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Fewer Europeans Trust the EU

November 26, 2013 in Economics

By Dalibor Rohac

Dalibor Rohac

Aspecter of populism seems to be haunting Europe. While the trend is not winning elections yet, London Financial Times‘ Gideon Rachman fears that “anti-establishment radicals do not need to capture the position of president or prime minister to gum up the system. Even if traditional pro-EU centrists continue to lead most national governments in Europe, their room for maneuver at EU summits is greatly reduced if populist parties are making big gains back home.”

The growing disconnect between European electorates and political elites is not a rhetorical trope invoked by populists, it is depressingly real.”

It is certainly the case that a diverse bloc of anti-establishment political groups have been gaining momentum throughout the European continent since the beginning of the debt crisis in the eurozone’s periphery. In last month’s election in the Czech Republic, two new populist parties recorded striking successes, displacing the traditional incumbent parties — most notably the right-wing ODS, which once led the country’s transition from a planned economy to capitalism.

It is true that neither of the new Czech parties has an explicit anti-EU bent — perhaps because the Czechs have consciously saved themselves a lot of trouble by opting to stay out of the eurozone. However, it is difficult to find any other common trait among most of the emerging populist groups across Europe than the idea that something has gone wrong with European integration. Ranging from Marine Le Pen’s Front National and Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom, through the United Kingdom Independence Party and similar organizations, to extreme leftists like Syriza in Greece, they differ widely in their policy platforms, membership demographics and their attitudes toward immigrants or multiculturalism.

To the extent the new euroskeptic populism is going hand in hand with xenophobic, anti-immigrant or nationalistic ideas — even in some of the parties that label themselves as “free market” — it is only natural to share Mr. Rachman’s concerns. However, regardless of what one thinks of the true nature of the new euroskeptic forces, the broad centrist consensus that is driving Europe’s journey toward a political union is under attack for very good reasons.

After all, it was the political mainstream across Europe that elevated the European integration project to the status of a new faith. More and deeper integration has been long seen as desirable by anyone claiming respectability in political circles on the Continent. Yet, while European economic integration has certainly had many merits, over time the lack of critical thinking about the EU led to hubris and …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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