FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why None of Europe’s Attempts to Save Itself Will Work

Even if the Greek and other European publics are seen capitulating to the whims of elites for the moment, that deference will probably not last. The Greek people appear to have been spooked into falling into line, by the barest margin, with a bailout package. But throughout Europe there is an underlying dissent on the street that has a wide head-start. And it can be expected to prevail over the next year or two.

European publics are finding common ground amongst themselves and becoming more assertive about their own ideas and priorities. The anti-incumbency mood in Europe, demonstrated in many elections across the continent, highlights a skepticism that has long been festering in the alleys of Europe. The elections in Greece may superficially demonstrate a break from that trend, but support for the eurozone’s strictures remains highly vulnerable.

Amid all the apparent divisions within Europe, punctuated with Greece’s austerity ambivalence and Germany’s sugar-daddy angst, there is a unifying element that sweeps the continent. Europe may be institutionally under duress, but there is a common sentiment on the street that has been building for some time. And there is also a kind of uniformity to elite European thought, so there is also a prevailing ethos on the avenue. On certain key issues, an imposing void of disagreement prevails between those two sides.

It is not easy to quantify the magnitude of a populist ideology or the difference between public and elite views. But the German Marshall Fund has done work that aims to do just that. Taking a look back at that data helps to contextualize the current European drama, demonstrating that the elite has long been dramatically out of step with the rest of the public. Since the public’s dissident views have been gathering momentum for some time—and European bureaucrats seem intent on doubling down on their own economic and political prescriptions—an escalating street-vs.-avenue discord could roil Europe in the months and years to come.

The central grievances of populist sentiment in Europe are no mystery. They revolve around a strong antipathy towards a common currency (and the reasons vary from country to country); deep unease with immigrant populations; wariness of E.U. expansion; and some skepticism of America’s global leadership. But what the German Marshall Fund’s 2011 “Trans-Atlantic Trends: Leaders” survey measured was the extent of the perception gap, between the public and “European leaders.” In those specific areas, the poll indicated that elite opinion is more or less the flip side of the public’s majority view. And that trend has surely intensified with growing and prolonged financial difficulties and campaign-season posturing in the United States.

According to the poll, 85% of European leaders said they viewed favorably the use of the euro in their country, while only 38% of the European public held those favorable views of the currency. In regards to Turkey, just 22% of the European public said they believed Turkey’s entrance into the European Union would be desirable, while a full 51% of European leaders said they favored that prospect. It was the second question regarding Turkey that really reflected a broad European skepticism about cultural harmony with immigrant communities. Just 31% of the European public said they believed Turkey had enough common values with the West in general, while 62% of European leaders said they perceived common values.

In regards to U.S. global leadership, there is also a gap in preferences. While 85% of European leaders said they favored a strong U.S. role in world affairs, a bare majority (54%) of the European public supported such U.S. prominence internationally.  Interestingly, differences of opinion between the U.S. public and U.S. leaders were certainly illustrated, but were not as stark as the European disparity.  Even if the disagreement between the U.S. public and U.S. leaders has intensified since the survey was taken, it has not been brewing as long as Europe’s.

Disparate European publics are deciding the weightiest issues for themselves, rejecting the wisdom that elites have been instructing them with for decades. Europe’s social divide is becoming entrenched. So Europe’s bureaucratic blueprints for economic recovery, from Greece and beyond, should be viewed as interesting suggestions but not plans for sustainable action. Over the longer-term, the mobilized street may block them.

It is undoubtedly moving to see an ambitious regional endeavor shook so violently to its core. But an economic crisis that is never wholly overcome may well be the coup de grace to the pan-European experiment. In the foreseeable future, Washington may have no single number to dial, when it wants to call Europe—or at least a European-wide monetary authority.

Ximena Ortiz is the former executive editor of The National Interest; recipient of the Pulliam Editorial Fellowship; author of the forthcoming book, “The Shock and Awing of America”; and former bureau chief for AP-Dow Jones in Santiago, Chile.

 

More articles by:

December 13, 2018
John Davis
What World Do We Seek?
Subhankar Banerjee
Biological Annihilation: a Planet in Loss Mode
Lawrence Davidson
What the Attack on Marc Lamont Hill Tells Us
James McEnteer
Breathless
Ramzy Baroud
The Real Face of Justin Trudeau: Are Palestinians Canada’s new Jews?
Dean Baker
Pelosi Would Sabotage the Progressive Agenda With a Pay-Go Rule
Elliot Sperber
Understanding the Yellow Vests Movement Through Basic Color Theory 
Rivera Sun
The End of the NRA? Business Magazines Tell Activists: The Strategy is Working
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Historic Opportunity to Transform Trade
December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail