THE RETURN OF OLD REACTIONS?
Will the results of the European elections be characterized by the great victory of the extremes? Will the economic crisis push European citizens to turn towards simplistic solutions from the past? Within its member states, the EU can see the return of nationalistic fallback movements.
The flourishing economy of growth did not erase these old derivatives, making the political Union appear more than desirable.
Europe was paralyzed for fifty years by both the Cold War and the occupation of Eastern Europe by the USSR. After the fall of the Soviet model, came the explosion of Yugoslavia, this conflict threw the south-east of the Balkans into a fratricidal war for more than ten years. NATO and the international community had to intervene to put an end to this tragedy. This war was sparked by the use of religious and ethnic differences by politicians who sought to reach their own personal goals.
Within the EU, the return of nationalism on a political level can often be explained by the fear for the loss of national identity due to the expansion of Europe as well as globalization. The lack of politicization of the European debate over the last few years helped fuel these fears. Thus the proposal of a political vision for Europe is urging, a grand and noble social project.
The phenomenon of the return of nationalism has nothing to do with the extremism of the 1930’s. To begin with, these movements did not appear in the industrial cities hit by unemployment but rather in the prosperous region, home to the bourgeoisie. There we could find low level executives and employees of dynamic SME’s (Small and Medium sized Enterprises) or employees of the tourism sector, which represents a lucrative economic activity. Already, this “neo poujadism” saw only waste and exploitation of its labor in the redistribution on a state or European level. At the time, “the extreme right exploited the egoism of a wealthy electorate which sought only to defend its privileges and which was not at all concerned with solidarity.” (Vincent de Coorebyter, director of the centre for research and sociopolitical information.)
These movements were born during an economically prosperous age. What would happen to us if the crisis we are currently undergoing was to endure? What if the EU did not meet the expectations of its member states? An outburst?
To begin with we must respond in a collective, European way to this crisis with a very pedagogic explanation of the decisions taken on behalf of the citizens and parallel to this, create a desire for Europe: Europe must make us dream!
How to make people dream in order to make them join?
“An important psychological factor also contributed to the imperial power: no assertion of identity could compete with the civis romanus sum (“I am a Roman citizen”), source of pride and of aspiration for many. Finally conceded to the subjects of non-Roman birth, the coveted status of “citizen” expressed a cultural superiority which made expansion of the empire a true mission. Wherever it was imposed, the law of Rome found its legitimacy and encouraged those who lived by it to wish for assimilation in the imperial structures. The cultural superiority, obvious to the eyes of the Masters and acknowledged by the subjects, reinforced the established order.” (Zbigniew Brzezinski: le Grand Echiquier, l’Amérique et le reste du Monde).
This Empire, one of the historical cradles of Europe, proposed to the world a federative civilization project. The European Union must, for the sake of its member state citizens, elaborate a new society so as to federate, without reviving an imperial vision. A social humanistic project could fuel the creation and development of a constitution. It is an opportunity to seize for our continent in a world that is becoming multi-polar. There are multiple development and social models and the primary objective is to co-exist comfortably. The European Union could propose a project that would combat instability (essential in times of crisis!), that would respect the environment and that would allow each citizen to indulge in their own search for happiness. We must admit, in a pragmatic way, that the market economy is the only model that works, even though, as the current crisis has shown us, we must rethink it so that the economy serves man and not the other way round.
Let us hope that the destiny of the EU will differ from that of an ancient Greek League which, once the Persian peril gone, collapsed.
We have all the means necessary to become a great power, able to influence in the future of the world and thus our own future. We are still missing the political will; the crisis can be a chance to impose this political will. The Lisbon Treaty is necessary to advance in this success story which is the European construction. Furthermore, a constitution would be the zenith of this long road, it would have the same strength and would symbolize the same as the constitutions proposed in France in 1791 and the United States in 1787.
"If to please the people, we offer what we ourselves disapprove, how can we afterwards defend our work? Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair. The event is in the hand of God." – George Washington. Comments at the First Continental Congress on May 14, 1787 at Philadelphia .
This desire for Europe must be one of the major objectives of the political debates concerning the European elections; it will create the necessary tools for the construction of a fully-fledged European Union, and effectively oppose all types of extremism.