2020: The Year of Brexit (R.I.P. EU Britain (1973 – 2020)), and Who Is How Old in EU Years

2020: The Year of Brexit (R.I.P. EU Britain (1973 – 2020)), and Who Is How Old in EU Years

The fact that the 3.5-year-long “life support” of “EU Britain” is finally about to be “unplugged” already at the start of 2020 is a good enough cause for optimism for the new year.

With so much gloom for Europe at the end of 2019, the start of 2020 warrants a bit of a “lighter” piece.

Make no mistake, the gloom is very justified, and doesn’t bode well for the continent and the European Union countries.

For example, the gloom is justified, as I just argued in the very days of 2019, with respect to the Ukraine War conundrum and Franco-Germany’s failure to cope with Russia for all the leadership claims of both Angela Merkel (now on her way out), and Emmanuel Macron (whose Napoleonic-scope leadership ambitions seem to be yet to unfold) –

As well as with respect to the seemingly highly sustainable surge of the far right throughout the EU in 2019 (truth be told, in all of its very diverse reincarnations, from neo-Nazis to the pro-democracy conservatives) – which some commentators have mistakenly disparaged at least to some extent because of some not very consequential political gains of the Greens.

Precisely in order not to be that gloomy at the start of 2020, this piece will abstain from full-fledged forecasts.

Although with respect to the two above-mentioned very crucial topics the forecast writes itself:

    1. There won’t be any major breakthroughs in the “frozen conflict” war in Ukraine – unless Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky decided to make some huge concessions to Moscow, in which case his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin would score a very substantial geopolitical victory, and Zelensky himself might be ousted or at least face mass protests of outraged Ukrainians.

2. The far right will keep growing steadily throughout the EU in 2020 and beyond because it is highly unlikely that its twin root causes will be eliminated in any tangible way: first, the skyrocketing inequality continuing to enrich the One Percent beyond any imagination (even in a relatively more egalitarian-minded Europe compared with the US of A) while annihilating the European middle class and boosting the lumpenization of the lower classes; and, second, the irrational ubiquitousness of the dominant anti-democratic, anti-free speech political correctness paradigms – which, in all fairness, might not have been that evil and might have made sense 20-30 years ago, in the time of the post-Cold War economic boom and before “multiculturalism’s” “quantitative accruals led to qualitative changes.”

From time to time, I prefer to abstain from forecasting for fear of actually forecasting correctly some negative developments. For example, back in 2009, arguing with some of the panelists at a forum in New Bulgarian University in Sofia, I did forecast Russia’s future encroachments against Ukraine (which materialized in 2014) – although I admit that at the time I thought Moscow would seek to snap the ethnic Russian regions of Kazakhstan as well, and with respect to Ukraine I focused on the Donbass region, and didn’t even think about Crimea. The rationale behind my forecast: the leader in charge in Moscow would resort to that in reaction to some real or perceived move by the West, or in order to boost his popularity in times of economic hardship; or both.

But with 1) and 2) above, that’s already way too much gloomy forecasting for 2020 right here, so it’s better to focus on the most counterintuitively positive development of the start of 2020, namely, the fact that the quagmire of Brexit uncertainty is expected to finally be over. At least to some extent.

BoJo’s electoral win in Britain in December 2019 (another epitome, though in the very specific British context, of the steady growth of the far right across Europe, by the way) finally means that Brexit will finally happen, maybe even by the end of January 2020!

Thanks to Boris Johnson and the British voters, not only are we going to live through a historical moment (as though we don’t the entire time), but there will also be a huge sigh of relief from all of the rest of the EU. For the past 3.5 years, the EU institutions in Brussels as well as the other 27 EU member states were like a spouse stuck in a marriage that they didn’t really want or care for anymore but felt obliged to keep sticking to civilized co-existence until the other part finally sorts itself out with respect to what it wants to do.

Some uncertainty will still linger on with respect to the post-Brexit relationship between the EU and the UK (which now seems poised to resemble a large New Zealand, or a New Zealand 2.0 x 10, as a result of its voluntary Brexit downshifting) as well as because of the potential for some until recently incredibly exotic political-science-fiction scenarios such as Scotland exiting the UK to join the EU in its own right, or even Northern Ireland’s potential unification with the Republic of Ireland which would leave in the EU in a 1990 East and West Germany’s reunification-type development.

However, the overarching question of whether it is still possible to reverse Brexit in its current form will now be finally settled. The huge Island-of-Britain-shaped Brexit band aid will finally be ripped off.

Regrettable as the whole Brexit development is for any decent European, the EU just couldn’t afford to quibble with London over it any longer, with all the messes that are unfolding in Europe’s neighborhood and around the globe.

So it seems like in early 2020 it will be a R.I.P. for “EU Britain” at the age of 47, which would seem like an untimely death in human years.

Again, that death hasn’t materialized yet, as “EU Britain” has been on life support since the 2016 Brexit referendum but now everybody seems to agree that the life support has to be uplugged.

A full 47 years since the UK joined the EU (well, the European Economic Community) in the Union’s first enlargement on January 1, 1973, alongside Ireland and Denmark.

Perhaps pining for its empire, re-embracing its “island-ness”, or even wishing to be reverse-colonized from across the Atlantic for the forming of a “1984” Oceania entity, the UK has been very uneasy in the EU. For no rational reason, if ask any “continental” pro-EU observer.

Yet, Brexit had to wait for a time in history an overly confident British Prime Minister took a gamble, British tabloids found the perfect target to rage against, and the horrendous rise of “social media” made possible the supremacy of lies.

In fact, social media have been so successful in facilitating the dominance of lies that “lies” have been called “fake news” for several years now. There aren’t “lies” any more, just “fake news”, and Brexit has been one of the greatest beneficiaries of that “transformation.”

So despite all generous opt-outs, rebates, and EU institutional advantages, it’s finally time for Britain’s final opt-out: Brexit, the opt-out from EU membership.

(By the way, Brexit, that opt-out from EU membership is also the ultimate opt-out from responsibility, among other things, but, hey, in the era of a fake-news red bus, who are we to argue that European-ness and being part of the EU should be a matter of values and belonging, regardless of finances and transactional calculations.)

Yet, terming Brexit as an

R.I.P “EU Britain” (1973 – 2020)

obituary is actually rather useful in order to consider how old every EU member state is in EU years.

And that in turn is helpful on a perceptional level for understanding both how established and sustainable but also how young and fragile the European Union is.

The start of 2020 is also a great time for sinking into some of those perceptional dimensions – it is a nice round year figure made up of two 20s.

(Even though it is not the start of a new decade: didn’t the entire world go through this already in 2000 and 2001 when the question was when the 21st century and the 3rd millennium actually arrived? In the Antiquity when the “new era” started (which is associated with the birth of Jesus Christ, by the way) there was no concept of zero – so the year counting didn’t really start at 0 but at 1. Hence the 21st century arrived on January 1, 2001, not January 1, 2000. Hence this unfortunate decade of the 2010s has one more year to go – until the 2020s officially begin in 2021. (Hence Mariah Carey is notthe first artist to score a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in four different decades”, she will be if “All I Want for Christmas Is You” remains No. 1 till January 1, 2021.) Hence the EU and the UK have one more year to negotiate and settle their post-Brexit relationship – maybe even that would be possible, and both will enter the new decade with that controversy settled and behind them?)

It’s still the start of 2020, and with EU Britain’s upcoming life support unplugging and untimely death at 47, the look at how old each EU member state in EU years is as informative as it is simple.

Now, EU years are not “dog years” or “cat years”, and supranational entities are no human individuals but the human mind loves to stick to what is familiar so some subconscious comparison with human lifespan is not entirely out of order. The Bible claims Noah was 600 years old at the time of the Deluge, the early medieval manuscript called “Nominalia of Bulgarian Khans” claims the first Ancient Bulgar ruler Avitohol lived for 300 years, and modern-day scientists, in the era after the sequencing of the human genome, claim that the first human to live 1,000 years has already been born.

Here is how old every EU member state is in EU years. (And I’ve chosen to take the 1951 Paris Treaty for the founding of the European Coal and Steal Community as the starting point since it is the very starting point, not the 1957 Treaty of Rome, or any of the subsequent modifications of today’s EU.)

Here goes, as of 2020:

EU (ECSC really) since 1951
(Retirees by now in human years):

Belgium – 69 years old
Germany – 69 years old
France – 69 years old|
Italy – 69 years old
Luxembourg – 69 years old
Netherlands – 69 years old

EU since 1973 (First Enlargement)
(Well middle-aged by now, some to be unplugged from life support shortly):

Denmark – 47 years old
Ireland – 47 years old
United Kingdom – 47 years old, very soon to be a case of R.I.P. EU Britain, 1973 – 2020

EU since 1981 (Second Enlargement)
(Soon to be middle-aged):

Greece – 39 years old

EU since 1986 (Third Enlargement)
(Still young):

Spain – 34 years old
Portugal – 34 years old

EU since 1990 (Technically not even considered an official enlargement)
(Even younger):

East Germany – 30 years old

EU since 1995 (Fourth Enlargement)
(Still in their own roaring EU 20s)

Austria – 25 years old
Finland – 25 years old
Sweden – 25 years old

EU since 2004 (Fifth Enlargement)
(In their sweet sixteen):

Czech Republic – 16 years old
Cyprus – 16 years old
Estonia – 16 years old
Latvia – 16 years old
Lithuania – 16 years old
Hungary – 16 years old
Malta – 16 years old
Poland – 16 years old
Slovenia – 16 years old
Slovakia – 16 years old

EU since 2007 (Sixth Enlargement)
(Just hitting puberty):

Bulgaria – 13 years old
Romania – 13 years old

EU since 2013 (Seventh Enlargement)
(Starting primary school)

Croatia – 6 years old (and chairing the Presidency of Council of the EU, by the way)


Considering each EU member’s age in EU years puts the whole EU belonging in perspective in a rather unorthodox fashion, doesn’t it?


I keep sticking to my by now famous thought that the EU is the best thing that’s happened to Europe since the Reformation. And possibly even the best thing that’s happened to the world – just because of the global impact EU Europe has had since it became peace-loving, democracy-promoting, prosperity-spreading, and environmentally conscious.

So human lifespan aside, hopefully, the EU itself will be around far longer, in a much more improved form, of course.

The fact that the Brexit uncertainty will be done away with, or at least will be substantially downgraded, at the start of 2020 is certainly a cause for optimism, together with the relative increase in environmental consciousness – now that global warming / climate change is finally starting to be felt by everybody, much faster that previously imagined. (I remember how my children’s encyclopedias from the time when I was starting primary school around 1990 had it that the effects of global warming would be felt in 100 years, or maybe 50 years at the earliest.)

Hopefully, with respect to the EU, and any other decent, responsible human individual around the globe any action to be taken now won’t be too little, too late.

Ivan Dikov

(Banner image: Pixabay)

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