Europe First

Since Donald Trump’s inauguration and his memorable one-liner about „America first” multiple videos were uploaded on YouTube that tried to put their countries in the second place. Just behind America. Just listen. In Europe there are few politicians that run a campaign based on similar slogan: our nation first. They claim that national interests were neglected for the benefit of other nations, of the EU, and it has to change. National interest are to take precedence above everything. If that is going to happen, Europe is screwed. Just take a look at the history of Old Continent.

During the times of Germany First, France First, Russia First and so on, Europe was torn by two great wars in first half of 20th century. Europe didn’t fare much better in previous centuries too. Wars lasted for decades, devastating wast swathes of land, bringing suffering for peasants who constituted vast majority of societies then. Before strong national-states emerged during 18th and 19th centuries, Europe was divided into dozens small and medium sized entities, which sometimes consisted of another few dozens of micro-entities. Many of them were thinking and acting on a basis of „my entity first”. This could be modified sometimes by faith and religious issues, but we all know that religion was and still is being used for political purposes by clever rulers.

Why Europe opted for a union after Second World War? To end pointless political squabbling and prevent conflicts, for the peace and stability to take precedence over pretentions – big or small, doesn’t matter. It is build upon principle of consensus and negotiation. Every state has to give up some of its interest for the compromise to be reached. That is the price to be paid for common stance. And for certainty that this stance is going to be fulfilled in reality. This basically worked for 60 years, we are approaching 60th anniversary of Rome Treaty, but by design it was not to make the states fully happy with what is going on. But they cannot be fully happy, or satisfied, when „America first” takes effect, neither. Why? Because only few states, called superpowers, are able to take full advantage of such a policy. And even they are constrained by multiple factors, such as other great powers interests, international institutions, public opinion, military capabilities etc.

The world in 21st century is a complicated one. The level of interconnectedness is already amazing and still growing. Number of problems or issues that have to be tackled by plethora of states is growing too. Just imagine what will happen if instead of willingness to take a step back everyone at the table shouts: My country first! You have to back down! No, it is you that have to back down! Come on, you all have to back down and make place for me! In such environment conflicts arise, enmity grows and wars may happen.

Thus it would be in order to make a pause and think for a while. Do we in Europe need more of what we know well, what brought our countries and nations to its knees, or do we want to continue on a difficult path of consensus and cooperation. Do we prefer to have 27 or 28 policies of „X first”, or one common policy of „Europe first”? It is our call. Until there is democracy in our countries it is our votes that count. And that votes matter. It is understandable to blame current elites for many hardships we endure, but throwing those elites out and bringing in new faces with mouth full of „X first” is not a best thing electorates in Netherlands, France or Germany can do this year. This of course apply to other countries as well. United we stand, divided we fall.

Piotr Wolejko

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