EU “Empire” Plans to Grow Even Bigger Despite Brexit & Difficulties Keeping Eastern Members in Check

The “Non-Imperial Empire”

By Don Quijones, Spain, UK, & Mexico, editor at WOLF STREET.

In 2007, just before the EU’s growth pains began, then European Commission president (and now non-executive chairman of Goldman Sachs International and advisor to Goldman Sachs) Jose Manuel Barroso proudly proclaimed the EU to be the world’s first ever humanitarian empire. Asked by a journalist what kind of a structure the 28-nation bloc is, Mr Barroso said:

“We are a very special construction unique in the history of mankind. Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of empire. We have the dimension of empire.”

Whereas superstate empires of old were built on military conquest, the EU empire is built on voluntary pooling of power, Barroso gushed. “What we have is the first non-imperial empire.”

In a similar vein Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit negotiator, recently urged the EU to become an “empire of the good and not of the bad” in a speech at the London School of Economics.

Whether imperial or not, good or bad, the EU empire, like all empires before it, has an insatiable thirst for expansion. The bloc’s last major enlargement was in 2004 when ten countries acceded, including seven from the former Eastern bloc (Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), one from the former Yugoslavia (Slovenia), and two Mediterranean islands (Malta and Cyrpus), bringing the total number of EU Member States from 15 to 25. Since then only three new countries have joined, Romania and Bulgaria in 2007 and Croatia in 2013.

Now, instead of growing, the EU could be about to shrink for the first time in its history. If the UK government actually follows through on Brexit — a big “IF” that grows bigger by the day as pressure rises on the government to hold a second referendum on continued membership of the EU — the number of EU Member States will slip from 28 to 27 while the bloc’s population will shrink by 65 million, over one-tenth of its total.

The EU is also having increasing difficulty keeping some of its eastern European Member States in check. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic still refuse to accept refugee quotas imposed by Brussels. Relations with the Polish government have soured to such a degree over the overhaul of its judicial system that, according to the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk — himself of Polish origin — Brussels’ trust in Warsaw is now “dead.” Tusk also warned that Poland’s governing party, PiS, could pull his home nation from the union unless there were sufficient “benefits” (i.e. money) to membership.

Growth At Any Cost

Against such a backdrop you might expect the EU to hold back on any further expansion plans, at least until it gets its current house in order, but you’d be wrong. As a new working document reveals, the European Commission has been working tirelessly behind the scenes to set the stage for a brand new wave of enlargement that could see as many as six Western Balkan nations accede by 2025.

“With strong political will, the delivery of real reforms, and lasting solutions to disputes with neighbours, Montenegro and Serbia should be ready for membership by 2025,” the text reads, according to a draft seen by EU Observer. By that point Albania, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovoare also likely to be well advanced along “their European path.”

Serious questions have been raised about the readiness of some of these countries for EU membership. Serbia, for example, does not even recognize Kosovo’s independence. Neither, for that matter, do five current EU members.

There are also concerns about their commitment to genuine reforms. Chris Patten, a former British diplomat and European Commissioner, once said that the problem with the Balkans is that “they pretend to do what we ask them and we pretend to believe them.” In the meantime, the EU has consistently prioritized security interests in the Balkans over other conditions such as human rights, a policy recently labelled as ‘stabilitocracy’ by Srđa Pavlović.

Nonetheless, the accession of six new members will bring the total number of EU Member States to a whopping 33 or 34, depending on whether or not the UK government actually follows through on Brexit. And size is what ultimately matters when it comes to empire building.

Serbia and Montenegro have already opened accession talks while Albania and Macedonia are hoping to do so later this year, if Macedonia can resolve its name dispute with Greece.

Bad Timing

The timing of this latest announcement of the EU’s enlargement plans could not be worse. It comes just days after a call from European Commission president Jean Claude Juncker to increase each Member State’s contribution to the EU budget to plug the shortfall that will be left behind should the UK pack up and leave. In 2015 the UK was the second largest contributor to EU funding with a net spend of €11.5 billion.

While Juncker did not set a specific amount for the increase, he did call for abandoning the EU’s longstanding benchmark of 1% of economic output. “We need more than 1% of European GDP, quite clearly, if we are to pursue European policies and fund them quite adequately,” Juncker said. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there appears to be little appetite for belt tightening in Brussels’ halls of power.

Four north European countries are forecast to shoulder the bulk of the financial burden — Germany, which already provides 19% of total EU funding, and Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden. Under the projections from the European Parliament’s Directorate-General for Internal Policies, Austria will have to shell out an additional €413 million a year, or €47 (£41) for every citizen, to close the funding gap left behind by the UK’s exit — a 15.33% rise in its contribution. On a per capita basis, only the extremely-eurosceptic Swedes will get a worse deal with each citizen expected to pay €55 (£48.50) more every year.

All four of these countries already have large and swelling Eurosceptic populations. As such, they are unlikely to be thrilled at the prospect of having to shell out yet more funds so that the total number of net recipients of EU funding — countries that pay in less than they take out — can increase from 16 to 22, especially while the EU’s East/West divide continues to deepen and the biggest net recipient of all, Poland, may be considering leaving the EU. By Don Quijones.

Did someone say “referendum?” Read…  Switzerland too Falls Out of Love with the EU

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  35 comments for “EU “Empire” Plans to Grow Even Bigger Despite Brexit & Difficulties Keeping Eastern Members in Check

  1. I have always wondered how the GOP ever signed off on trade agreements with China, but those red state religious social conservatives just keep loading up on goods made by godless communists, and crying when there are no jobs. There is no greater church than the church of Walmart apparently.

    • Argus says:

      Please explain how this is relevant to the article on EU expansion.

      • There are also concerns about their commitment to genuine reforms. Chris Patten, a former British diplomat and European Commissioner, once said that the problem with the Balkans is that “they pretend to do what we ask them and we pretend to believe them.” In the meantime, the EU has consistently prioritized security interests in the Balkans over other conditions such as human rights, a policy recently labelled as ‘stabilitocracy’ by Srđa Pavlović.”

        cut and paste China, human rights, and reforms and prioritized security, into the text. in our case the US China deal, there were no rules, or none that were enforced, and financial deceit, including payment in sterlized UST bonds, to facilitate a USG with no spending controls and a jobless society. i would say the EU creates a more balanced expansion of trade, and is also pouring unsustainable amounts of debt into the periphery where these bubbles impoverish consumers who move from poverty to the middle class only to find higher asset prices and consumer debt levels sap their new found freedom.

  2. Bill in Shrewsbury PA says:

    Please also do not overlook the EU attempted expansion into Ukraine. Of course, Russia offered a deal to keep them in its orbit, and Maiden resulted. Never the less, a good example of the EU empire’s attempt to expand.

    Furthermore, when you say EU, what is really meant is German control of many states.

  3. Bruce Adlam says:

    Think carefully about getting married to the EU it’s not democratic and the divorce is a bitter pill once in no escape .not worth it not even close

  4. Vichy Chicago says:

    France isn’t part of this list?

    “Four north European countries are forecast to shoulder the bulk of the financial burden — Germany, which already provides 19% of total EU funding, and Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden.”

  5. mean chicken says:

    “What we have is the first non-imperial empire.”

    Sounds similar to Amazon’s business plan. Wonder if there’s a reason he didn’t use the term “non-Colonial Empire”?

    • Kraig says:

      Probably counting USA as imperial (look at all those overseas bases) but not very colonial (depending on how you count Porto Rico/Guam)

  6. John says:

    “If the UK government actually follows through on Brexit”

    Because a 52% majority vote doesn’t really mean anything to the EU “Democracy” if the vote is in the wrong direction.

    Do it again until you get it right.

    And the poor Brits have given up their guns. Meantime, Americans continue to arm up.

  7. MCH says:

    Just curious, putting GB aside (and I guess the Swiss too), what happens when Europe run out of countries for the EU to “gobble up” Could we still call it an EU when it starts pulling in countries outside of what is traditionally considered continental Europe by virtue of geography?

    • MD says:

      Balkan peninsula was never traditionally considered to be part of Europe so it already happened many years ago.

      Europe is basically what someone says it is…Israel takes part in the annual Eurovision Song Contest so apparently that’s in Europe too; at least for that one evening.

      Hence if Bulgaria is in Europe – well then it is, for no other reason than I deem it so.

      These definitions and boundaries are, after all, completely arbitrary human constructs.

      • Dan Romig says:

        President Woodrow Wilson’s State of the Union Address from 4 December 1917:

        “They (Germany) have done a wrong to Belgium which must be repaired. They have established a power over lands and peoples other than their own–over the great empire of Austria-Hungary, over hitherto free Balkan states, over Turkey and within Asia-which must be relinquished.”

        After WW I, a lot of boundaries were redrawn both in Europe and in the Middle-East. The spoils of the ‘completely arbitrary human constructs’ go to the victors.

        Contrast Wilson’s words of a century ago with Mr. Barraso’s of a decade ago: ” … the EU as a creation to the organization of empire. We have the dimension of empire.”

        History does repeat itself. Germany had, for a while, an empire over parts of Europe during the two world wars, and now the economic engine of Germany has an empire of sorts over Europe again.

        Bruce Adlam’s comment is spot-on.

    • D.Swatman says:

      Check out Orwell’s map of the world in ‘1984’. Eurasia is the target – the EAU… With Emperor Jean-Claude I at the helm. Britain (or just England, perhaps) will belong to Oceania as predicted, but Oceania will have long since been renamed either Amazonia or Googlia depending on who wins.

  8. Maximus Minimus says:

    This article covers too much ground, and would require many more. But a good start to extend coverage away from the usual clubmed.
    The EU is like a reverse cow: the input is fed from behind, and the outputs departs from the head. That is my forecast.

  9. AC says:

    The first ‘humanitarian’ empire? That is Orwellian-tier. It’s the first ’empire’ seemingly dedicated to the utter genocidal destruction of its native population.

    I’d say that’s probably a first, if not for the American empire’s actions against its own population, over the past half-century or so.

    • wkevinw says:

      My European friends tell me that a few decades ago (and since?) the votes to join the EU seemed to focus on trade barriers being lowered. The enormous, unelected bureaucracy isn’t what they thought they were getting into.

      If you look with any analytical eye at the situation, it is certainly a giant “taxation without representation” scheme.

      At least one country fought a war over this.

      • Steve clayton says:

        Hi Kevin, you’re absolutely correct the UK joined the EUROPEAN union based on trade alone. What the EU is now is totally different. A lot of older people voted in the Brexit vote for that exact reason.

        • I recall (one of many) misstatements made by DJT at his golf course in Scotland where he congratulated the Scots on voting for Brexit (they did not) and I believe Ireland did not either, and those countries have the most at stake in trade deals. So I take it that pensioners in England pretty much carried the vote for populist reasons.

        • Steve clayton says:

          No Ambrose a substantial amount of people who aren’t pensioners voted for Brexit also . The turning point has been immigration especially the eastern European countries joining.

  10. Marcel Axel says:

    One thing that might limit the EU’s expansion is if the U.S. gets fed up with protecting it. It’s a rarity to read anything positive about the U.S. in Europe’s press, except from “The Economist.” Europe’s leaders, especially English-speaking ones, seem to be taking great joy in jumping on America’s Trumpoline, whenever he says something. Digging for dirt about him is rampant.

    It seems that Europe is much more dependent on the U.S. military for protecting its trade routes. It imports more oil from the Gulf States than the U.S. does. Is any other European country, besides the U.K., actually helping the U.S. secure the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, or even the Arabian Sea?

    In any case, we get most of our imports from Asia shipped across the Pacific, and we get much of the rest from Mexico or S. America, and oil from Canada.

    There’s also the Suez, being protected by Egypt using U.S. arms. Europe would suffer more than the U.S. if it’s overrun. The only consistent teamwork by the EU related to the Middle East comes when they ignore Syria or Iran but stomp on Israel at the UN instead.

    Those same imports from Asia going to Europe are also protected by the U.S., which is trying to keep the South and East China Seas open. Are any EU countries helping protect the countries in that area, such as Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines all the way up to Taiwan, Japan and Korea?

    And which armies are helping hold back Russia? Nato? The U.S. is arming the E. European countries to help in that. Europe couldn’t even handle the local war in Kosovo, and Clinton had to bomb it into surrender. And of course the real past empire, the UK, is seeing its military shrink.

    So I think what is meant by a “non-imperial empire” is a Europe that hopes to somehow keep America as its protector, just as it has over the last 100 years.

    • Bill in Shrewsbury says:

      The U. S. taxpayer currently are the defenders of the EU, in line with your comment. “…over the last 100 years” completely wrong. How about since about the time that the Berlin wall came down. Around then Europe went on a pot smoking, nudist vacation. Still on it.

      Just to help anyone reading this: NATO was formed from a real threat from the Soviet Union, and by the will of the U.S. to protest itself from that threat. Now just a EU toy to get the bucks from the U.S.

  11. LouisDeLaSmart says:

    Sorry for the long post, but here is some insight into the awesome world of the Balkans!
    Not all expansion was voluntary. The acceptance of Bulgaria and Romania was done under severe pressure by NATO and USA. These countries were nowhere ready, but were taken in. The same could be said for Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Pretty much if you were close to Russia’s border you had a fast pass in EU. This policy can only be described as – stupid.
    Serbia has a more complex situation then the rest. As it recently had a war with all NATO member states (both ground troops and air force were used), the people are very skeptical about western policies. Also, Serbia refused to impose sanctions to Russia, has a very strong diplomatic relationship with China, and an almost unanimous anti-NATO sentiment which in diplomatic circles is considered a big no-no. The EU does not look kindly on independent thinking Eastern European states. And I’m not going to mention the dispute about Kosovo’s independence.
    Montenegro is a democratic dictatorship by one family in power, the Djukanovic. They are in power since the late 1980’s, they literally own the entire country. In the 90’s it has it’s purpose to undermine the authority of Milosevic’s regime, but now is as relevant as yesterdays soup. For a long time their budget was heavily subsidized by uncle Sam. Their economy is based on tourism as the main income.
    Albania’s complete economy relies on marijuana exports, estimated to be 8 billion dollars. Not much there since their leader Enver Hodza closed down for country for 50 years…yes 50 years of self isolation. The economy is non-existent. There is a general sentiment of Albanians to create a Greater Albania form of Albania, Kosovo and parts of other countries where Albanians are the majority…a great prospect for regional peace.
    Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country with a constitution and courts, that can at any time be bypassed by the “supreme envoy” (not a joke) imposed by Western Europe. So if anything happens they don’t like, they just call it of. Inside the country there are 3 nations that despise each other, two of which live in the Federation (Muslim Bosnians and Catholic Croats) and one, the Orthodox Serbs, lives in the Serbian Republik (Republika Srpska). Their budget is heavily subsidized by the US taxpayer, they have 120 ministries, 3 presidents and the “supreme envoy”, as well as a foreign imposed supreme court comprised of foreign nationals. A dream come true.
    FMRY or Macedonia is a small new country that had two internal conflicts with ethnic Albanians in 2001 and 2015, the least stable country in the region. It is currently negotiating with Greece on the name, so that they will be allowed to proceed in certain negotiations. A good part of the population has Bulgarian (EU) passports…the irony being that by the time the country enters the EU, all it’s citizens will already be EU citizens. The economy is in shambles.

    • Stan Barber says:

      Finally a realistic, reasonable and true summary of Balkans’ current configuration.
      Maybe the author should have added a couple of lines about Slovenia and Croatia, for if the hopeful new entrants’ “leaders” cared to convey to their electors what the picture of “great and glorious future” looks like, it is very clearly displayed in those two “advanced democracies”.
      Complete eradication of all domestic industries and substitution of all home production (think jobs and societies) for surplus “D” grade goods unsuitable for sale in host countries of manufacture. Lidl, Carrefour, Aldi and such like peddling surplus heavily subsidised dross in place of locally crafted artisan goods, foods, drinks and whatever else.
      What’s not to like?

      • LouisDeLaSmart says:

        Update on Croatia and Slovenia.
        Croatia since entering the EU has had a severe depopulation wave, losing up to 100 000 young people to the EU work market, though the numbers are said to be greater. This is caused by the extreme levels of corruption driving young people away from a country that seems not to care. The largest retail company Agrokor imploded under massive debt, estimated to be 6-12 billion dollars (total GDP is 50 billion, 82.9% of GDP debt). The country took over company debt (against EU regulations) and now is fighting of creditors the best they can…and losing.
        Slovenia had a special role in Yugoslavia. It had a monopoly on import of all electronic and electric components, thereby owning the high-tech industry in Yugoslavia (manufactured submarines, subsonic airplanes, tanks…a serious country at the time). During the 1990’s they departed relatively peacefully from the federation and joined the EU, and all was fine until 2008. The national debt has exploded since 2008 from 20% to 82% of GDP, it was so bad that the country was considered the next Greece. Now it’s a battle to stay afloat.

  12. R Davis says:

    “We are a very special construction, unique in the history of mankind” said J.M. Barroso.

    Let’s fall about laughing shall we, ha hah hah aha ha ha he he ha ha aha ha ha he he ha ha!

  13. Dave B. says:

    Same old New World Order

  14. RD Blakeslee says:

    “Whereas superstate empires of old were built on military conquest, the EU empire is built on voluntary pooling of power.”

    “Voluntary” = stupid complacence?

    “Lethargy [is] the forerunner of death to the public liberty.” – Thomas jefferson

    • Kraig says:

      Well the UK decided not to voluntary pool it’s power any more. The eu never said it couldn’t leave. No war of northern aggression from Brussels.

      I wonder what the US poltical system nowadays would look like if say Texas decided t Texit the USA.

  15. Cynic says:

    I believe the Romans used to reel tribes and kingdoms in with ‘treaties of friendship’, and before they knew it……..

    The moment of greatest expansion invariably comes just before not shrinkage, but collapse.

    Wonderful job Barroso seems to have: appropriate for such a distinguished philosopher and statesman.

  16. michael Engel says:

    UK departure will shrink EU GDP.
    When GB lost the 13 colonies, they invented the “Liberal Imperialism”,
    to expand and spread all over the globe.
    With the loss of UK, the plan to gain population and GDP,
    – and at the same time to enlighten some backward countries, – is to expand to Albania Bosnia and Gaza.

  17. DV says:

    In fact, this is pretty simple. If they stop expansion, they will start falling apart. EU is unmanageable as it is and will become still more so, if it expands further. Expansion and deeper integration will require more redistribution from wealthy countries to poor ones. This will give rise to backlash against the EU in those wealth countries. Ultimately the EU “empire” will implode from within. So the question is really whether it will go away peacefully or spark new wars. It is argued that the EU is a “peaceful” empire. It is not so. Its push into East Europe and North Africa (through Eastern and Mediterranian Partnerships) already caused multiple conflicts.

  18. Christoph Weise says:

    The EU is nothing than a Ponzi scheme: A new member increases its borrowing capacity, utilizes it and Germany booms. Than the country is bust and since it wishes to continue borrowing it does so at the expense of the Deutsche Bundesbank, where target2 accounts are growing like mushrooms in the djungle. It is always the same pattern but right now the EU is to fish for new members already in the Balcans and in Central Asisa (Georgia) and the EU starts to foot the military and economic bill for its adventures in the Ukraine and Syria.

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