In a new LISD Commentary, "The Situation and Upcoming Elections in Europe: A Brief Overview," Benedict Pöttering cautions that "the European Union has never witnessed its democracies and the EU itself under such attack and in vital danger—from inside and outside." This, he argues will shape the upcoming European Parliament elections in profound ways. "Europe has without a doubt gone through crises in the past, and it successfully overcame them," he observes. "This time the continent will require greater efforts to get through the current crisis, but if it does we will witness a stronger European Union than before."
The European Union has never witnessed its democracies and the EU itself under such attack and in vital danger—from inside and outside. Brexit, migrant crises, rising populism, euro zone debt crisis, national protectionism, and the frustration of the people with their political elite on the one hand; and Russian attempts to destabilize Europe as a whole via hacking and sponsoring extremist parties and serious trade tension with the US on the other. Due to these issues, Europe is more isolated and internally unstable as Brexit has powerfully demonstrated.
The main political pillars of the European Union are teetering. In France the center-right and the socialist parties are nearly marginalized. In Germany, where the political situation is the most unstable in 70 years, a far right/nationalistic party entered the parliament and is the largest opposition party. The Social Democrats are, like in France, facing possible extinction and are currently below 15% according to polls. The conservatives are also losing heavily and are down to 25% in polls. This means that the two main political pillars of post-war Europe, the Conservatives and Socialists (Social Democrats), are very much weakened or about to disappear—implying the rise of new political parties. Many of these are nationalist and extremist like we have seen in Italy, France, Greece, Sweden or Germany.
The European Parliament may end up with no majority for any traditional political camps after the next elections in 2019. If the new EP is not able to agree on and elect a European Commission and its president, nationalist and extremist elements will benefit and instability will be more likely to rise. Europe has without a doubt gone through crises in the past, and it successfully overcame them. This time the continent will require greater efforts to get through the current crisis, but if it does we will witness a stronger European Union than before.
About LISD Commentaries
The Liechtenstein Institute on Self-Determination supports a publication program that disseminates research conducted as part of Institute projects in a variety of formats. The published output from LISD includes policy briefs, issue reports, edited volumes, and book-length policy reports that are part of the Liechtenstein Colloquium Report series. The program also supports the e-publication of "LISD commentaries," op-ed style articles that provide analysis and insights to a broad range of current events and pressing policy issues. Past LISD commentaries have addressed issues ranging from counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan, the Arab Spring in Egypt, and Turkish elections to human trafficking, self-determination and modern diplomacy, and observations from fact-finding trips to Tehran and Kabul. LISD commentaries are written by LISD researchers, faculty associates, non-resident associates, and participants in LISD-sponsored lectures, panels, workshops, and colloquia.