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On November 16, when the Romanian people elected as president Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German who ran a vigorous campaign against corruption, they shattered a number of illusions about politics in eastern Europe.
Out to earn a dollar on the Russian natural resource trade, European nations such as the Netherlands have long kept smiling as the Kremlin has continued to humiliate them. But now the airline disaster, combined with Moscow’s attempts to cover up its role in the tragedy, will likely force Europe to get real about its eastern neighbor.
Earlier this week, as Europe was preparing for continent-wide parliamentary elections, Hungary was busy asking the EU Parliament to revoke diplomatic immunity for Béla Kovács, a prominent representative of Hungary’s far-right Jobbik party, in order to charge him with spying on the EU for Russia.
On April 3, the EU announced that it would grant visa-free travel to Moldovans. The move was the latest salvo in a raging battle for Moldova, a second front in a struggle between the EU and Russia for the lands in between them.
The Putin regime is growing closer by the month to extreme right-wing parties across Europe -- somewhat surprising given that one of his stated reasons for invading Crimea was to prevent "Nazis" from coming to power. But, in both cases, Putin’s motives are not primarily ideological. In Western Europe, he hopes to destabilize his foes and install in Brussels politicians who will be focused on dismantling the EU rather than enlarging it.
For a long time, France and Germany have had the most say over Europe's trajectory. But as the EU tries to move eastward, including to places like Ukraine, it is Germany and Russia that will decide who is in and who is out -- and under what terms.
Over the last 25 years, Poland has enjoyed peace, a booming economy, and integration with the rest of Europe. Behind that positive story lie smart economic reforms and the bond Poland formed with Europe’s leading economy, Germany.