Morteza Maki – European Affairs Analyst
One of the challenges facing the European Union, which in turn has confronted the European convergence idea with serious obstacles, is the emergence of a radical right movement in the union, in general, and coming to power of some extreme right parties in certain European countries such as Italy and Austria. Also, right-wing parties have turned into the largest opposition in countries like Germany.
Such a development and emergence of nationalistic policies, pursued by the extreme right in Europe, have encountered the united European plan with grave dilemmas, most notably that the European convergence trend has mottos and ideas that are in utter contradiction with the rhetoric, positions, and views of the far right.
Incongruity has emerged in conditions that extreme right movement in Europe challenge European integration in monetary and immigration issues as is also the case in financial policies of EU central institutions overseeing member countries. Presently, the extreme right has faced the debate on the EU common immigration policy with a deadlock, an issue that has projected as one of the fundamental differences between European countries.
As far as fiscal policies are concerned, one can refer to the opposition from the Lega Italia, one of the parties that share power with the Italian government, to monetary and financial policies of the French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel who are meant to prevent the recurrence of monetary and financial crises of 2008 in Greece, Spain, Portugal and other European countries.
In the reform plans of EU institutions and policies, financial supervision on EU member states, especially on the annual budget of European governments, will ratchet up. These oversights are in full contradiction with the slogans and approaches of nationalist and extremist movements. Such inconsistency in the views of governments like Italy, which is one of the founders of the European Union along with France and Germany and until now one of the most pro-converging countries in the European project, can slow down or even disrupt convergence in the European Union.
Today, the European Union is facing serious risks of undermining convergence and strengthening of divergence. The increasing power of the extreme right parties in the majority of European countries is undeniable. They expressly disapprove the domination of Germany and France in the union to the extent that Italian Interior Minister and leader of the extreme right party, Matteo Salvini, urges the British Prime Minister to stand firm in Brexit negotiations and resist the demands of the European Union; also, US President Donald Trump praised the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte during his visit to Washington for his anti-immigrant views and his urge to stop refugees from entering the Italian territory.
Following the Conte-Trump meeting and the US president’s vivid stance on asylum seekers, some European media said that the Rome-Washington axis vis-à-vis the Berlin-Paris alliance has been finalized and suggested that the US President is an advocate of EU’s weakening and supports the far-right anti-Europe parties as well as Brexit.
In the wake of the referendum on withdrawal of Britain from the European Union (Brexit), some speculate that the EU would not any longer be converged as before. The trend of developments in Europe and Trump’s anti-EU stance indicate a slowdown of convergence in issues such as common immigration policies and reforms in EU institutions, matters that indicate EU divergence.
Regarding the situation in the European Union, the question arises as to whether a coherent EU is better for Iran or a weak one?
Looking at the current situation, we find ourselves confronted with the US under the presidency of Trump, who does not respect international law or international rules, nor even the rules of cooperation and convergence with its traditional allies in Europe. In such a situation, a strong European Union can better act in the interests and demands of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In reaction to Trump’s remarks, various European officials, Germany in particular, have declared that the United States is no longer a reliable and trustworthy partner, and Europe has begun moving towards self-reliance in security issues. Their efforts to preserve Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JOPCA), should also be seen in this context since they view it as an agreement within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty achieved through using soft power. That is why such a deal is a great achievement for them. In such a situation, a strong and unified EU with more power, rather than a dispersed and weak Europe, can stand against the US.
If the European Union can stand out in the course of Trump’s unilateralist policies in various political, economic and security spheres, the European alliance can further undermine and ameliorate US pressures on the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Today, given the European motive and determination to stand up against the US president and his unilateral positions and policies, a coherent and strong EU will undoubtedly be more efficient for the interests of Iran.
An alternative option is that if the European Union collapses, would Iran be able to better communicate with each individual European country, push forward its bilateral relations and secure its interests? We are currently facing a world where countries are economically interdependent. Therefore, if the convergence and coherence of the European countries slow down, their maneuvering power and resistance to the United States will also lower.
In a situation that the US has one-quarter of the world’s GDP, $ 18 trillion, and China standing in second place with $ 14 trillion in GDP, a disintegrated European Union would definitely have less maneuvering power to stand out against Trump policies.
It should not be ignored that the United States is presently looking for a weak Europe; because a fragile Europe is far more suitable for Trump’s policies. Therefore, Iran can better secure its interests in the current context of a consolidated EU for reducing the costs of unilateral US sanctions.