With the European Parliament voting this week to censure Hungary, the chasm between populist-nationalism and European Union-style bureaucracy has deepened again, presenting President Trump a further opportunity to make friends in Europe at the expense of faltering globalist voices.
Earlier this summer I pointed to how Trump’s approval ratings put those of his European counterparts to shame. Meanwhile, the US President was going toe-to-toe with Germany’s Angela Merkel, as well as the European Commission’s Jean-Claude Juncker over trade, NATO and more.
Anti-EU voices wasted no time Tuesday offering a hand of friendship to Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban against the backdrop of a renewed onslaught, even by the PM’s colleagues in his own, centrist European People’s Party (EPP) group.
Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage told him to “come and join the Brexit club,” while firebrand Geert Wilders tweeted that the Article 7 vote against Orban in the European Parliament was a “shame” and that “Hungary is the example for the EU and Orban is a hero and deserves the Nobel Prize.”
Instead of acting upon its oft-touted commitment to a “stronger union,” European institutions have again proved their willingness to divide and (attempt to) conquer. This makes the EU an entity committed to circumventing sanctions on Iran while picking on its own member states.
It isn’t their first foray into punitive treatment of members, either.
Poland received similar chastisement last year. The Article 7 powers of the Lisbon Treaty include the power to strip a member state of its voting rights. A bizarre reaction when you consider the penalties are supposedly enacted against nations that contravene “human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.”
The EU’s answer to anti-democratic behavior is, apparently, suspending democratic voting rights.
It underscores the stark distinction best exemplified between the constitution of the United States which begins “We the People,” and the constitution of the European Union which begins by deferring to “His Majesty the King of the Belgians” (seriously).
With this in mind, it is easy to see how the attitudes between the leaders of the two trade giants can so readily differ.
While the global media has sought to portray President Trump as an avid protectionist, his obsession seems to be with trade imbalances and market access alongside the regulatory restrictions heretofore.
On the flip side, the European Union has traditionally gone to great extent to protect the bloc’s farmers and auto manufacturers among others, using a complex system of tariffs, subsidies, grants, regulations and prohibited access for foreign companies into its marketplace.
These were just some of the sticking points of the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations that Obama administration officials venerated but consistently failed to land even a decent image of. An elusive, globalist, Loch Ness monster.
Obviously, America does some of this, too. But US trade-weighted tariffs in 2016 stood at 2.4%, while the EU’s were at 3%. The latter simply cannot accuse the former of more heavy-handed protectionism, especially when considering America’s heavy-lifting of NATO, UN projects, international aid and pretty much underwriting the entire post-war, liberal, international order.
Trump clearly looks at the picture as a whole when negotiating. It now seems silly not to. When he describes the US as being “upside down” across the globe, he’s not simply referring to a balance of payments, but to a balance of everything.
This is where Europe either underestimates him or misunderstands the situation.
Be it entitlement, embarrassment, or otherwise, the Junckers, Macrons and Merkels not only feel like they owe nothing to the United States, but that the United States has a duty in continuing to prop up their institutions and ideas until they can finally get there themselves with an EU army, the Galileo program and an imported population of cheap labor to prop up profits and pensions.
Europe’s idea of sustainability – per its anti-democratic punishments of Poland and Hungary – is exploitative and hypocritical.
Merkel’s “take, take, take” philosophy has led Germany to the cutting edge of immigration problems, and to a potentially disastrous reliance upon Russian liquified natural gas.
These chickens were always going to come home to roost, but she never foresaw just how quickly they’d return.
Europe is already reaping the negative consequences of its migration policy; the negative consequences of its totalitarian approach to governance; the consequences of its hypocrisy over Russia; and has opened up other nations to grave consequences based on its expansionist behavior.
The European Council and Parliament’s insistence on penalizing Hungary – one of the only nation-states in the bloc to protect its borders, and to overwhelmingly vote to do so in free and fair elections – will only serve to embolden the populists across the world, of which the US President counts himself.
Expect, very shortly, a Hungarian delegation to the United States.
“We tried to work with them,” a senior Budapest representative might tell a White House official, “even from inside the centrist EPP group in the Parliament. They’re simply not interested in anything but their own rigid dogma.”
“Message received,” the answer from a savvy White House operator should come: “We’ve got your backs.”
Very soon President Trump will have an upper hand in his negotiations with Merkel, Macron and Juncker.
Orban’s government, from within, alongside the Visegrad 4, the Brits, the Italians and others; all fighting back against EU centralization and protection.
Raheem Kassam is a fellow at the Claremont Institute, the Gatestone Institute, and the Middle East Forum. A former senior advisor to Brexit leader Nigel Farage, he is the author of two bestselling books – No Go Zones: How Sharia Law is Coming to a Neighborhood Near You and Enoch Was Right: ‘Rivers of Blood’ 50 Years On