8th Aug 2022


'The EU is like Star Wars' Old Republic'

  • The EU does not yet have its Darth Vader, but political scientist Csaba Toth says the EU does resemble the Old Republic, which suffered a power grab by Vader's master Palpatine (Photo: W_Minshull)

Not many people would associate the Hollywood blockbuster, Star Wars, with the Nazis’ rise to power, or describe the evil Sith lord, Palpatine's ascent to become emperor of the Star Wars universe in “Weimarian” terms.

But that’s exactly what Csaba Toth, a liberal Hungarian political scientist is doing in a series of lectures in Budapest, which he is also turning into a book, to be published in Hungary in spring.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • Yoda (left) and Juncker (Photo: Jonathan Powell and

Toth relates politics to science fiction films and literature in the hope that, via analogies to pop culture, which is free of political prejudice, students become better equipped to decode undemocratic tendencies, expose populism and stand up for democracy.

"The rules of politics are universal. It revolves around power and essentially means a struggle of interests," Toth told EUobserver in an interview.

Old Republic under threat

While Toth does not normally focus on the EU, he expanded his method to Europe in the hope of inspiring debate.

Star Wars provides quite a few lessons for the bloc, mostly on how not to do politics.

Toth says the EU resembles the Old Republic, portrayed in Star Wars' prequel trilogy.

The Old Republic was first upset by separatist movements, then fell under the control of the evil Palpatine chancellor, who, citing external threats, skilfully centralised power, dismantling democratic institutions, while the Jedi Council, tasked with protecting the Republic, was kept in the dark.

Of course, “there are no Palpatines in the EU, and the populists want to dismantle the bloc, rather than turn it into a galactic dictatorship,” Toth noted. But separatism could spell trouble: In the galaxy far, far away it eventually led to the dismantling of the Old Republic; in the EU today, it could lead to the UK breaking away.

“If the separatist domino starts to fall, it could lead to unforeseen consequences, no matter what the original intention of the separatists, or the UK, were,” Toth said.

He said the European Commission often behaves like the Jedi Council, which has big ideas about itself, but does poorly in convincing others - in the EU’s case, the member states.

They are also alike in the sense that they prefer making deals behind closed doors.

“[Jedi chief] Yoda never lays out his arguments openly against Palpatine, nor does [EU Commission head] Juncker against, say, Poland, although public political pressure works better than back-door bickering,” Toth said.

‘Better than history’

The self-confessed sci-fi “geek” tells his students how a perceived outside threat can be used as a populist tool to concentrate power.

"In Star Wars it means rebellious galaxies; in our world it [the perceived threat] could mean immigrants, Muslims, or in Hungary, the Roma minority," Toth said.

Toth calls Palpatine's rise to power in the Star Wars saga a "classical Hitler-style road from democracy to dictatorship".

"Like in the weak German Weimar Republic in the 1930s" Toth says, "the democratic institutions are maintained symbolically for a while in Star Wars too."

He thinks that basic political concepts, like ideology and democracy, are easier to explain through examples from popular culture.

"Students know these stories better than history," he told EUobserver.


How to build an illiberal democracy in the EU

With Brussels increasingly worried by Poland, we take a look how Hungary's Viktor Orban created a template for dismantling democratic checks and balances inside an EU state.

Draghi's grip on power finally unravels

Italy looked set to lose its highly-respected prime minister Mario Draghi on Thursday, after his attempt to relaunch his grand coalition government ended with right-wing parties joining the populist Five Star Movement (M5S) in deserting him.

Italy back in chaos, as Draghi quits over 5-Star snub

Italy was plunged into fresh political turmoil on Thursday as prime minister Mario Draghi announced his resignation after a key ally within his grand coalition government boycotted a parliamentary vote.


Albania's post-communist dream has lessons for Ukraine

Comparisons between post-communist Albania and current-day Ukraine are fascinating — and make many pertinent parallels. Ukrainians have a similar determination to belong to "the rest of Europe" as Albanians.


Finally, the victims of Utøya got a memorial

A legal battle between locals on the one hand and the state and the labour youth organisation on the other side postponed the inception of the memorial in remembrance of the victims of Anders Behring Breivik.

News in Brief

  1. Rhine river on the brink of closure for shipping
  2. Moldova sees 'prelude to war' with Russia-backed forces
  3. Taliban preventing Afghan evacuations to Germany
  4. Amnesty regrets 'distress' caused by Ukraine report
  5. Energy companies warn UK gas exports to EU are contaminated
  6. EU set for clash over rules on political adverts
  7. Three grain ships due to leave Ukraine on Friday
  8. EU on track to reach gas-storage November target

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Latest News

  1. Italy poised to elect far-right rulers
  2. UN chief demands access to nuclear plant after new attack
  3. Greek PM embroiled in spyware scandal
  4. How Ukraine made the case anew for an EU army
  5. 'We must take back institutions', Orban tells US conservatives
  6. Putin must lose Ukraine war, Nato chief says
  7. Let Taiwan's democracy shine brighter
  8. Droughts prompt calls to cut water use amid harvest fears

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us