The European New Year

During the last weeks of 2018 European politics has reached a turning point. An array of events during this time leaves one in anticipation of a rather complex political climate. The rejection of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan, after having concluded negotiations at the European level, demonstrates a great amount of uncertainty about both the stability, and terms, of future relations between Great Britain and the European Union. In France, the crisis of the “giles jaunes” has come with a high political cost for President Macron, along with his acceptance of economic demands that will inevitably raise French public expenditures to levels higher than that of 3% of the public deficit, just when the Italian government has recently defied agreements for fiscal consolidation within the euro zone. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s prudent decision to name a successor in charge of the CDU cannot hide the fact that her position of leadership, one that has been greatly important for the European Union, is weakened. The emergence of populist parties, fed by a climate of uncertainty and unease present in wide segments of the European population, continues to condition political dynamics in Europe, and not precisely towards the right direction.

We should not fool ourselves regarding the difficulties of Europe’s situation, especially during a tendency towards economic deceleration. Also, it is more than likely that these transformations within the political and electoral climate inside the Union will be reflected in the coming European Parliamentary elections. This will be a reality that political, social and economic actors will have to confront. The demagogical narrative, maintained by both populism and nationalism, should be counteracted by a different virtue, one in which European citizens recuperate the meaning of the Union, starting with the first moments that the founding fathers brought peace and prosperity to Europe through means of democracy and freedom; an achievement that current generations take for granted, while history shows that it has been far from a constant within Europe. Still, that is not enough. It remains crucial to recuperate a hopeful but realistic outlook of how, when and with whom it is possible to advance within a process of integration. Not everyone can, or wants to, advance at the same pace. As a result, an open and sincere discussion on a range of diverse possibilities is vital in order to consider the future of the Union, as the Council President, Donald Tusk, has suggested.

We cannot forget how Brexit, as well as the constant defiance towards the political and economic consensus on which the stability of the Union lays, both send the message that the European Union is not the only, nor the best, option for the future. In order to promote their agenda, populism and nationalism—historic European evils—look to delegitimize the Union. Nevertheless, those that insist upon promoting such discredit will have to offer a better alternative for its citizens, and for Europeans in general as well. An idyllic Great Britain outside of the European Union portrayed by Europhobes simply will not exist, and neither will there be a general improvement of welfare and prosperity by fracturing basic compromises that inherently maintain the stability of the euro.

Director for the Foundation for Analysis and Social Studies, FAES