Thread: Europe looks for The Avengers
Users Browsing this Thread
There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)
- 05-07-2012, 11:55 PM #1
Europe looks for The Avengers
The results of the French and Greek elections signal a popular mood that alien forces – markets, immigrants, trade – need to be defeated. But the reality isn't like The Avengers film.
By the Monitor's Editorial Board / May 7, 2012He hardly resembles one of the heroes in “The Avengers.” Yet the president-elect of France, François Hollande, is like many leaders today. He’s been called upon to defeat alien forces.
In the eyes of French voters on Sunday, those foreign forces are the demanding financial markets and Germany’s dictate for austerity to solve Europe’s debt crisis.
In Greece, too, after its own upset election Sunday, new leaders are expected to protect the Greeks from an invasion of foreign demands for radical reform of their economy.
Outside forces are indeed pushing politicians these days to spend more time dealing with external issues. And they are adding up: climate change, trade competition, illegal immigration, terrorism, the Internet’s impact, energy supply woes, and so on.
With so many adverse trends, each country is prone to see the rise of groups trying to fend them off. In the first round of the French presidential election, for example, about 1 in 3 voters cast ballots for candidates who are anti-euro and antiglobalization – from the left and right.
But as Britain’s Europe minister, David Liddington, says, “You can’t be ‘little Europe’ and expect to somehow be immune from global trends.”
In a few countries, leaders try to act like an Avenger and fight off foreign forces – by exploiting them. In Argentina and Bolivia, leaders recently took control of private foreign resource companies in order to soak them. China, long fearful of foreign domination, extracts much in technological know-how from companies that invest in the Chinese market. In Russia, Vladimir Putin took over the Russian oil giant Gazprom rather than rely on foreign oil firms and used the profits to appease restless Russians – and keep himself in power.
Politicians need to be upfront with solutions to their people’s plight and resist the idea that they are victims of a changing world. Mr. Hollande fell into that trap on the campaign trail, telling one audience: “The French will not allow their future to be determined by the pressure of markets or finance.”
Yet he now plans to meet very soon with Germany’s leader, Angela Merkel, and ask for her help. He will appeal to the European Central Bank to loan money to troubled eurozone governments like his.
Gerhard Schröder opinion: Don't strangle Europe with austerity
Blaming outsiders for one’s woes while not making the necessary internal reforms is a neat trick – for a while. Eventually, however, France, Greece, and other European countries that need reform will face the music. They have models. Ireland, Spain, Slovakia, and other European Union countries have taken on austerity while also creating the conditions for new business.
They aren’t looking for an Avenger to slay the outside monster.
Europe looks for The Avengers - CSMonitor.com
Last edited by Dixie; 05-08-2012 at 12:07 AM.Englishmen, who have no right in this kingdom of France, the King of Heaven sends you word and warning...depart into your own country... Joan of Arc.
- 05-07-2012, 11:57 PM #2
The true winner of French election? Europe’s Right
Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party, which hasn’t ousted an incumbent president in more than three decades, has every reason to celebrate victory over Nicolas Sarkozy. But the true winner of this election isn’t France’s left; it’s Europe’s far right.
The reason is simple. In this election, France’s establishment has embraced Islamophobic ideas to an unprecedented degree. Right-wing populism, once a fringe phenomenon, has been conquering the bastions of Europe’s political mainstream with frightening speed; even so, most observers failed to predict the extent to which anti-immigrant themes would shape this campaign. It’s difficult to know whether Europe’s populists are approaching the zenith of their power or will continue their steady rise. But one thing is certain: At no point in Europe’s postwar history has the far right’s influence been as pervasive as it is now.
Two weeks ago, in the first round of the presidential elections, nearly one in five French voters opted for Marine Le Pen, the leader of the extremist Front National party. Marine, who replaced her father, Jean-Marie, as party leader a little over a year ago, has donned a cloak of respectability, severing the organization’s ties to the most flagrant neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic groups.
But the core of her appeal remains unchanged: It consists of hatred of Muslim immigrants, along with everyone else she considers alien to the French nation. Her tactic of giving racism a pretty veneer has clearly worked well. In her first run for president, she already gained a greater share of the vote than her father ever managed to muster.
Perhaps worse is the degree to which establishment politicians have imitated Le Pen’s words. In March, Sarkozy’s campaign spent the better part of two weeks talking about the danger unmarked halal meat allegedly posed to unsuspecting Parisians. After the horrific attacks in Toulouse, Sarkozy briefly dialed down his rhetoric. But after Le Pen’s strong showing in the first round of voting, he sounded shriller than ever.
In the last several days, Sarkozy repeatedly spoken of his country’s Christian roots, lamented that there are too many foreigners in France and called Islam a threat to the nation’s values. An official campaign video released last week plays with people’s xenophobic fears, the camera zooming in on scores of African migrants landing on a European beach as Sarkozy promises to slash immigration. Nobody was taken by surprise, then, when Sarkozy concluded Wednesday night’s nationally televised presidential debate against Hollande with a direct appeal to Le Pen’s followers.
What was more surprising about the debate was the extent to which even Hollande tried to appeal to the far right. When Sarkozy contended that tensions between France’s ethnic groups are to be explained by the presence of “Islam in France,” Hollande vowed to uphold a ban on women wearing the burqa in public. When Sarkozy raised the issue of halal meat, Hollande vowed that France’s school cafeterias would not serve a single piece of halal meat during his presidency. Trying to outdo his rival, Hollande went out of his way to emphasize that, unlike Sarkozy, he had favored a ban on French schoolgirls wearing the veil as early as 2003.
There are still gradations, of course. Le Pen openly rails against immigrants. Sarkozy obliquely railed against immigrants. Hollande didn’t really want to rail against immigrants — just to echo widespread sentiment against immigrants enough to be elected president. Even so, it has been the far right that has set the tone of this campaign: The mainstream candidates, in the end, were reduced to courting the favors of Le Pen’s party.
All of this matters beyond France because, historically, what happens in Paris often portends what will happen elsewhere on the continent. It’s not just that most Europeans think of the French Revolution as the cradle of modern democracy. Even in contemporary terms, the country stands at the center of Europe’s political gravity. Up until now, populists have celebrated their biggest successes in countries like the Netherlands, Italy and Poland. But France isn’t as small as the Netherlands, as politically dysfunctional as Italy or as new to democracy as Poland. The sad spectacle of the last several weeks is the culmination of a wider European trend of accommodating the far right — and it may suggest it’s about to get much worse.
As in France, established political parties across the continent at first vowed to shun surging populist leaders like Jorg Haider of Austria or Geert Wilders of the Netherlands. A cordon sanitaire was to unite all democrats in their fight against the far-right threat. But unity did not last long. As populist parties in these countries gained in strength, traditional coalition governments, especially those formed by center-right parties, lost their majorities. Center-right leaders realized that to gain or preserve power they would have to cooperate with the populists. As a result, in one country after another, center-right parties that had once vowed to fight the far right have come to rely on them to prop themselves up.
By now, Austria, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands have all had governments that stood or fell by the grace of far-right parties. Even leaders of countries like Britain and Germany, where populist parties have so far been unable to make any significant headway at the national level, have adopted some of their competitors’ slogans. In the last two years, for example, both Angela Merkel and David Cameron have emphasized the dangers of multiculturalism. In Eastern Europe, meanwhile, some populists have even been able to form governments of their own: The current Hungarian government, led by the deeply illiberal Viktor Orban, is only the most extreme example.
The left in each case condemned the center-right’s willingness to sacrifice principles to electoral politics. But even as they tried to claim the moral high ground, they knew that many of the populists’ followers were recruited from the ranks of their own base. The temptation for leaders of the left to echo anti-immigrant themes has steadily grown; some have succumbed to it. In Germany, for example, the most famous populist is now nominally a member of the Social Democratic Party. Thilo Sarrazin, a well-known bureaucrat, wrote a best-selling book discussing, among other insidious themes, the supposed genetic inferiority of Turkish immigrants. Thanks to a half-hearted promise not to make racist remarks in the future, he remains a party member to this day.
It is always easy to overstate the importance of the latest shock to the system. Has this election really been better news for Europe’s far right than 2002, when Marine Le Pen’s father (despite gaining fewer votes than she did two weeks ago) qualified for the second round of the presidential elections? Only time will tell. But if I am to hazard a guess, I would say that the 2002 election will be remembered as the moment when it became undeniable that many voters across Europe had come to agree with the new brand of anti-immigrant rhetoric. This year’s election, by contrast, will be remembered as the moment when Europe’s establishment decided to welcome those ideas into the political mainstream.
Yascha Mounk, founding editor of the Utopian, is a Ph.D. candidate in political theory at Harvard University.
Last edited by Dixie; 05-08-2012 at 12:03 AM.Englishmen, who have no right in this kingdom of France, the King of Heaven sends you word and warning...depart into your own country... Joan of Arc.
- 05-08-2012, 06:31 AM #3
It consists of hatred of Muslim immigrants, along with everyone else she considers alien to the French nation. Her tactic of giving racism a pretty veneer has clearly worked well. In her first run for president, she already gained a greater share of the vote than her father ever managed to muster.
- Join Date
- Nov 2004
- Raleigh, North Carolina, United States
- Blog Entries
WClick here to learn more about William Gheen President of ALIPAC