Europe: One step forward, two steps back

The recent elections for the European Parliament have stunned traditional political parties in several countries, and represent a serious setback in the process of the continent´s unification. Since time goes by

We start getting old


I do not portray as I used to

In every conversation

Every kiss, every hug

A shred of fear always prevails.

Mercedes Sosa

In the recent European elections the winner was fear. In several countries – among them some of the most important- anti-European parties got between 21 and 28% of the votes. Except for Greece, these parties are from the extreme right, which in Europe have been and still are nationalist. How do we explain this slap on the face of pro-European governments from the different countries, and the bureaucracy of the European Union in Brussels? To answer that question we must first get some facts straight.

First of all, these results give way to a second phase of the European crisis. The first phase was the global economic downturn that begun with the financial crisis and its American epicenter, six years ago. The response of the European governments and bureaucracy was cruel and disastrous, which was: the imposition on behalf of the strongest actors of a draconian regime of economic growth’s restriction upon the weakest.

As we have pointed out in several Opinion Sur´s articles and in my e-book “Why Europe?”1, both the crisis´ diagnosis and the way it was handled were wrong. They generated recession and unemployment at levels that hadn´t been reached since the Great Depression of the thirties. After several burdensome years of suffering, the same governments and the same Eurocrats from Brussels congratulate each other today for stabilizing the financial situation. But at what social cost have they managed to do so?

That price is high and clear: it means a permanent economic stagnation, resembling Japan’s 20 ¨lost¨ years (the difference being that Japan is a compact and homogeneous society and Europe isn´t). It also means a huge loss of future. Bear in mind that in countries such as Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece, youth unemployment is over 40%.

If young people represent the future, then the European future is seriously compromised. Young people today will soon cease to be (¨we start getting old¨ as the song says). And then what? What will the future of their own children be, this is, the future of the future in a Europe that´s smothered all hope?

Therefore it must not come as a surprise that, at the exact moment in which Brussels´ Eurocrats congratulate each other for having ¨stabilized¨ the situation, a crisis that is no longer economic but political bursts. Indeed, same as in 25th May 1810 in Buenos Aires, today the European people ¨wants to know what it´s about¨.

Political revolutions (from the left as well as from the right) take place not in the midst of a severe economic crisis, but at the time of its conclusion. This sociological truth was originally enunciated by Alexis de Tocqueville in his analysis of the French Revolution. That historical revolution burst after Luis XVI´s government had stabilized the French financial crisis (partly caused by costly military campaigns). That was when protests spread. The revolution had begun with a reaction from the aristocratic right-wing which demanded the king to open the parliaments. Once this was achieved, the aristocracy lost control of the situation and gave way to revolutionary movements by other social classes, which ended up in the guillotine.

The Europe that´s now crumbling politically does not represent, as Brussels´ technocrats expect, a prosper and peaceful future with a strong unity, it rather represents, same as prior to the French revolution, an ancient regime, ruled by a collective administration that is as baffled and politically incompetent as Luis XVI´s group of ministers.

The European Union, that up until yesterday believed to have taken one step forward, is currently taking two steps backwards. Therefore, we must expect a setback in the process of European unification, in favor of a ¨Europe of nations¨ with hesitant (o UNSTEADY) national States facing a union project that has been rejected by large sectors of the population and alternative models that they are incapable of setting in motion at a national level. Immersed in doubt, traditional States and political parties will lose influence to more extreme parties and secessionist movements, somewhat like Scots and Catalans.

From a demographic point of view, Europe is ¨getting old¨. What´s worse, it neglects its young people. At the same time, it must face a migratory wave from very different countries (especially from Northern Africa) which undergo an opposite movement, of demographic boom. This explains the xenophobic component of political movements that are picking traditional European parties apart.

Meanwhile, the geopolitical axis keeps moving east. Let´s reflect a little upon these figures:

Nowadays in Europe there are approximately 25 million unemployed people. For the European Union the figure is catastrophic: it represents a population that amounts to 5 Finlands or 5 Norways. While failing to offer perspectives to its own citizens, each year Europe must incorporate millions of refugees and immigrants who reach its shores from countries undergoing civil wars (during this summer alone the arrival of 800.000 African refugees to Sicily is foreseen). But from the geopolitical angle of an East that becomes more and more powerful, those 25 million people that cannot find a job in Europe can fit into a single Chinese city.

The European Union faces the spectrum of a dismal future: it wants to realize the dream of a power-Europe, but is now at risk of ending up in a museum-Europe.

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