The European Union looks quite weakened of late. British Prime Minister Theresa May made her final visit to their recent summit in essence, to say a tender farewell, while also preparing to show her teeth as Britain prepares to leave the EU. Yet for now she just managed to do her duty and vote to extend Donald Tusk's term as Chairman of the European Commission. Something his fellow Poles failed to do. This is all about the current internal issues within the EU itself. Of course, there were things worth laughing at that happened in the EU in the past few days, like this an unlucky expert who gave a serious interview to the BBC from home while his children played relentlessly behind his back. I hope my western friends don't take offense, but this is what the West has become these days: Wearing a nice suit, while there is a complete mess behind its back.
And now, on the line we have the well-known political scientist, Alexander Rahr.
— Alexander Glebovich, hello.
— Hello, Sergey.
— Alexander, this week there's been a lot of noise about the scandal that, via Wikileaks, there is evidence that the CIA was collecting espionage information in Europe. They even used regular TV sets, among other things, to eavesdrop on people. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I watched Merkel's speech before her trip to the United States, and she seemed to mention nothing about it at all. Or maybe I missed something?
— There is no scandal in Germany, which also surprises me. It seems that the German elites may already be accustomed to being bugged, and Ms. Merkel does not in any way want to risk spoiling relations with America before her historic visit, and first meeting with Trump. It seems to me that the German government was already aware of everything the Americans did in Frankfurt. It just was not mentioned, because it was intelligence activity. And now you barely find mention of it in the press at all.
— Let's assume that the German leadership proceeds from the great expectations from that which Trump and his team have reiterated this past month — that NATO will continue to exist, but the Europeans must slightly increase their defense spending. And they are fine with it. But the question is — can they bring anything to this renewed partnership with the US? And where the EU is concerned, at least its continental part, is it possible that we will see something like this occur again in the historical perspective?
— Things are quite tough for the European Union right now. And what remains of it in the future is a big question. 2017 is the year it will all be decided. Today, the EU is involved in many conflicts. It is in conflict with Russia over Ukraine. In America a new boss has emerged who is leading the European Union in the opinion of many Europeans, in the wrong direction. There are many conflicts with him, too. Of course, a great many conflicts have also appeared within the EU itself. We can discuss each one separately, but we don't have the time. Germany now stands on the position that it must rescue this liberal model of Europe, and Germany herself isn't ready, I believe, to become the leader in Europe instead of the US.
— Maybe it's Merkel, although believed to be defending the EU, who is actually destroying it. Let me remind you about the mini-summit in Versailles early this week, where only the French, Germans, Spaniards and Italians took part. It was as if the rest of the EU didn't exist. Wasn't that a dangerous step?
— You've made a good point. Indeed, the Germans are trying to implement plan «B» which they developed together with the French. If the EU were to fail to become the 'United States' of Europe then an indigenous Europe will be created from the states which are ready to follow this path, and those which are not ready will be left on the sidelines. There is the question of what will happen to France after the elections in a few weeks. But the main issue is a different one: Eastern Europe. These states are the EU's newest recruits, and they are not invited anywhere, not even to Obama's farewell meeting, which left them greatly offended. They are creating their own Visegrad Forum in order to determine the fate of Europe as they themselves see fit. Indeed, this division in Europe is quite dangerous.
— I was just amazed by the statement of the French European Commissioner who said he couldn't imagine Le Pen's presidency in his worst nightmares, and that her victory would be the end of Europe as we know it today. On the other hand, it is very strange to make statements like that after Trump's election in the US and after the fact that Brexit happened. All the polls show that the right-wingers are in the lead and even if they don't win at the elections, they are in the lead in Holland. Do you think the European elites have lost focus again and are ignorant of the possibility they might lose their jobs soon, and in the most democratic fashion?
— I think Europe is taking this very seriously indeed. It's true that rightist populism, or nationalist movements, are growing in Europe. You'd have to be blind not to see it I must say, there is one exception. There is almost no right-wing populism in Germany. The «Alternative for Germany» Party is losing ground, while the leftist populist Schulz is gaining in importance, and consolidating the leftist movement around the Social Democratic Party.
— You would actually call Social Democrat Schulz a populist?
— It is very difficult to win elections today: one has to definitely come off as a populist, which is good or bad, depending on the situation. He's gone down the path of using some kind of 'class struggle' rhetoric, pitting the poor against the rich, and this will bring him a lot of points and support in Germany, but it's unclear if he can really win elections in this way. It's definitely an important question. It seems to me that Ms.Merkel is currently in the lead.
— Well, in the end, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were Germans. Thank you. I've concluded our chat with an odd statement. On the line with us today, in Moscow on his way to Yerevan for the Valdai Forum, we've been speaking to German political scientist Alexander Rahr.