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A cultural conflict tearing the EU apart

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An “identity war” between eastern and western Europe is tearing the EU in two, says Luc de Barochez in Le Point. Hungary has outraged the leaders of 17 states, including France, with a new anti-LGBT law. But most central and eastern Europe countries aren’t fussed. None of them has legalised gay marriage. Poland has even been trying to quit the Istanbul Convention, which aims to prevent violence against women, arguing that its fine print pushes American “gender ideology”. 

The internal battle in the EU used to be about money, fought between “the spendthrift cicadas of the south and the thrifty ants of the north”. The new conflict between east and west is much more serious. It’s about culture, and in particular about the east’s rejection of “American values”. The “progressive woke agendas” gaining ground among western elites are fuel for the illiberal agendas of Hungary’s PM, Victor Orban, and his eastern European colleagues. Orban wants to put the family at the heart of European politics: his electorate is much more conservative than, say, Germany’s, not least because millions of well-educated young people have left eastern Europe in recent decades. But Orban’s lot don’t want to reject Europe, as Britain has. They see themselves as the true Europeans and the guardians of “Christian values”. They have no intention of leaving the Union; they just want to clip its wings, while continuing to enjoy, from Brussels, a nonstop fountain of subsidies.

Why it matters Germany’s finger-wagging smacks of hypocrisy, says Jeremy Cliffe in The New Statesman. Angela Merkel could tie EU funding to liberal reform in Hungary, but doesn’t. German companies are happy to indulge in “rainbow-flag pieties” for domestic liberals, but their huge investments in Hungary “provide the Orban regime’s economic backbone”.  

Read the full article here (paywall).