John Lloyd

European dream may be among dead in political earthquake

John Lloyd
May 27, 2014 19:21 UTC

French National Front party deputies Gilbert Collard and Marion Marechal-Le Pen attend the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris

Earthquakes struck all over Europe this past weekend, as the votes for the European Parliament came in.

Parties on both the left and the right wanting to loosen ties to the European Union had notable victories in the UK, France, Spain and several other nations.

The results have gravely wounded the European project, which is to move the 28 EU member nations to an “ever-closer union.” The project may, indeed, have been killed. Here’s why:

1. Britain may leave the EU. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum on the issue if the Conservatives win the next election. The UK may see a vote for an exit if he fails to assure the electorate that he can deliver a reform plan for the EU that returns substantial powers to national capitals.

It isn’t a hopeless quest. Repatriating political power to the nation-states may be more appealing than an “ever closer union” in nations where anti-EU forces are growing. But if Cameron can’t convince the European government to reform and Europe remains weak, with sluggish growth, an exit from Europe would be the likely answer.

Will India’s Modi resist the lure of nationalism?

John Lloyd
May 20, 2014 21:12 UTC

Nationalism is in vogue in the world’s largest states.

President Vladimir Putin has called upon the specter of nationalism in staking Russia’s claim to Crimea and as a justification for destabilizing Ukraine’s east. He and the Russian military have acted to protect and, where possible, bring “home” his nation’s ethnic kin.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a World War II shrine, in spite of predicable outrage in China. While, in China, President Xi Jinping has emphasized nationalist themes in advancing his “Chinese dream.”

Now India has elected Narendra Modi as prime minister by a landslide. He’ll be sworn in next week. The streets will be packed, the media will be hysterical, markets will rise, and the hopes of the poor will soar.

from The Great Debate:

Eurovision’s Conchita brings out Russia’s worst and Europe’s best

John Lloyd
May 12, 2014 22:08 UTC

The most complicated thing said over this past weekend by a public figure came from the perfectly rouged lips of the winner of the Eurovision song contest, Conchita Wurst. “I really dream,” she said, “of a world where we don’t have to talk of unnecessary things like sexuality.”

That’s silly on two levels and deeply idealistic on a third.

It’s silly, first and most evidently, because sexuality won’t be unnecessary for a long while, and may last as long as this world does.

It’s silly, second and most personally, because Wurst (her second, adopted name means “sausage” but apparently is also Austrian German slang for “whatever…”) had just won the first prize in the world’s wackiest tournament ­-- the Eurovision Song Contest held this year in the Danish capital Copenhagen. She was dressed in the slinkiest of gowns hugging a perfectly sexy figure, the perfectly rouged lips set off by a perfectly trimmed black beard. ‘Unnecessary’ had nothing to do with it.

Russia’s scorning of Europe

John Lloyd
May 1, 2014 20:15 UTC

After a quarter of a century of claiming to be a part of Europe, Russia has ceased to regard it as a goal. As tension over Ukraine remains taut, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has confirmed a new line. He no longer wants Russia to be thought of as “European.” Europe and Russia, he now says, are in separate moral spheres.

When I first began visiting Russia in the Soviet Union in the eighties and eventually lived there, it marked itself as a different political, economic and social world system. What struck the Western visitor most was that it wasn’t a consumer society. There were no advertisements; the shops, largely empty of goods, were overstaffed by women who ignored you or were rude; the restaurants sold greasy, lukewarm and sometimes uneatable food. Hotel rooms were bare, with tepid water, cracked ceramics and bad smells. Most people — even young women — were dowdy. And that was Moscow. Outside the capital, it was often worse.

One could say — as I did — that these things were superficial. Soviets may have argued that they aimed for modesty of living; they were attempting to make citizens more or less equal in plainness, directing them to political or intellectual interests and satisfying the mind rather than the tastes for comfort.