26th May, 2014, Spring
Here's my brief comment from Brussels after yesterday's elections for the European Parliament, to which I will add a personal conclusion.
But first, let's widen our perspective...
In the world's most populated country, the People's Republic of China - in which the current population is estimated to be about 1,390,510,630 - voters can vote for just one single party!
In India, for a population of 1,261,527,930 citizens, there are five main national parties, among which one is now clearly dominating.
In the United States of America, for a population of 317 million citizens, there are just two relevant parties.
In the Federative Republic of Brazil, with a population of 198,7 millions citizens there are three major political parties.
In the United Mexican States, los Estados Unidos Mexicanos, there are three political parties for 120,8 millions citizens.
In the Federal Republic of Nigeria, with a population of
174 million citizens, there are two main political and about twenty minor opposition parties registered.
In the largest country on the globe, Russia, for a population of 142,929,000 citizens, there are four parties, with one clearly dominating.
What about Europe? The European Union comprises 27 nations and totals 500 million citizens. So far, voters can only vote for candidates in their own country, but what is the global result? In the European Parliamant there are five main "parties" (Parliamentary fractions):
- Christian Democrats
- Social Democrats
- National Conservatives
Besides, there are five more smaller and less influential Parliamentary fractions: Communists, Nationalists, Eurosceptics, Heterogeneous, and Independents.
Some have worked very hard, during these past years to make sure that Europe would remain the Divided States of Europe. Some lobbies have a strong interest in that, and their populist following is growing beyond their expec-tations in a number of countries.
But it looks like the Christian Democratic fraction in the EP will remain the largest one, the Social Democratic fraction the second largest one and the Liberal fraction the third one. Besides, Europeans choose from a large number of parties, and this results in a fragmented mosaic in the Parliament.
We enjoy the largest choice available anywhere on earth, often not aware of this exceptional freedom of choice. But as a consequence, power is more diffuse than ever be-cause we're so divided. We are an economic bloc lacking the unanimous ambition to form a political union.
This is undoubtedly good news for other blocs that are not so complicated as we are. But it's bad news for Europe.
With resounding victories now of the far right anti European parties in Britain, France and other countries, it will become more difficult still to steer this weak mammoth. This is good news for certain powerful lobbies, for obscure lobbyists and competing blocs, but it is bad news for the people of Europe.
The German population, on the whole, remains strongly committed to Europe. Germans have learned lessons the hard way and they realise better than others how interdependent we all are.
It will take hard work and a lot of determination to build a better future for our citizens and our nations. This looks like another tough battle ahead. Christian Democrats and Social Democrats will probably continue their alliance in the Parliament. But what will the Commission look like?
I hope that one day we'll forget about invisible borders, overcome petty mindedness and intolerance, let history be history, overcome regionalism and tribal thinking, realise how interdependent we all are and see that our interests are better served by solidarity than by narrow nationalistic egoism, develop strength and unity in diversity, expand building something that means BROAD VISION or wide vision in GREEK: Ευρώπη - Europe!
All of this will take more than one generation I'm afraid, it will have to be based on intense civil education and should lead to a greater political maturity resulting in more stability.
Until then, we'll need an external force to bring us and to keep us together at crucial moments, because we are unable to do it by ourselves, sadly, because of historic reasons and a new wave of populism on top of that. This power comes from our ally, the United States of America.
One of my grandfathers, my mother's father, was a teacher of French and History. He taught me many things. My grandfather, called Gaston Bosschaert, joined the Belgian Resistance during the Second World War. Throughout the four years of the nazi occupation, he always remained confident that the occupants would be beaten eventually, and he contributed to that in as far as he could. He never lost faith, listening to broadcasts by the BBC, diving into the basement with my grandmother and my mother when their area, the town of Vilvoorde near Brussels, was being bombarded.
Later, he "infected" me with the European dream and ideal as the road to go for the future of our continent.
Let's not forget that, in 2012, the European Union has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for six decades of work in advancing peace in Europe.
Grandfather, I'm proud of you and I'm thankful because one of the many things you passed on to me, is the attachment to our European House under construction. Grandfather, I promise you to live up to your expectations by resisting the cynics, destructive egoists, anarchists, bullies, oppressors, exploiters of workers, fascists, leftist as well as rightwing fanatics, racists and tribalists, barbarians of all sorts.
Grandfather, I will carry on as you did, I will never give up my ideals which were yours too. We will resist, grand-father. When I close my eyes, I imagine you're smiling at me from where you are now, my dear grandfather.
John Van Vreckem
26th May, 2014.