Systemic collapse can be a tricky thing to spot. Oftentimes it goes under the radar for decades, until the system in question abruptly explodes. In other cases it’s painfully obvious that something is wrong, but still impossible to say when the problems afflicting that system will finally become too overwhelming to bear. If we’re talking about the European Union, I think the latter of those two certainly applies.
Ever since the European debt crisis, the EU has been playing a game of whack-a-mole with its constituent nations. Whenever one crisis is “solved,” another crisis will pop up somewhere else. None of these problems are ever truly solved though. They’re simply contained until further notice, because there are always more pressing issues to deal with. And there are always more pressing issues, because crises that were previously contained start to bubble over again. As you can see, it’s an endless feedback loop of failure, and it’s constantly compounding itself.
It’s hard to say when the breaking point will be. Much like the United States government, anyone who’s paying attention knows that the system is beyond repair and beyond reform, but somehow it just keeps clunking along, year after year.
There are still so many people who are heavily invested in the system and can’t afford to let it fall apart, even though that’s probably the only option left on the table. So they keep it together with all their might, as the system marches straight into oblivion. It’s kind of like dumping all of your money into a used car that constantly breaks down, but refusing to discard it because dammit, you’ve spent so much to keep it running and to give up now would mean that all of that money was wasted.
It’s a common fallacy that afflicts all humans from time to time, and it’s the biggest reason why anything goes on longer than it logically should. The EU has clearly gone on longer than it ever should have, and every week there are more signs that this union is crumbling.
This week, the foundations of the EU happen to be shaking in Portugal, which provided the perfect example of the cycle of failure that I mentioned earlier. Months after Greece’s anti-austerity government threatened to trigger the collapse of the EU before it was cowed into submission, another anti-austerity coalition has risen in Portugal after their left-leaning parties came together to depose their conservative government.
And in neighboring Spain, the wealthy province of Catalonia is threatening to secede from the impoverished states that they’re anchored to. They’ve threatened to leave without taking a share of Spain’s debt, and if they succeed it will also give Spain’s leftist parties a higher percentage of votes in parliament, which again could result in another anti-austerity coalition.
And economics aside, Europe is facing a surge secessionist fervor that could potentially break up their union. This year it was Catalonia, before that it was Scotland, and before that it was Venice. What’s interesting is that in all of these cases, these secession movements wanted to stay in the EU, but they still threatened the integrity of the EU. If for instance, the Scottish had managed to secede, it would have left England with a much higher percentage of anti-EU votes in Parliament.
The EU seems to be facing a two-pronged attack from financial insolvency and this resurgent nationalism. As the more debt-ridden southern nations turn more liberal and anti-austerity, the more financially secure nations are turning more conservative and nationalistic. Both are absolutely tearing the EU apart. You can really see these trends coming to a head in Poland, where on Wednesday, tens of thousands of right-wing protesters took the streets.
Police said 25,000 people joined the march, which marked the anniversary of Poland’s return to independence after the Second World War, while organisers put the numbers at 50,000.
“God, honour, homeland,” chanted the protesters as they marched under a sea of red-and-white Polish flags.
Demonstrators trampled and burned a European Union flag at one point, while a banner added to the anti-EU theme with the slogan “EU macht frei” (“Work makes you free” in German), a reference to the slogan over the gates at Auschwitz.
“Yesterday it was Moscow, today it’s Brussels which takes away our freedom,” chanted one group of protesters.
Other banners read “Great Catholic Poland” and “Stop Islamisation”.
And in the background, the migrant crisis appears to be propping up both of these movements. The veritable flood of refugees is overwhelming the welfare system of every nation they encounter, which will surely cripple their finances. And these migrants are too numerous to ever be assimilated, which of course is fueling the nationalistic right-wing factions in these countries.
Truly, the EU is bursting at the seams on all fronts, as the advantages of being a member are fading for each state, and the problems they face are becoming increasingly insurmountable. While anti-EU sentiment is rising for different reasons in each country, the result is the same. There are too many systemic problems, too many irreconcilable differences, and not enough money. It’s only a matter of time before the system buckles under the weight of financial collapse and social upheaval.
Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua’s reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua’s website is Strange Danger.