Perhaps it’s a wonderful concept that has outlived its life cycle.
Perhaps it’s always been a horrible concept and its demise will be celebrated.
Perhaps it’s facing unexpected threats because of a populist wave but will retain its relevance.
Perhaps no one really knows the answer as to what the European Union will be in the coming months.
The EU began the year knowing that one of its key member states — the United Kingdom — was heading out the door. In mere days, it could see an anti-Muslim politician win the most seats in his country’s parliamentary elections. And in two months it could see another xenophobe come to power in another EU state.
These collective body blows could cause the EU to collapse. The only certainty if that were to happen: Russia would be salivating.
Sure, the rage of the populist remains strong this year. Europeans, like their American counterparts (or at least roughly 19.5% of the U.S. electorate), appear willing to toss aside a familiar, though possibly dated, world order in favor of a my-country-first mentality. Appealing? Yes. Risky? Absolutely.
The first indicator of whether populism is still strong enough to take down the EU comes next week. That’s when Dutch voters go to the polls; and as France 24 reports, the chances of that country’s hard-right politician winning the most seats in parliament is growing less likely. Perhaps more importantly,
Even if [Geert] Wilders manages to win more parliamentary seats than any other party with his platform of closing mosques, banning the Koran and shutting down immigration from predominantly Muslim countries, he will still need to form a coalition government. And with a dearth of parties willing to play ball with him, his chances of being able to govern are exceedingly slim.
That’s not the most robust defense of the EU, is it?
The French elections come next. With the socialist brand in tatters because of the disastrous leadership of Francois Hollande and the center-right in disarray with scandal upon scandal enveloping Francois Fillon (maybe there’s something about that first name in this election cycle?), there is a chance, albeit slim, that Marine LePen could become the next French president.
The International Business Times reports LePen, and her National Front party, wants
all religious symbols…banned, especially ones that are not “French.” Le Pen, whose far-right politics have been labeled racist by critics, said she is not starting a religious war, but rather wants to discourage immigration to France.
Le Pen has vowed to ditch the euro as France’s currency if elected and hold a referendum on the country’s membership of the European Union.
And speaking of the UK, as UK and EU representatives begin talking divorce, the Financial Times notes that country that wants out doesn’t have a strong hand to play.
The overriding objective must be to achieve the best possible deal on trade. The reality, however, is that the UK has a weak hand: without a deal, it would have its trade disrupted and relationship with the continent in tatters. Its counterparts know this. The UK does far more of its trade with the rest of the EU than the rest of the EU does with the UK. It has more to lose.
Perhaps worse is the news that the British economy is showing signs of slowing down.
So, to review: the UK is heading out of the EU (and heading into murky economic waters), and the Dutch and the French might follow.
The end of a great concept? The end of a terrible concept? Merely a phase? What will the story line for the EU be?