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Will the British referendum wake up the EU?

Will the British referendum wake up the EU?
Article by: Vitaliy Portnikov
Translated by: Anna Mostovych

If the European Union wants to survive it must be more than a union of “coal and steel.” Or only a union of bankers and traders. It must also be a project for the supporters and defenders of values. (The European Coal and Steel Community, a predecessor of the EU, was an international agency designed to integrate the coal and steel industries in western Europe after WW II — Ed.).

Great Britain’s decision to withdraw from the European Union is seen by many Ukrainian observers as a blow to our interests primarily because they view the situation from the perspective of Russian-European relations. Great Britain was one of the harshest critics of Russia and has consistently advocated for maintaining sanctions against the aggressor. With its departure, the position of the countries that defend European values will be shaken.

But I would not exaggerate the British role. In order to understand what Great Britain could realistically do for us it is worth asking what it has done already as one of the guarantors of the Budapest Memorandum. Tough rhetoric is, of course, valuable. But practical actions are even more valuable. And London has always been very careful when it came to practical actions.

When it comes to extending sanctions, what is important is not the position of an individual country ( we have seen how the bloc of Russia’s supporters could not do anything), but the choice between economic expediency and political reality. And if this choice is made in favor of rejecting European values, no Great Britain whatsoever can be of any help. But the United States can help and has already helped.

However, what is most important is that the British referendum will “wake up” the European Union. For many of its leaders, the EU until now was a model of success that did not need to prove anything to anyone. This is why they treated the countries that wanted to become part of a common European home with lordly condescension. It is understandable why you, who are poor and miserable, want to join us, the rich and happy.

The rich can weep as well.

To demonstrate the viability of the European project it is not enough to simply state that it has no alternatives. There are alternatives. And the British referendum has demonstrated that very clearly. It will be necessary to fight for a united  Europe. And one of the important arguments for this struggle is that there are countries on the continent whose citizens are ready to take to the streets to defend the European choice.

The referendum in the UK is the counterargument. And the Maidan in Ukraine is the argument. The most important one of the past decade.

The European politicians did not want to understand or see this. They were  afraid of Putin. They began to curry favor with the enemy of Europe. They made plenty of mistakes — in the former Soviet Union, and in the Middle East, and in the migrant crisis.

And they received a punch in the nose. Not pleasant, is it? We also received the same from our European partners — totally undeserved. But for you — quite deserved.

If the European Union wants to survive, it must be more that a union of “coal and steel.” Or only a union of bankers and traders. It must also be the project of the supporters and defenders of values.

And that it cannot do without Ukraine.

Translated by: Anna Mostovych
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