The three ladies of Europe

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY COSTAS IORDANIDIS

The lead­ers of the Euro­pean Union came to­gether last Satur­day on the Capi­to­line Hill to cel­e­brate the 60th an­niver­sary of the Treaty of Rome in what was a sym­bolic dis­play of unity at a time that can only be de­scribed as com­pli­cated. The meet­ing also pro­duced the usual dec­la­ra­tion of com­mon val­ues and goals, a text of com­pro­mise that as such was lack­ing in any real con­tent and was aimed at mak­ing ev­ery­body happy. Even Greek Prime Min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras found cer­tain parts pleas­ing from a so­cial point of view, though they were the same com­mit­ments made in the Treaty of Lis­bon in 2007. Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel was indis­putably the dom­i­nant force in the pro­ceed­ings, as other lead­ers ap­peared like – will­ing or un­will­ing – satel­lites around her. Merkel has the great qual­ity of dis­cre­tion in the way she ex­er­cises her role and even though she is the first wo­man to have been elected to the high­est post in Ger­many, she has never played the valkyrie. This im­age of sym­bolic and frag­ile unity was shat­tered yes­ter­day when Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May of­fi­cially launched the process of the United King­dom’s de­par­ture from the Euro­pean Union, fil­ing for di­vorce af­ter an un­com­fort­able mar­riage of 44 years. In con­trast to Ger­many, Bri­tain has a long his­tory of strong women in power, start­ing with Queen El­iz­a­beth I, then Queen Vic­to­ria in the em­pire’s hey­day, and now Queen El­iz­a­beth II. And to prove that such ac­ces­sion is not ex­clu­sive to the ranks of no­bil­ity, the daugh­ter of a hum­ble gro­cer, Mar­garet Thatcher, was the most em­blem­atic prime min­is­ter Bri­tain has had since the end of World War II. May ap­peared af­fa­ble yet de­ter­mined in the man­ner in which she com­mu­ni­cated her coun­try’s bid when she spoke on the tele­phone to the true pil­lars of the EU, the lead­ers of Ger­many and France, and the pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. It would be a ter­ri­ble mis­take to mis­in­ter­pret her at­ti­tude as a sign of weak­ness. Bri­tain is the sec­ond big­gest econ­omy in Europe af­ter Ger­many and it will be a while be­fore the City moves to Frankfurt. As for those who want to see the UK pun­ished for its de­ci­sion, May made sure – dis­creetly as al­ways – to link the ne­go­ti­a­tions with the mat­ter of Euro­pean se­cu­rity. The third lady of Europe – though some read­ers will cer­tainly be star­tled when they hear her name – is Ma­rine Le Pen, self-ap­pointed con­tender for the lead­er­ship of the rebels who, she be­lieves, are fight­ing against the “Vichy es­tab­lish­ment” that has pre­vailed in France over the past few years. His­tory re­ally does play odd games. Misog­y­nists may brush th­ese ladies off as play­ing games. If they are, then they are do­ing well be­cause the men dropped the ball years ago. If there is one thing we can be cer­tain of, it is that there is never a dull mo­ment with th­ese three ladies.

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