Wednesday, December 30, 2015

CAS MUDDE - 2015 and the struggle for Europe’s core

2015 was the year that everyone could see that the European emperor is not (not any longer) wearing clothes. Worse, the emperor didn’t even deny that he was naked! 

Devastating terrorist attacks, months of insecurity about the Eurozone, huge electoral victories for populist parties, an unprecedented refugees crisis... there is no doubt that 2015 was Europe’s annus horribilisBoth the projects of the European Union and of European liberal democracy were challenged in ways we have not seen before. The real question for the coming year(s) is: was 2015 just a freak year, soon to be forgotten, or a transformative year, shaping European politics for years to come?

Whatever the answer to that question will be, 2015 was the year that everyone could see that the European emperor is not (not any longer) wearing clothes. Worse, the emperor didn’t even deny that he was naked!

Sure, European integration and liberal democracy had been challenged before. The 1992 Maastricht Treaty did not only create the foundations of the current European Union, but also gave birth to a slow but steady growing Euroscepticism. Populist parties have been stable features of some European countries since the late 1980s. And counter-terrorism has undermined liberal democracy at least since 9/11.

The months-long negotiations between the Eurozone and the new Greek populist government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was probably the most traumatic period for Europe’s left. Many progressives saw in Tsipras the man to end austerity within Europe, but soon found out that they had both overestimated Tsipras’ competence and underestimated the EU’s stubbornness. As a consequence of the Greek drama, many on the left lost their faith in the European project and in the left populist alternative.

As soon as a Grexit was prevented, Europe was faced by a refugees crisis that saw one million refugees, mostly from Syria and Afghanistan, made their way to Europe. Frustration over weak external borders and no longer existing internal borders led to a strong anti-EU response within Europe’s right. This was worsened by the terrorist attacks in Paris, particularly when irresponsible journalists and politicians claimed a link between the terrorists and the refugees. Across the continent mainstream and populist politicians called for the suspension of the Dublin Regulation and the Schengen Treaty, two absolute pillars of the European Union and of the fundamental values of European integration.

What stands out in both crises is the complete ideological vacuum at the heart of the European political elite… read more: