Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The EU Should Return to its Postwar Origin of Peace and Human Dignity
KIMURA Masato / Journalist

May 18, 2017
British Prime Minister Theresa May has sent a letter notifying the EU of her country’s withdrawal based on Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union (Treaty of Lisbon). Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council who presides over the summit meetings, has accordingly presented EU member countries with tentative guidelines for the negotiations. Nine months after British voters opted to leave the EU in a national referendum held last June, unprecedented negotiations are now underway to determine the separation between the UK and EU, and give shape to a new Europe.

Negotiations are to take place over a two-year period. However, talks will not start in earnest until after Germany holds its general election in September and a new administration is formed. Moreover, due to the requirements of the EU’s approval process, negotiations must be concluded by October next year, leaving only a year for actual talks.

So far, scenes from the summit meeting suggest that Prime Minister May has been cut off by leaders of EU countries including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The EU side is signaling a tough stance of “speeding the parting guest to pursue its own ways.”

I have kept a close eye on the relationship between the UK and EU since July 2007, originally under assignment as the London Bureau Chief of Sankei newspaper, and after becoming a freelance journalist five years hence. Although I strongly supported the “remain” camp based on my personal standpoint as a permanent resident, I can hardly ignore the feelings of my friends – pensioners, unskilled workers and low-income earners - who voted for “Brexit.” No matter how threatening the EU becomes, the democratically determined will of the people must be respected.

With each visit to the refugee camps and food banks – shelters that provide free food for the poor – in Greece, or to illegally occupied buildings in Italy, I feel a growing conviction that the EU has failed dismally in its neo-liberal experiment.

It is the nature of globalism to simultaneously give rise to a “race to the top” and a “race to the bottom.” With an actual budget of a mere 0.14 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the EU has no means of preventing a plunge to the bottom. And while that task is left to the governments of its members, heavily-indebted countries such as Greece and Italy are teetering under the weight of the austerity program thrusted upon them by Germany, and are falling further down the spiral towards the bottom.

Expanding the playing field for global companies, bankers, researchers at universities and think tanks, and students can bring remarkable benefits to society by adjusting the supply-side of the economy and providing new inventions and discoveries. And even if they fail n the British market, strong players such as these can always move to Germany or France. But a shift in the industrial structure has also created workers who have been forced to switch from manufacturing to unskilled jobs in the service industry, such as hotels and restaurants. And these weak workers have nowhere to go once they lose out to fierce competition brought about by an influx of immigrants.

Marine Le Pen is the leader of the National Front, the far-right nationalist party advocating an anti-Islam, anti-EU agenda in France. The media is certain she will advance to the second round of the presidential election and expects her to win close to 40 percent of the votes. Nearly 100 percent of her supporters are likely to go to the polls. Clearly, they are calling for an immediate stop to neo-liberalism, and there will be no future for the European Union as long as their demand is simply dismissed as “populism.”

Brexit provides Europe with an opportunity to change course towards a union that better reflects the true strengths and realities of each member nation. Instead of a single market that has become an efficient supply chain for Germany, Europe must return to its postwar origin - to solidarity grounded in human dignity and peace. The ideal vision of unity should be one in which Europe is made even stronger by the strengths of each individual country.

If the EU moves to protect its mechanism of a single market with a single currency by punishing the UK, the project for unifying Europe - which arose out of the devastation of war as a product of human wisdom – will be thrown into an abysmal chaos. That is my fear. Europe should not be afraid of slowing down or stepping back in its pursuit of unification. It is my earnest hope that both the UK and EU opt for an “amicable divorce” that would minimize the damage inflicted on each other.

Masato Kimura is a journalist residing in London.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

木村 正人 / ジャーナリスト

2017年 5月 18日








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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The EU Should Return to its Postwar Origin of Peace and Human Dignity