Soros' warning comes at a time when Europe is facing rising uncertainty and instability due to rise in populism and anti-establishment sentiment
Billionaire investor and liberal political activist George Soros has warned that Europe to ‘please wake up’ ahead of the European Parliament elections in May and before nationalist parties take control.
“Europe is sleepwalking into oblivion, and the people of Europe need to wake up before it is too late,” the Hungarian-American financier wrote in a rare opinion editorial for Project Syndicate, warning that if they don't, “the European Union will go the way of the Soviet Union in 1991." Soros, 88, was referring to dissolution of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) in 1991.
"The current leadership is reminiscent of the politburo when the Soviet Union collapsed – continuing to issue ukazes (proclamation) as if they were still relevant," Soros said, adding: “Neither our leaders nor ordinary citizens seem to understand that we are experiencing a revolutionary moment, that the range of possibilities is very broad, and that the eventual outcome is thus highly uncertain.”
Soros, famously known as the man who ‘broke the Bank of England’, feels ‘anti-European forces’ will have a competitive advantage in May, when lawmakers to the European Parliament will be elected.
"Unfortunately, anti-European forces will enjoy a competitive advantage in the balloting. There are several reasons for this, including the outdated party system that prevails in most European countries, the practical impossibility of treaty change, and the lack of legal tools for disciplining member states that violate the principles on which the European Union was founded," he said.
However, he added that if pro-Europeans wake up and ‘mobilise’ to defend the bloc’s values then there is a chance it can be saved.
His warning comes at a time when Europe is facing rising uncertainty and instability due to rise in populism and anti-establishment sentiment.
In Britain, the Theresa May-led Conservative Party is pushing forward with its plan to exit the EU at the end of March. France too is gripped by the yellow vests movement calling for economic justice.
In Hungary, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz Party, running on an anti-mass migration platform won a supermajority last year. Similar promises in Italy, saw a coalition government of the nationalist League and the populist 5-Star Movement winning last year’s hung elections and rise of the he far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Germany. Shaking the bloc's foundations are anti-migrant policies and anti-democratic actions in eastern Europe (read Hungary and Poland).
On Brexit, Soros thinks that Britain can still salvage the situation by delaying or by holding another referendum.
“The public is also becoming aware of the dire consequences of Brexit. The chances that May’s deal will be rejected on February 14 are growing by the day. That could set in motion a groundswell of support for a referendum or, even better, for revoking Britain’s Article 50 notification,” he wrote.
On the migrant crisis and impact on Italy
Soros feels Europe had made a ‘fatal mistake’ in 2017, during the migration crisis, by strictly enforcing the Dublin Agreement, which ‘unfairly burdens countries like Italy where migrants first enter the EU’.
Under the Dublin Agreement, migrants arriving on European shores had to claim asylum in the first country of entry. Italy struggling to cope with the influx of migrants drove the electorate "into the arms of the anti-European League party and Five Star Movement in 2018," Soros noted.
Recommends two steps to save the union
To counter anti-European forces, both within and without the bloc, Soros said Europe needed to first recognise the ‘magnitude of the threat they present’. It then needs to "awaken the sleeping pro-European majority and mobilise it to defend the values on which the EU was founded.”“Otherwise, the dream of a united Europe could become the nightmare of the twenty-first century," he signed of the cautionary note.