It may seem bizarre that two far-right, nationalist politicians — Marine Le Pen of France and Geert Wilders of the Netherlands — have reached across borders to form a Pan-European group dedicated to weakening the European Union. Their aim is a transnational political alliance that would compete in the May elections for the European Parliament; once in power, they would cooperate to try to rein in the power of Brussels.
But in fact, since the early 20th century, Europe’s far-right nationalists have often united in search of an “other” to oppose, exclude, resist, restrict or oppress — historically, minorities like Jews, homosexuals, the disabled, Roma, Marxists and, more recently, Arabs, Africans and Asians.
What makes the European Union so appealing as a target?
The answer may (and should) shock complacent left-leaning and center-right Europeans alike. “Europe,” as an idea and a community, has weakened. The European Union’s byzantine governance makes it seem unaccountable. Its leaders — notably José Manuel Barroso of Portugal, the president of the European Commission, the union’s executive body; Herman van Rompuy of Belgium, the president of the European Council, which comprises the 28 heads of government; and Catherine Ashton, the union’s top diplomat — are little known outside of elite circles.
Soaring youth unemployment, stringent fiscal policies, German-led monetary clout and the presence of Muslim immigrants have created a perfect target for the likes of Mr. Wilders and Ms. Le Pen, who blame outside forces like the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Union for their nations’ woes. Conveniently, they overlook structural problems like the costs of social welfare and pension programs, declining birthrates, aging populations, stagnant labor productivity and intensifying competition from the economies of Asia and Latin America.
The European Union must reclaim its reputation as a champion of the people. Its leaders should abandon their embrace of technocratic solutions, their support for the banking sector and their stoic austerity. Unless they deliver more jobs, and more of a sense that citizens are in charge, the far right will only keep growing.
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It is the writer, Andrea Mammone, a lecturer in modern European history at the University of London, who analyzes the situation wrong, or incompletely.
First, the tendency of all humans on the planet (not just Europeans since the start of the 20th century) to form groups and oppose the famous “other” is clearly hard-wired into the human brain. After all, it must have served an evolutionary purpose: those who could co-operate with their own group lived to leave offspring that those who blindly joined forced with the “other” did not. In fact, the same behaviour can be seen clearly in other primates, and in many other species.
So the author is raging about human nature and why he does not like the way it is. The Communists tried that, too. They tried to force their new and improved behaviour onto an unwilling population. When it did not work, the governments were forced to become more and more totalitarian. I already see signs of authoritarian behaviour in Europe to “fix” hard-wired human nature yet again.
It is true that humans are more intelligent than other primates and can choose to co-operate with the “other” if it advantageous. Thus, at least in North America (my only experience), a city like Vancouver seems to get on fairly well despite a large number of immigrants.
But not all immigrants are equal. In particular, Muslim immigrants are unpopular world-wide. Theirs is truly a religion that is serious about taking over the planet, by force if necessary. And they are very prone to forming a parallel society, with their own special rules. Recipe for resentment.
Due to geography, most of Vancouver’s immigrants are not Muslims and most of Europe’s are. I would suggest this makes a vast difference.
Maybe a day will come when Muslims will take religion less seriously. But I see no sign of it yet.