Hot Topics In European Politics
Understanding The Political Climate
Have you ever looked at European politics and struggled to wrap your head around it all?
At any one time, there are 100 mitigating factors that won’t let you understand it anyway. It’s a melting pot of culture, beliefs and complex relations. To look at it as one universal emblem of solidarity would be incorrect and frankly, a little bit naive. What we do want to help you with is the breakdown of how politics is run and hopefully help you reach the high echelons of governance if you so wish.
Recognise And Understand The Growth Of Populism
We toss that word around a lot; populism. At its origin, it's about looking after the concerns of the people - the people who may feel oppressed by the elite members of society. For a long time in some countries, those elite members were the politicians in power - thus the rise of populism. An essential bid to snuff out ‘old style’ and stale politics and replace it with a newer, more vibrant, grassroots-oriented system.
The rise of populism in Europe was a sticky headline with many newspapers last year and it made perfect sense given the rapid growth of certain parties in countries such as Austria and the Czech Republic. With this growth came some kind of fear and uncertainty, some sides immediately cast aspersions on the agenda of what was deemed populist politics and wished for them to be pushed back into the background, but why?
I think it is because populism has become increasingly difficult to define. It can sit on the left or right-hand side of politics. The Economist recently highlighted that euro-populism has been on the rise for decades - “According to a new study, the populist vote in an EU state was, on average 8.5% in 2000. In 2017, it was 24%."
We can call Brexit a populist move - it was a vote by the people. We can claim that the rise in Sinn Fein as a potential coalition partner for other Irish parties as a populist movement, we can even declare the Five Star Movement in Italy, who are tipped to top the polls in Elections in May as an example of populism. All various degrees of populism.
Are You Enigmatic Enough?
It’s not all about being on trend with populism, of course, to win elections you also have to set trends. We have seen a sudden batch of young, radical, mysterious leaders pop up across mainland Europe over the last 18 months. These leaders, mainly men, align themselves with more well known global leaders - they are all friends with Justin Trudeau, haven’t you noticed? We are captivated by their personal lives more so than their policies and they capture our attention by the way they deliver messages rather than the message itself. It's definitely something to keep an eye looking ahead to more elections in Europe this year.
Consider Your Stance On The European Union
Another thing that we need to understand in order to operate successfully in Europe is your opinion on the EU. Are you pro or anti? We talked earlier in the week on our Instagram story about the rise of Albert Rivera and the Ciudadanos party in Spain who have risen through the ranks quite rapidly thanks to what has become known as the Catalonia Effect. They are a party led by a youthful, engaging pro-Europe figure and it was this pro-Europe and anti-separatist view which has gained them considerable popularity among the Spanish a year out from elections. Macron gained a boost in the French Presidential election due to his pro-Europe stance but this isn’t the case all over Europe. Even 10 years on from the Economic crisis, the threat to the EU is still prevalent. Many countries like Austria and the Netherlands feel they have suffered incredibly as a result of EU solidarity. One of the main reasons for the prevalence in Euroscepticism is the view on immigrants.
Eastern-European states have seen a larger rise of Euroscepticism since the continent’s migration crisis in 2015, sparking long-running battles between far-right populist movements and the bloc. The Czech Republic, along with Poland and Hungary, are likely to be sued by the European Commission in the bloc’s European Court of Justice for their refusal to host asylum seekers. Adding to this, the 2017 Czech legislative election brought into Parliament three Eurosceptic parties. The soft Eurosceptic Civic Democratic Party (ODS) is the second largest, the new hard Eurosceptic Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) is the fourth largest and the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSČM) that is largely regarded as a Eurosceptic party is the fifth largest party in the Czech parliament. Unless the EU make more of an effort to consider the views of parliaments outside the big 2 (France & Germany) they could see the continued growth of Euroscepticism.
Due to the European landscape being so vast, having every country agreeing on policy was never going to be easy. While it makes for fascinating viewing from the outside, the struggle to keep the EU operating effectively is a continuous uphill battle. The long and drawn out exit of the UK from the stage is still worth following and internal issues in governance in countries such as Germany are very important when it comes to the long-term stability of the Union. Looking ahead to the spring, we will be turning our attention to Italy and the anti-establishment Eurosceptic Five Star Movement.