As we approach the mid-point of the European parliament’s fixed five-year term, we’ve been besieged by wannabes seeking our votes for the Presidency of the parliament. But at our ECR Group Meeting yesterday we also had a visit from the current/out-going EP President Jerzy Buzek. Mr. Buzek is a charming and modest former Polish Prime Minister, to whom no one could take exception, and he came to share with us his take on the successes of his two-and-a-half year Presidency.
He had made great contributions to EU integration and solidarity, he said, and a great deal more besides. In particular, he stressed the EU’s great interest in “neighbouring countries”.
Of course as always, the EU’s interest in entirely benign. It merely wants to take the self-evident benefits of the “European model” and offer them to adjoining countries. Indeed Mr. Buzek spoke at length of the benefits of global governance, and left us in little doubt that such governance should be based on Brussels principles. After all, the EU stands as a model of freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law — or so says Mr. Buzek.
But it did get me ruminating about other empires that have taken an interest in spreading the benefits of their political and economic models to adjacent countries. The USSR had a particular interest in its “near abroad” — an interest which is continued by that rump USSR which we now know as Russia. Ask the good folk of Georgia.
And Poland itself, during Mr. Buzek’s lifetime, found itself adjacent to a very powerful country that took a very active interest in its neighbourhood. They called it lebensraum.