Brexit has unleashed some very powerful forces across the Old Continent.
On one hand, we have the arch-federalist Eurocrats — the likes of Messrs Schulz and Juncker, and of course their spiritual leader Angela Merkel — who since June 24th have cried “more Europe!” and released all sorts of dreadful centralising policies they had for years kept locked away in their basement — the EU army being perhaps the most misguided and dangerous of them all.
Berlin, Brussels and Paris have been hard at work to capitalise on the biggest block to EU federalisation for years.
Fascinatingly, the historically Eurosceptic-leaning Eastern flank of the EU seems to have spotted a contrasting opportunity for improving their region’s standing, and gain further influence and security off the back of the turbulence caused by our referendum result. They see the current disruption as a perfect moment to drive a hard bargain and secure a better position within the EU’s system.
Both these tendencies are completely at odds with each other and one can argue that the resulting “centrifugal forces” may well put an end to the EU as we know it.
Clearly, the EU centralisation enforced by the Union’s Western “core” cannot work when faced with the de-centralising insurgence currently engulfing the EU “periphery”. The fortress UK has been practically unassailable, holding back the Euro-centrist tide for decades, more recently with the help of some of the Central and Eastern European allies.
THE RISE OF THE EAST
Indeed, until about a year ago Hungary and at times the Czech Republic, on EU’s Eastern flank were perceived as the only “EU reformers” seeking increased national freedom from Brussels. They were of course branded by the Eurocrats and German politicians as “troublemakers” who did not subscribe to “European values”.
However, since the change of guard in Poland and Slovakia in 2015 and 2016 respectively, the dissent has effectively swept through the whole region.
These four countries decided to resuscitate the early ’90s Visegrad Group with a view of creating a common-sense opposition to persistently reckless EU policies, such as the imposition of German-inspired illegal migrant quotas on EU member states.
Having coincided with the United Kingdom initially seeking EU membership renegotiation and subsequently deciding to leave, this has more or less tied the EU politicians’ hands for the last year or so, despite the Visegrad Four simply not being big enough to successfully parry the European Union’s continuing power grabs in the long run.
That is why it was so interesting to see the Visegrad Group expand its influence as recently as late August 2016, when the Three Seas Initiative was launched in Dubrovnik by the presidents of Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland. and Slovenia, as well as ministers and deputy ministers of Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Romania, and Slovakia.
The participation in the initiative of “old EU” Austria is a significant milestone and an obvious sign of disapproval of Germany’s paternalistic leadership style.
The official goal of the Three Seas Initiative is to strengthen, both politically and economically, the area between the Adriatic, Baltic, and the Black Sea which accounts for 28 per cent of EU territory and 22 per cent of its population.
Hence, the initiative talks covered, amongst other things, the region’s energy security which currently relies heavily on the failed EU Energy Union. In its proposal stages this union was dressed up as an insurance policy for the smaller EU countries against being overcharged for gas by Russia but, as with most strategic EU endeavours, it ended up serving Germany’s interests by helping it monopolise the imports and redistribution of Russian gas across the EU.
No wonder then that the Three Seas Initiative participants now seek to diversify away from that model by expanding their own gas distribution network for fuel arriving via the LNG (liquid natural gas) terminals in Poland and Croatia, which clearly does not suit the plans of the German-backed Nord Stream 1 & 2 pipelines laid on the Baltic seabed which pump Russian gas directly to Germany.
Another big project under discussion was concerned with building of major transcontinental roads – Via Baltica and Via Carpathia – to ensure the North to South transport infrastructure catches up with the West to East arteries. The asymmetrical development of the EU, which is skewed in favour of the West-East axis whilst leaving behind the underdeveloped North-South routes, has hence been another major running theme in this part of Europe.
Significantly, this newly-forming bloc is big enough to appear on the global superpowers’ radars. Hence the presence of President Obama’s former foreign policy and national security advisor along with China’s assistant minister of foreign affairs in charge of relations with Central and Eastern European countries, with China, in particular, seeing this plan as complementary to the New Silk Road – the People’s Republic’s signature foreign policy initiative.
It is therefore quite obvious that not only does this new European alliance already get international recognition but, more importantly, creates a viable opposition to the “core EU” powerhouses: Germany and France.
In fact, the Euro-centrists are so worried about losing their grip over the East they have already started a derogatory media offensive which employs disinformation and scare tactics, and attempts to portray the initiative as a modern-day version of Marshal Piłsudski’s (founding father of post-WWI Poland) brainchild called Intermarium (Międzymorze in Polish), and passing it off as an anti-Russian endeavour.
The Tages-Anzeiger article dated September 20th with its alarmist subject “Zwischenmeer-Allianz gegen Russland” (“Intermarium Alliance against Russia” in English) is a perfect case in point, despite it being published outside of the EU in Switzerland.
This clearly adds fuel to the fire as far as Russia is concerned, and the article is quoted by the influential post-communist Russian Pravda newspaper, which obviously fell for the media spin tactics, in an article of 22nd September entitled “Poland masterminds new alliance against Russia”.
After all, Germany is the main beneficiary of the current EU gas distribution set-up, which effectively amounts to Berlin living in symbiosis with Russia’s Gazprom, and therefore compels German politicians to fight for the maintenance of the rewarding energetic status quo.
If anything, Russia should look at such undertakings as the Three Seas Initiative with optimism, given the countries of this region are more likely to push for trade with Russia than Western Europe simply because they are much more reliant on it.
BRITAIN SHOULD ALLY WITH THE EAST
From the bigger picture perspective, it is quite obviously in Great Britain’s interest to nurture and support this new Central and Eastern European bloc, given that we are bound to remain in the EU for the next two years at the very least. Most of these “non-core EU” countries are highly reliable and have been our allies in Brussels and Strasbourg, fighting off one EU power grab after another, and it is indeed positive that their resolve in challenging Brussels’s autocracy has all but strengthened as a result of Brexit.
Crucially, the stronger this bloc becomes, the more it ties up Brussels for the remainder of our time in the European Union and staves off such terrible new policies as the aforementioned EU army.
But more importantly, when taking a long-term view, helping the BABS (Baltic, Adriatic and the Black Sea) group grow in strength is compatible with our Atlanticist viewpoint, as otherwise a weak Central Europe would likely eventually succumb to German foreign policy, which in turn would be bad for our strategic objectives such as strong NATO.
Infrastructure and energy stability are of course key to any nation’s security, and so the United Kingdom should back the Three Seas Initiative as a way of ensuring stability on the European continent even though we are due to leave the European Union.