FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

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:

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
John W. Whitehead
From Jesus Christ to Julian Assange: When Dissidents Become Enemies of the State
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
Ellen Lindeen
What Does it Mean to Teach Peace?
Adewale Maye and Eileen Appelbaum
Paid Family and Medical Leave: a Bargain Even Low-Wage Workers Can Afford
Ramzy Baroud
War Versus Peace: Israel Has Decided and So Should We
Ann Garrison
Vets for Peace to Barbara Lee: Support Manning and Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Mueller Report Changed my Mind on Term Limits
Jill Richardson
Why is Going Green So Hard? Because the System Isn’t
Mallika Khanna
The Greenwashing of Earth Day
Arshad Khan
Do the Harmless Pangolins Have to Become Extinct?
Paul Armentano
Pushing Marijuana Legalization Across the Finish Line
B. R. Gowani
Surreal Realities: Pelosi, Maneka Gandhi, Pompeo, Trump
Paul Buhle
Using the Law to Build a Socialist Society
David Yearsley
Call Saul
Elliot Sperber
Ecology Over Economy 
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail