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Sunday, 4 December 2016

“Dear Minister! Dear State Secretary! Stop the DBA Law, as it is dead on arrival. But also stop the fiscal favouring of freelance knowledge workers, without a formal establishment”

When one would look at the sheer effects of an individual fiscal/labour law, the DBA Law (i.e. Deregulation of the Assessment of the Labour relation) in The Netherlands is arguably one of the worst fiscal / labour laws in history.

Under the influence of this law – which was (as always) created with the best intentions by the Dutch liberal_conservative / labour government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte – perhaps more than half a million freelance knowledge workers are on the brink of losing their assignments and (thus) their jobs and sources of income.

What is the point?!

Freelance knowledge workers (and as a matter of fact all freelancers) have a number of ‘advantages’ for large employers (i.e. the principals) that normal workers don’t have:
  • They have fiscal advantages, like a starters’ rebate and an freelancers’ rebate, which yield substantial discounts on their tax payments;
  • Both the freelancers and their principals don’t have to pay social premiums against death, sickness or permanent disability on their behalf, which reduces their costs of labour substantially;
  • The build-up of pension money is considered the responsibility and ‘problem’ of the freelancer himself. That sheer fact also substantially reduces the costs of labour for large principals;
  • And last, but not least, when the project is finished and the work is done for the freelancer or in case that a freelance worker does not ‘fit in the team’, it is much easier to end his contract and dismiss him (or her): no strings attached and no hassle with the agreements within the fixed labour contract afterwards.

In other words: in spite of the substantial hourly fees that a freelancer requires, they are a relatively cheap and sensible solution for many large employers, due to the fact that they require less administrative hassle and carry less legal and financial risks for large companies. This largely explains the unprecedented popularity of freelance knowledge workers in the financial, the legal and commercial services industry and other knowledge-intensive industries.

However, for the Dutch government the main problem of this widely used method of hiring labour lie in the fact that these freelance workers enjoyed a substantial (and to government eyes unjustified) fiscal advantage, in comparison with normal workers. The aforementioned fiscal favouring was initially aimed at small, “real” entrepreneurs (like owners of small retail shops, small business entrepreneurs or small, but independently working handicraft workers), in order to help them mitigate the risks of financial their independence.

Yet, these knowledge workers with their relatively limited operational risk, due to their “one hour, one invoice” (in Dutch “uurtje, factuurtje”) working method and their virtually non-existent, structural investments in their company or working inventory, also collected this fiscal advantage, at the expense of roughly 15% of their annual fiscal payments. This gave them a competitive edge in comparison with normal workers, as they could work roughly 15% cheaper than the fixed personnel.

And on top of that: in relatively recent years (the starting point lie roughly five years ahead in the 21st Century) many companies in the construction industry, but also in (cheap) commercial and logistical services, started to abolish their fixed contract workers. They exchanged them for workers on project-based freelance contracts, which were often  but not always – the same workers as before: also regularly “expensive”, Dutch workers were replaced by cheap workers from the Eastern European countries.

Many postmen, post-office workers, lorry drivers and construction workers with a good salary and a decent fixed contract with sufficient labour protection – that they hoped would last them until their retirement – were suddenly ‘forced at gunpoint’ (i.e. by firing and hiring them back) to give up their fixed labour contracts. 

They had to exchange it either for a freelance contract with a job guarantee for the duration of a project or period (i.e for a number of months or years) or even for an unfavourable piece-wages contract (hence: the postmen and post-office workers): “Accept it, or leave and be replaced by a cheap worker from Eastern Europe” was the explicit message of their former employers / new principals.

And that was when things started to turn really sour for the Dutch goverment. 

Not only were massive amounts of freelancers (recently over a million) nibbling away the tax advantages that were aimed at the real freelancers, but in many cases this money was in fact directly handed over to the large principals in the form of discounts on social security payments and reduced hourly fee rates.

On top of that, there were numerous cases in which freelance workers – especially the ones in very vulnerable positions – were abused by their principals, as these knew the vulnerability of their freelance workers and (ab)used that knowledge to get their hourly rates down. The victims of this modus operandi were moderately educated Dutch workers in simple, labour-intensive jobs, but also foreign workers who were hired and deployed against very unfavourable contracts. These people earned just enough money to live from, but had not enough money to build up a pension and maintain a decent sickness and disability insurance.

And so the Dutch government got stuck with a growing group of vulnerable, underpaid and under-insured freelance workers, who posed a growing risk for the stability within the Dutch labour market and society, under the pressure of the enduring financial crisis and the stalling economy.

Unfortunately, however, the Dutch government had the right vision upon this enigma, but found the wrong solution to solve the problem.

For the Internal Revenue Service in The Netherlands (i.e. Belastingdienst), there were traditionally quite strict differences between a real freelancer and a normal worker. A freelancer was someone without an official ‘boss’ or superior, without fixed assignments and without restricted labour hours; in other words, someone who was result-responsible, and not only committed to achieve the result.

Nevertheless, the responsibility traditionally lie with the freelancer himself, as it was established in the form of the ‘labour relation declaration” (i.e. the “VAR verklaring”), in which the freelancer stated that he was really an independent worker, who was in full control of his working activities and employment. Once this official document was handed out to the freelance professional, his principals were officially preserved against counter measures from the Dutch IRS.

However, in June of the year 2016 this VAR verklaring was replaced by the aforementioned DBA Law, that made the principal co-responsible for the freelancer being a truly independent worker and not a false self-employed: independent in name only, but in reality solely committed to his temporary employer and totally equal to a fixed contract worker. That is, without the social security and pension payments and without a social parachute against sickness or disability. 

And the most scary part of this new DBA legislation was, that the IRS could decide independently and reciprocally whether a freelance consultant had been a genuine freelancer indeed or a false self-employed in disguise.

And that is where the sh*t started to hit the fan...

Under the influence of anxious legal counsels, who were frightened for the financial consequences of their companies having “not-so-freelancers-who-could-prove-to-be-false-self-employeds-after-all” more and more companies started to abolish their freelance workers, as they posed a risk for the financial and legal wellbeing of the company. Those were banks like ABN Amro and ING, but also large commercial service providers like Brunel and many, many others.

And the more the Minister Lodewijk Asscher of Social Affairs and especially State Secretary Eric Wiebes of Tax Affairs waited with making official statements in order to take the unrest away caused by the law, the more anxious the large principals became. And when State Secretary Wiebes finally responded to the side-effects of the law a few months ago, his reaction was more akin to ‘extend and pretend’ than that he offered a real solution for the raised questions and concerns. 

Wiebes’ reaction was almost equal to the reaction of the pre-World War II Prime Minister Colijn in The Netherlands, when he was confronted with the mounting German danger: “Please go to sleep quietly. Everything will work out fine!”

In this case Wiebes asked everybody to “go to work happily, as everything would work out fine”. Most large principals and their lawyers, who remembered this infamous statement by Colijn, drew their conclusions and panicked.

And now, a few odd weeks ago, Wiebes responded in a debate in the Second Chamber of Dutch parliament that he would postpone the enforcement of the law until January 2018. This means that the Dutch IRS only warns companies and freelancers, who are allegedly breaking the law, but does not penalize them.  

This postponement did of course… nothing to take away the unrest.

As I stated earlier in this article, it is the reciprocity that has the large and smaller principals worried about. It is the knowledge that somewhere in the future companies can get penalized for presumed offences against this law, of which the rules are maintained by the IRS – which is both claiming party and primary judge in such cases – while there still is no jurisprudence at all. Now the large and small principals wait until the first presumed offender runs the gauntlett and starts a test trial against the IRS. That won’t now happen before January 2018, as only than the IRS will start to penalize alleged offenders.

This proves why this postponement of State Secretary Eric Wiebes is “a useless postponement of inevitable events”: events that have companies worried sick. 

Instead of taking away the source of uncertainty that companies and freelancers suffer from, he prolonged the uncertainty for a few months, while playing “extend and pretend”.

So even though this DBA law has been deployed with the best intentions, the results are catastrophic for too many freelancers and also too many principals, who are temporarily strapped for commercial and ICT professionals during the execution of their projects, but don’t want to have them on the payroll in a fixed contract. Even though I can’t prove that this law cost me my career as ICT freelancer, it did not help it certainly.

Therefore I am asking both the Minister and the State Secretary to abolish this law, as it is currently creating havoc in a labour market with over half a million successful and certainly not underprivileged knowledge workers.

Go back to the drawing board and create a better law that does protect the really underprivileged freelancers in very vulnerable positions, like low-educated construction workers, underpaid postmen and post-office workers or lorry-drivers and low-educated workers in the agricultural industry. Those are the people that need a strongly improved protective law, like this one intended to be. 

But you better leave a labour market to peace that does not need your intervention, as the freelance workers, as well as their principals have been able to work successfully and keep afloat for more than thirty years.

On top of that, State Secretary, you should do one more thing, even though the liberal-conservative VVD party will probably try to kill you for that:

Please make an end to the Starter Toeslag (i.e. a 'Starters' rebate) and the Zelfstandigentoeslag (i.e. a continuous tax deducation for freelance workers and small enterprise owners) for ZZP’ers (freelancers). Maintain both laws for retailers and owners of small businesses alone, as these people do have high starters' investments and run substantial financial risks in their daily operation.

Freelancers hardly have to make investments to execute their job, as they mostly have few more expenses than a laptop computer, a rental car and some representative clothes. They neither have expenses emerging from maintaining an office and staff nor do they have high investments to make in inventory and an administrative system. And when they are sufficiently employable and ‘fit for the market’ they start making money from day one of working.

This means that in a normally successful year, such freelancers make more than enough money to pay their dues, build up a pension and pay for a disability insurance, while still earning a decent profit to live from. And when they are not so successful for a longer period, they should really ask themselves whether they have found the right job to do.

And there is more.

When these two tax deduction sources are abolished for freelance commercial, legal, financial and ICT workers, this would make an end to the “false” competition with normal workers, who have to pay the full amount of taxes each year. Now the freelancers have a tax advantage of roughly 15% in comparison with normal workers. This discount can give them the edge in the minds of large principals. That is not fair for normal workers.

When these tax deductions are taken away from the aforementioned freelancers, this pushes principals to give them a fair remuneration for their efforts. A remuneration of which they can live in the long run, without tax subsidies. And also this makes normal workers cheaper in comparison. Then such principals can make a fair choice.

But the DBA Law? That one is dead-on-arrival! Even if you postpone the penalty phase until eternity, companies will leave the freelance professionals like a dead rat! And that is really a shame for my former colleagues in the freelance business. And an unnecessary one!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Should it be “Three strikes, you’re out” for the First Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans?

The Dutch social-democrat politician Frans Timmermans, the eloquent and multilingual ‘First Vice President of the European Commission’ and the European Commissioner for ‘Better Regulation, Inter-Institutional Relations, Rule of Law and Charter of Fundamental Rights’ is an intelligent man and a thoroughbred politician with many years of experience in The Netherlands and Europe. He has always been a diplomatic powerhouse, with many, many skills and an excellent understanding of English, French and German, but also f.i. the Russian language.

On the other hand, Frans Timmermans is also a very vain and inconsiderate man, who seemingly does anything to remain in the spotlights. And during the last two years it seems that he overplayed his diplomatic hand on a number of high-brow occassions. In fact: on so many occasions and in such serious matters, that I start to wonder whether a certain part of American criminal law should not apply to him, in his current career?

Timmermans started his “series of shame” with a statement in his speech before the Security Council of the United Nations, in the aftermath of the brutal attack upon the MH17 airplane in Ukraine.
In this speech, Timmermans openly speculated in a pathetic way, full of claptrap and unproven assumptions, that some of the victims had been alive and fully conscious in the moments between the deadly strike with a BUK surface-to-air missile and their impact on earth:

How horrible must have been the final moments of their lives, when they knew the plane was going down. Did they lock hands with their loved ones, did they hold their children close to their hearts, did they look each other in the eyes, one final time, in an unarticulated goodbye? We will never know”.

Later Timmermans admitted in a talkshow, broadcasted on Dutch national television, that he based this highly speculatory and sensationalist part of his UNSC speech  upon the fact “that one of the Australian victims had been found with an oxygen mask upon his mouth”. This particular circumstance was not only unproven – thus speculative – and factually wrong, but it also came as a shock to the relatives of the Dutch passengers, who were not informed of this news before.

The official report by the Dutch Safety Board, created after the MH17 attack, does claim that the oxygen masks of the airplane had indeed been deployed – probably after the air pressure had dropped dramatically due to the large holes created by the rocket shrapnel in the fusillage – and one of the oxygen masks had been found ‘strapped upon the neck and throat of a passenger’. Nevertheless, there has never been any solid proof that this particular passenger had indeed consciously used the oxygen mask during his last moments and still lived through his deadly drop to earth. The official report:

During the victim identification process in The Netherlands, one passenger was found with an emergency oxygen mask [...]. The strap was around the passengers neck and the mask was around the throat. No information was available about how this passenger was found at the wreckage site. The NFI examined the mask for biological traces and performed DNA tests. No DNA profiles could be obtained from the five samples taken. Therefore DNA analysis was not possible. The lack of DNA material can be explained by the mask having been left outside for a long time at high temperatures.

There were no usable fingerprints found on the mask. The high temperatures may have caused the quality of fingerprints on the mask to deteriorate.

This circumstance made that the part of Timmermans’ speech about “loved ones saying farewell to each other during their final moments” seemed rather “a figment of his imagination” than a just statement based upon sound investigations. Very human and fully understandable, but deadly for the credibility of this seasoned and professional political official, in such an explosive and potentially hazardous investigation.

Strike One!

In January of this year 2016, Eurocommissioner Timmermans stated out of the blue that “Roughly sixty percent of the refugees entering the EU could be considered economic refugees” – or in a popular expression among populists: “Fortune seekers”:

Frans Timmermans, who is the commission’s first vice president, told the broadcaster in an interview: ‘More than half of the people now coming to Europe come from countries where you can assume they have no reason whatsoever to ask for refugee status. More than half, 60%.’ In the main they are people from Morocco and Tunisia who want to travel to Europe via Turkey, NOS quoted him as saying. Timmermans bases his claim on the latest figures from European border agency Frontex which have not yet been officially published.

I – and with me some other people – made minced meat of this quite populist statement by Frans Timmermans, based on the same Frontex data, that Timmermans said to have quoted:

Using this available data of Frontex over 2015, I made a calculation based upon the mentioned countries in the Frontex data. In this calculation, next to Syria, Iraq and Eritrea as obvious war-struck countries, I also reckoned Nigeria and Afghanistan to be zones of war / massive public unrest. This, due to the extremely unstable situation in these countries with respectively Boko Haram and the Taliban planning and executing massive, bloody attacks on civillians. Therefore I consider people fleeing these countries as refugees of war and not as economic refugees.

In Q1 of 2015 24,000 of the 62,000 refugees came from countries that I consider as war-zones, or 39%. In other words: 61% of refugees can be considered economic refugees, which is in line with Timmermans’ statement.

However, in Q2 of 2015, more than 116,000 of the 170,000 refugees (or 68%) were refugees of war zones, of a total number of refugees that was three times as high as in Q1. In Q2 Timmermans’ statement was obviously not true.

And in Q3 of 2015 a staggering 450,000 of 617,000 (!) refugees were refugees of war zones, or 73%. Only 27% can be considered as economic refugees. This sheds a very unfavourable light on Timmermans’ statement.

Russia Today, the Russian international TV-station, claimed that 1 in 3 of Syrian refugees had in fact a fake Syrian passport and came in reality from another country.

Although I show this fact from the point of transparency, I personally doubt whether this can be true at all. This would mean that in Q3 alone more than 100,000 people would have obtained a fake Syrian passport (“just consider the sheer numbers of fake Syrian passports being around” – EL) in order to cross the European borders as fake Syrians. And it would mean that the falsifications would be so perfect that the Frontex officers would not be able to recognize those, which again seems very implausible.

However, even when this Russia Today news would be true indeed, the number of war refugees for Q3 would still be around 56%, which is still much, much higher than the 40% that Frans Timmermans claimed.

Again Frans Timmermans had been caught in making a statement full of claptrap and unsound data, obviously trying to put himself back in the spotlights again, for seemingly no other reason than boosting his own visibility and ego.

Strike Two!

The latest episode in this unfortunate series about the First Vice President of the European Commission came last Tuesday (November 15, 2016), when Frans Timmermans stated that “there were more and more indications that the Turkish religious leader Fettulah Gülen was indeed involved in the coup d’etat against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of July, 2016”.

According to Timmermans’ initial statement, he had based this accusation upon the results of investigations coming from the American intelligence community, even though a number of American institutions, when asked, denied this fact. Later, Timmermans diluted his initial statement, by telling he had received some signals, without disclosing who or which was the source of these ‘signals’. The Dutch newspaper Tubantia said this about Timmermans’ statement:

In an interview with the Flemish weekly magazine ‘Knack’, European Commissioner Frans Timmermans states to see ‘more and more indications’ for the actual involvement of the Gülen movement with the coup d’etat [against Turkish president Erdoğan] in Turkey, happening in July 2016. He is referring to ‘American research’. However, in the United States nobody knows what Eurocommissioner Timmermans is talking about. His statement provokes many surprised reactions among European officials.

The spokeswoman  of the European ‘Secretary of State’ Federoca Mogherini is “absolutely not amused” and the [Dutch] Second Chamber of Parliament asks upon which information this statement by Timmermans is based. When asked by Tubantia, the spokeswoman of Timmermans reacts on his behalf: “Timmermans was just speaking about indications which he saw and heard in the numerous diplomatic contacts that he has. Nothing more and nothing less”. Further she refused to comment.

Again Eurocommissioner Frans Timmermans seems to be lured – by his vanity and his deep-felt desire to stand in the spotlights – into making a statement, which he would better keep to himself, until he can present it, accompanied by sound evidence. By doing so once again, he did not only make unfounded accusations against the Gülen movement, seemingly based on hearsay and speculation, but he might put large groups of people inside and outside Turkey in jeopardy. Tubantia quotes a pundit with respect to Turkey, Joost Lagendijk:

Joost Lagendijk thinks that Timmermans’ statements are straightaway dangerous: “This is a highly sensitive subject. When you make such bold statements, based upon research that you allegedly know and the rest of the world doesn’t, this does not seem very sensible. I am surprised that someone in his position puts a spark in the powder keg like this”.

And Elsevier, a Dutch weekly magazine, states with respect to this event:

The Second Chamber reacts very surprised. “Why would Timmermans put the heat on in Turkey without any form of proof and in the middle of what seems to be a witch hunt”, according to D66 MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma on Twitter. Also MP Joël Voordewind of the ChristenUnie states that Timmermans should supply sound proof when he makes such statements. Chief editor Mehmet Cerit of Zaman reacts outraged: “Timmermans does not understand how harmful his statements can be. Now that things are easing up a little, he is putting out the fire with gasoline”. According to him ‘idiots’ can find affirmation and motivation in the statements of the First Vice President of the European Commision, to threaten, suppress or exclude others.

The painful truth is that Timmermans is again ‘caught with his pants down’, not learning any of the valuable lessons from the earlier mishaps that he made during the last two years.

Again Timmermans made a statement – seemingly out of vanity and an urge for public attention – that is either wrong and even untrue or ( at best ) based upon information that is not (yet) evidence-based and should not be shared with the general public until it is, as it can harm innocent people.

And again Frans Timmermans should have known better than doing so.

Strike Three!

In 28 states in the United States of America, there is some kind of the so-called Three Strikes Law.

This laws subscribes that habitual offenders of serious, but not lethal crimes, after being caught three times, should get a much harsher punishment than the crime itself should render under normal circumstances. In this way, these states want to protect society against such habitual offenders.

Although I am adamantly against such harsh regulation in criminal law and I am a strong advocate of reintegration and resocialization of ex-convicts, at the same time I am haunted by a sneaky suspicion that this will not be Frans Timmermans’ last mishap in the international diplomatic traffic, if nothing dramatically changes in his conduct.

It seems to these eyes that Timmermans’ ego is basically standing in the way of the required execution of his job. A job that should be in the interest of the whole EU and all of its citizens and should not act as a billboard for his personality and personal fame. 

Therefore I would like to ask: ‘Should it be “Three strikes, you’re out” for the First Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans?’. Well, should it?!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

The “Pax Americana” might fall into a coma with future president Donald Trump. Europe should therefore use the election of Trump as an opportunity to get its own act together

If you only look in the wrong direction
You might miss the train that hits you
Ernst Labruyère – 2016

The victory of president-elect Donald Trump and the unexpectedly large defeat of Hillary Clinton – at least with respect to the number of gained states – last Tuesday left the Dutch and European media even more in shock & awe than I already expected.

Afterward, the Dutch media licked their wounds and wondered “what the hell” went wrong and how they could have missed this successful grasp for power by someone, who they thought to be little more than a narcissistic windbag and a rude, discriminatory and extremely offensive populist with a big mouth and a very bad taste for everything.

As a matter of fact, most European media – as well as a lot of American media from Democratic strongholds, like New York, Washington and Los Angeles – missed the ‘cue’ and looked at the unfolding events in sheer amazement and cluelessness, like a rabbit looks in the headlights of a car: frozen and unable to respond.

One of the very few people, who predicted the outcome of these elections right, was Michael Moore, the stubborn, humouristic and ever-teasing filmmaker with the obstinate opinions and the flawless feel for the “zeitgeist” in his country. He did so in a “must-read” article that dealt with the seeds of Trump’s success in the American society. Most others missed the boat! It seemed that the Dutch, European AND American press had forgotten the dear lesson that the following slogan brings: “if you only look in the wrong direction, you might miss the train that hits you!”. 

An intelligent explanation for this professional blindness of – at least – the Dutch media for the unstoppable rise of Donald Trump, was printed in the Dutch newspaper Volkskrant in an Op-Ed by Thom Schelstraete, Student at Journalism:

Why the Dutch news consumer received a totally distorted image of the election contest, seems quite simple to me: journalists, correspondents and opinion makers don’t get in touch with those 59,692,978 republican voters often enough. Check only the map that the website “De Buitenlandredactie” (i.e. the foreign editors) published, upon the whereabouts of the Dutch America- correspondents.

The locations of all the Dutch
America-correspondents in the United States.
Picture courtesy of
Click to enlarge
Of the twenty-odd Dutch correspondents in the United States, the far majority lives in New York; four others live in Washington D.C. and a couple live in California. These are all states and cities that have voted Democratic for decades. Normally there is no correspondent in a traditionally republican state or a swing state whatsoever to assess the situation and the moods of the people living there.

That sums it up quite accurately.

It is the same as trying to understand the Dutch culture, by only visiting Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague and forgetting to ask for the general opinion in rural towns like Staphorst, Hengelo, Roermond and Vlissingen. 

The aforementioned Dutch towns and cities and their American counterparts are the places where people think radically different than in the mondaine and modern cities where most correspondents reside, irrespective of the fact whether they are in The Netherlands or the United States.

And now...?! Now is Trump president and Europe has to deal with it!

I am clueless about how Donald Trump will develop in the coming four years:
  • Will Trump turn into the Ronald Reagan of the 21st Century? A president who seemed initially very dangerous for peace and stability in the world, as well as for the environment, but who eventually helped to end the Cold War by developing good relations with Michail Gorbachev; 
  • Or will Trump, after speaking those soothing words immediately after his election, still turn into the narcissistic and egocentric monster that so many people see in him. A president, who plays every dirty trick in the book, in order to gain absolute power and who will abuse this unlimited power for his own wealth, status and influence alone? Perhaps a president, who will bring the world in a devastating war with... whoever?!
Suffice it to say that I almost can’t believe that Trump will sing a radically different tune after his very dirty, aggressive and nihilistic campaign! And the first signals of his behaviour and political opinions – a few days after the election night and the subsequent day – are indeed not encouraging.

Irrespective of what happens with Donald Trump in the coming years, it seems quite clear indeed that the United States – as founder and watchman of the “Pax Americana” – have supported this ‘American peace’ for the longest time.

Europe and the NATO cannot automatically count on it that the United States will always foot the bill and take the main responsibility for their security and prosperity, while European countries take this American role for granted and are even too frugal themselves to meet the “2% of GDP” threshold, regarding defence expenditure.

To the objective eye, the situation with respect to the Pax Americana was – although initially unavoidable – in fact quite absurd and very unhealthy for both the United States and Europe. 

It obviously failed to let both continents evolve as equal partners with respect to the defence of their own territory. The European naivety that the subsequent American governments would remain sponsoring this Pax Americana “for eternity and beyond” was almost pathetic, but the European countries enjoyed the party to the fullest, while it lasted.

While Western Europe thrived under the American army protection and developed into the economic powerhouse that it became eventually, the Americans themselves invested berzerk amounts of dollars in their defence system, as well in the development of more modern and decisive weapons for any combat situation and any military strategy. The American weapons arsenal therefore became gargantuous and totally out of proportion, with annual defence spendings that outranked all other countries in the world combined(!) in sheer numbers.

Europe slept like a baby under the American nuclear umbrella, when the world was still divided in two camps. Nobody blamed Europe for not being able to offer the same nuclear firepower as the USA, and for the US itself the role as ‘defender of last resort’ on behalf of the Western World was an obvious role, that they would not have had any other way.

However, when the Berlin wall fell and the “sole enemy for all NATO-countries” Russia (i.e. initially the Soviet Union and its vassal states) was replaced by a diffuse group of unbound, supranational enemies (i.e. Al Qaida and later IS) from Islamic countries, the situation became quite awkward for both the United States and a strategic partnership like the NATO. The NATO was simply not formed and trained to execute asymetric warfare and guerilla wars against non-formal, "stateless" enemies that didn't care about borders and civil casualties, like terrorist groups and unofficial religious armies in the Arab world.

On top of that, the allied (NATO) forces became involved in a number of territorial wars in former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, that were lightyears removed from the NATO’s raison d’etre (i.e the arms race against the Soviet Union and the defence of the Western Countries in peace- and wartime). 
Especially the war in Iraq seemed rather to enforce the personal, hidden agenda of George “Dubya” Bush, than to diminish the influence of terrorism in the Middle-East.

And in the end the NATO itself seemed more and more desperately looking for new member states, as well as an enemy to fight with; an enemy that would prolong the reason for its sheer existance and new member states that would act as new disciples of the post-Cold War NATO doctrines. 

Hence: the NATO’s flirtations in former Soviet states like Ukraine and Georgia and the organization’s happy smile and Cold War rhetorics when Vladimir Putin fired up Russia’s return to the top of the military food chain: “Hurrah, our old archenemy is back on track, so now we have a reason to further expand again and to do more military investments”.

All in all, the unbalanced defence investments in Europe and the United States, as well as the unclear future strategy and raison d'etre for the NATO in combination with its aggressive expansion strategy in Eastern Europe, were an accident waiting to happen. 

And now, in November 2016, all European countries are genuinely panicking when pondering about the implications of Donald Trump’s election to American president; totally not knowing what to do: 

“What the heck! He would not withdraw the American support to the NATO, wouldn’t he?! Ooh, that would be terrible! That would be really terrible, now Vladimir Putin is after our European scalps! 

And Trump even likes that guy, can you believe it? Oh my God, oh my God , OH MY GOD!!! We are in big, big trouble. Mother, help us!”

The odds that the cherished Pax Americana might sink into a long and deep coma, are substantial, with Trump as executive commander in chief of the American military forces. And the question will be, whether it might ever get out of it again. 

Perhaps the stupidoust thing is that Europe could have seen it coming from a long, long distance. President Barrack Obama already told Europe on a few occasions – in shrouded sentences – that the American support for the old continent would not last forever, when the European defence investments would not dramatically increase. However, the European countries chose to ignore that “message to the deaf”, still hoping that the Democrat governments of Barrack Obama and (later) Hillary Clinton would stand shoulder to shoulder with these frugal Europeans.

But now the worst thing happened: Donald Trump became president-elect. And Donald Trump is crystal clear about the American involvement in the NATO: they will form a good source for massive cutbacks and austerity. 

President Donald Trump defends the American territory and the American interests alone. And Europe... should look after itself.

But look at it from the bright side: perhaps Donald Trump should and could act as the “Cold Turkey” shock therapy that the inert European continent desperately needed, in order to get its own act together. Maybe it’s a weird idea, but the election of president Donald Trump could be a blessing in disguise after all for Europe.

The side-effects of this election paint in unambiguous pictures how vulnerable and uneasy the European stance has been since the end of the Cold War. And now – with Trump at the helm – Europe can’t simply rest on its laurels anymore and must act to not step into the pitfall of economic, political and military helplessness.

The worst that could happen now is that the European Union falls apart as a consequence of societal acrimony in the member states and inter-European quarrels between the same member states. 

The thought that 27 single member states are stronger and politically healthier than the European Union as a whole, is preposterous and should be abolished as soon as possible. And when this very Union does not function good, there should be more (hurried) initiatives to improve it and make it better and more democratic in the long run. A better functioning and more democratic union would sweep the wind away from the sails of the populist parties all over the European continent and the United Kingdom

The only thing that Europe can do, is act as a team to combinedly undertake the challenges of a more and more polarized world, in which not only Russia and China will be the obvious competitors (or enemies), but even our long-time ally, the United States.

Wake up... and smell the coffee, Europe. Or you will miss the boat... And don’t listen to the Pied Pipers that drag you in the wrong direction, where desperation and conflicts lurk for many of us.