Macron’s ‘Africans over Eastern Europeans’ Comment Shows EU Must Start Getting Its Priorities Right
Western Europe has overwhelming reasons, both geopolitical and civilizational, to prioritize Eastern Europe above other regions.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron, the wannabe top leader of the post-Brexit, post-Merkel European Union, has demonstrated his questionably and wrongfully low regard for Eastern Europe twice over the past couple of weeks.
And in an at least slightly brazen fashion at that.
Macron first bluntly vetoed even the start of EU accession negotiations with Albania and North Macedonia, two small but crucial Western Balkan countries, possibly even as part of some grand Trump – Putin, West – Russia bargain brokered by the French President.
Then he went on to give a controversial interview to a controversial magazine declaring his preference for “legal migrants” from Africa (mentioning Guinea and Ivory Coast) to “clandestine Bulgarian and Ukrainian channels” (whatever that means for a fellow EU country and a country granted visa-free travel to the EU).
The diplomatic scandal (exacerbated by some fake news sites embellishing Macron’s quote to have stated “Bulgarian and Ukrainian gangs”) aside,
The bizarre comparison choice between one thing that is legal, and another that is illegal “clandestine” (what decent person would choose the latter over the former, right?) aside,
Macron’s comment demonstrates just one more time the deeply flawed logic of a European Union led and dominated by Western Europe and Western Europeans. Namely: preferring and prioritizing many other things, places and people to Eastern Europe and the Eastern Europeans.
The reasons for that range from “colonial guilt” and modern-day “political correctness” to pure historical ignorance and lack of awareness of both threats and opportunities.
Yet, this is one case of a very crucial issue in global politics where the reasons don’t really matter. What matters is changing the paradigm as soon as possible. That matters for the entire EU but also in particular for Western Europe more than it does for anyone else.
It certainly matters most for Western Europe than it does for Eastern Europe because while the latter is threatened with simply losing once again its fledgling freedom and independence, the former stands the chance of losing once and for all its highly coveted great world power status of several centuries – since a proper, full-fledged, reasonably integrated European Union is its last chance to hold on to that.
I have already made the cases that Eastern Europe is the most crucial challenge facing the European Union, and Ukraine is the most important outside country for the EU simply thanks to the combination of its size and its prospects of joining the Union.
But French President Macron’s recent words and deeds speak of the need to spell it out again and again why the EU as a whole and Western Europe in particular must prioritize Eastern Europe before all else – if it wants to survive and thrive.
There are two simple reasons.
First, it’s geopolitics 101. Granted geopolitics is technically a pseudo-science, it is probably the most useful one.
Without a stable, free, democratic, market oriented Eastern and Southeast Europe steadily anchored with Western Europe, Western Europe will easy face some new metaphorical, yet real reincarnations or modern-day equivalents of
The Mongols in Hungary ready to sweep the Northern European Plain all the way to Bordeaux who might not have to go back because of dynastic strife;
The Ottoman Turks banging on the gates of Vienna only miraculous beaten back by Polish King Jan Sobieski at the last minute;
The massive, armed-to-the-teeth armored Soviet divisions ready to gush through the Fulda Gap and contained solely by overseas forces and the American nuclear deterrent.
Without Eastern Europe, Western Europe is geopolitically doomed.
Geopolitics 101. That’s why America’s own heartland is invincible – it’s got its two giant moats (oceans). That’s why the Brits can have all the botched Brexits they like – they have the English Channel.
By contrast Western Europe proper has only Eastern Europe – and without proper Sicherheitspolitik right there, right now, Western Europe will be severely exposed as has already been the case several times in the past 800 years.
That Sicherheitspolitik has been engineered in a genius fashion through the European Union integration. But the integration in question will fail if there is constant, often fully unjustified and unfounded resent in Western Europe targeting the Eastern Europeans rather than making them a priority.
Then there is the second simple reason: civilizational belonging. Ever since the Antiquity, or at least the Late Antiquity, the West has been everything west of the eastern border of the Eastern Roman Empire (now erroneously known as Byzantium).
“Byzantium” and its heritage is not some bizarre “Eastern civilization” – it’s where the Renaissance was begotten before blossoming in Italy, and from there on Western and all of Europe was changed forever. West of the historical eastern border of the Eastern Roman Empire, for many centuries now, it has all been about independence, freedom, personal rights (later human rights) and the now clichéd democracy. East of that historical line it has been more about tremendous imperial grandeur, with independence, freedom, and the clichéd democracy starting to take root there only in the past several decades (as opponents of the West would argue – because of its influence).
The fact that Russia has been claiming the legacy of the Eastern Roman Empire as its own, and trying to fashion its neither-Europe-nor-Asia Eurasian ideology does not change the historical realities of the Judeo-Christian Greco-Roman Western civilization.
So here is Eastern Europe, the geopolitical must for Western Europe’s success and survival, and a territory with which it actually shares that same heritage, and, yet, Western Europeans, even top political leaders such as Macron, keep dissing it, probably more than any other part of the world. Again, for whatever reasons.
Historically, Modern and Global Era France has been looking to the Mediterranean and Africa, and in Eastern Europe, it has been limited to prioritizing ill-fated grand bargains with Moscow (Russia/the Soviet Union), with often blind support on the side for Belgrade (Serbia/Yugoslavia).
It is high time for France and all of Western Europe to rethink received wisdoms and finally start shifting paradigms.
It’s not about who’s better than whom. Africans, Eastern Europeans, Western Europeans, you name it, are just humans, same all over the place. And there are many Europeans who are of African descent, both North African and Sub-Saharan African. But Europeans should be looking at Europe first and foremost. That is the common-sense geopolitical imperative with highly tangible civilizational underpinnings. Ignoring it would spell trouble.
To illustrate that point, compare the importance of the European Union to Europeans with that of “the Union of the Mediterranean”. That’s right – when was the last time people even heard of “Mediterranean Union” that France in particular had high hopes for? It remains just another discordant intergovernmental organization with modest results to show for.
For example, despite its potential grave environmental challenges, Africa might already be much better positions for the future because of its demographics, not to mention the untapped economic growth potential.
Both Western and Eastern Europe, on the other hand, including their parts that are inside the EU and those which aren’t there yet, are in a very steady demographic decline, with a more limited potential for exciting economic dynamics, especially in the west.
It makes perfect sense for the entire EU to stick together on geopolitical and civilizational grounds, to prioritize itself in order to build itself up, and thus be able to do more for the others.
One part consistently dissing and looking down on the other is a recipe for disaster for both, and there are plenty of active and passive stakeholders who are very eager to take advantage of that.
(Banner image: Emmanuel Macron on Twitter)