania is facing trouble after tapes were released featuring the President’s brother Mircea Băsescu.
Having been caught accepting a large bribe to influence a Mafia murder case, he and other family members have been arrested. This remarkable scandal led to both the Romanian Prime Minister Băsescu and Parliament calling on the President to resign.
It is clear Russia has a renewed interest in Eastern Europe that won’t fade anytime soon. The destabilisation of Ukraine by a rapidly eastward-expanding Europe and a resurgent Russia vying for the divided nations’ affections has clear implications elsewhere.
Radosław Sikorski, the Foreign Minister at the centre of the Polish tape scandal is a strong and long standing critic of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin. Sikorski was widely believed to be in line to take the top EU post of foreign policy chief, any chance of which has been dashed by the release of the tapes last week.
That a strongly anti-Russian politician on the ascent has suddenly fallen from grace just weeks before the European Commission was about to confirm the appointment has not gone without comment. The Polish national arrested for making the recordings is an energy tycoon with business links to Russia, and extraordinarily, even the Polish prime minister has implied Russia may have been involved in the leak.
Russian and EU competition continues to dominate central and eastern European politics. Concerned with Europe’s dependence on natural gas, the European Commission has spent years lavishing our money on expensive projects to substitute renewable sources for Russian imports.
This is a scheme that has broadly failed. Europe’s own energy production continues to fall. Reliance on imported product, especially Russian hydrocarbons, continues to grow and will continue for the foreseeable future.
In order to bring gas directly into the heart of Europe and avoid troublesome Ukraine, Putin visited Austria this week to mark the signing of a deal to build a direct pipeline from the Caucus to Austria. This is a great coup for him; the pipeline is to be built despite EU objections and flies in the face of European common energy policy. Despite playing the dove this week, repealing the legislation allowing deployment of Russian forces to Ukraine, Putin remains hawkish over energy sales and influence elsewhere.
It is against this background the European Union signed partnership agreements with post-Soviet nations Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova on Friday, and made former Warsaw-pact Albania a candidate country last Tuesday.
Despite all evidence that the European project is expanding too quickly to adequately accommodate its new members, and antagonises its neighbours by doing so, growth continues as fast as ever before.
Europe could only ever have grown broader or deeper with success – not both at the same time. But the out-of-control Euro elite have insisted on trying to do these concurrently. It clearly has not worked. The new partner and candidate nations are amongst the most poor, corrupt, and conflict-stricken in Europe. Putting them on the road to full European membership, with all the benefits that confers at this time, shows the degree to which the European Union is out of touch with reality.
Spreading conflict, corruption, and criminality serves no one’s interests, and Britain’s will be best served on the outside. With all that in mind, it becomes clearer that Britain need an in/out referendum, in order that the electorate can choose whether or not to take us out of this failing project, or whether we want to subject ourselves to the results of EU failure.
Oliver Lane is a Researcher for Get Britain Out