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Change We Can Believe In?

June 11, 2014
by
Europe vs nationalism 3

Courtesy of Statista “Chart of the Day,” http://www.statista.com/

The recent European elections have struck a blow to the self-assurance of the EU’s leaders and stuck a wrench in the plans for a “greater Europe” by confirming Europeans’ growing commitment to far-right, anti-EU sentiment. Eurosceptic parties gained shockingly comprehensive wins throughout Europe, sounding off alarm bells in Brussels. While the success of the Danish People’s Party and the UK’s UKIP party might not seem incredibly surprising considering the traditionally high Euroscepticism within the countries they were campaigning, the success of France’s far-right National Front is a shock to many. What was once viewed as an extremist party on the fringe of French politics has now gained impressive wins in the European elections—and this in a country which, along with Germany, has historically been considered a leader of the European Union.

 
Although pro-EU parties still have the upper hand, the huge leap in support for far-right parties has the EU’s leaders justifiably concerned. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande are treading a bit more carefully, conceding that EEuro elections righturopean politicians should concentrate more on what is most important—i.e. repairing the economy—and resolve issues of bureaucratic red tape. Although Merkel and Hollande still seem to believe that Euroscepticism will fade as soon as the European economy begins to improve, there is nevertheless much talk of the general need for ‘change.’ This has especially been the platform of Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, a young upstart whose party was one of the only truly successful pro-EU parties in this year’s elections. However, much as has been the case with U.S. President Barack Obama, while the talk of ‘change’ is certainly appealing and, at its core, absolutely necessary, it nevertheless remains relatively vague and has an air about it of the unfeasible.

 
While pro-EU politicians might genuinely want to fix the Union’s glaring problems, their calls for ‘change’ sound as of yet naively optimistic. As the American case has proven over the past six years, the promise of ‘change’ must be accompanied by some concrete results. Otherwise, more and more voters will become dissatisfied and disillusioned and the far-right Euro elections believewill be there waiting for them with open arms, ready to feed into their concerns. Considering the bleak results of the recent European elections, the EU’s leaders cannot risk throwing around empty promises. One hopes that the results of this year’s elections will act as a vivid eye-opener for Europe’s leaders and lead to greater cooperation across national and ideological borders in an effort to bring Brussels’ ideal of ‘Europe’ in line with the people’s vision of ‘Europe.’ If not, the European Union will quickly descend down the path of seemingly irreparable ideological cleavages and disillusionment that America has recently taken to with such great determination. It seems that both sides of the pond could stand to learn from each other’s challenges in a time in which cooperation across ideological and national divides is becoming increasingly crucial to the happiness and wellbeing of all.

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