An anti-Soviet protestor, a former Maoist, and an expansionist walk into a bar. Picture from the EPP.
What will it take to disentangle EU leaders and their outdated ideas of eastward expansionism? On the very day that Greece announced it would no longer be able to pay salaries and pensions of public sector workers - 40% of the total workforce - by the end of the month without the next tranche of EU-IMF loans to the already-indebted nation, Donald Tusk was in Warsaw, talking of 'buying Belarus.'
The headline isn't quite true: the actual idea floated was to inject nine billion euros into the private bank account of dictator Alexander Lukashenko, in the hopes that he'd relinquish his iron control over the country. Donald Tusk is, for those of you who haven't heard of him, the Prime Minister of Poland, and, by virtue of that role, he is also the EU's 'rotating president.' I've written about him - and his avowedly imperialistic plans - before. He first made the suggestion back in April, and he was just as passionate about his ideas then.
But, given that the crisis in the eurozone is continually escalating and 'communitarianism' - the idea of a single, centralised beaurocracy ruling over a federal Europe - faces its biggest challenge in more than half a century, it was reasonably safe to assume that any such ambitious projects would have been put on the back-burner, and their proponents would have simmered down until the problems on their own doorstep were adequately patched-up. Make sure your own house has foundations before you seek to renovate others, and all that. But no: sense doesn't quite penetrate the ubiquitous blinds of Berlaymont.
Rather than scale back his plans, Tusk has expanded upon them, no pun intended, by saying that 'the Eastern Partnership project will perhaps one day merge with the Balkan project.' In other words, the staggered accession process currently underway in the Balkans will also be applied to post-Soviet countries, up to and eventually beyond the borders of Ukraine. If that sounds positively terrifying, then hear this: Barroso, the EU chief executive who is now entering his eighth year in office, has endorsed the plans. And in quite glowing terms, as well: he even called Tusk 'wonderful.' That's a ringing endorsement from the man who, ultimately, has the final say.
Never fear; Tusk is only in office until December. Then, Denmark promptly takes over. Left-wing though its new government may be, it includes an assortment of Eurosceptic ex-communists in the Cabinet, who, seeing the EU as the 'vehicle for European capitalism,' will hardly like expanding it any further. None - or very few - of Tusk's ideas will likely bear fruit. However, the very fact that he has the intent to push the boundaries of EU expansionism when it faces, in the words of Mr. Barroso, 'the greatest crisis in its history' speaks volumes about the depths of insanity that some committed federalists are currently plumbing. That Jose Manuel Barroso himself endorses it? Doubly so!