Watching the Dutch elections

Today Dutch voters are called to vote to renew the composition of the national Parliament and of the governing coalition. Accordingly, most of opinion makers across Europe have focused on the Dutch elections over the past week. More precisely, Geert Wilders’s Freedom party (PVV) featured high in terms of salience. On the The New York Times, Ian Buruma provokingly wrote an editorial titled “How the Dutch stopped being decent and dull”. Buruma highlights that Wilders’s success is linked to the fact that he shares the same feeling as his supporters towards the establishment, namely the perception of a political class that always thinks to know better than the citizens.

Marcos Engelken-Jorge on openDemocracy claims that xenophobic nationalism has created threats on the one hand, and the conditions for a breakup of the status quo on the other. Engelken-Jorge argues that the emergence of nationalist movements creates momentum around topics such as inequality and social exclusion, and trigger reflexivity on the side of intellectuals.

Writing on the The Independent, Hamish McRae takes a more pessimistic view on the matter. According to McRae, the European Union could collapse completely as a consequence of the Dutch vote. Consequently the author call for the EU to accept patriotism and not downplay it at the gains of a vague Europeanism. Indeed, McRae underlines that if populism can flourish in the Netherlands – one of the best performing countries of the EU – it means that economics cannot explain on its own the success of these parties.

The editorial board of The Guardian shares its views on the elections and argues that there are two main dangers involved in any election result. In the first place, Dutch mainstream parties must guarantee that, even if not successful, Wilders will not be able to steer the public agenda.Secondly, excluding Wilders from power might paradoxically strengthen his support, given that victimization has always a key tactics of anti -establishment parties. All in all, The Guardian claims that Wilders shall not enjoy a position of power without responsibility.

Beyond the Netherlands, talking about right-wing populism

Despite the current prominence of the Dutch elections, editorials across Europe and elsewhere continue to discuss European right-wing movements and parties beyond the Netherlands. On the The New York Times, the editorial board takes issue with the position of the Hungarian right-wing government on the refugee crisis. The American newspaper claims that the country’s cruelty has reached a new high as the government approved mass detention in guarded camps of refugees, including children. According to the authors, the European Union must ask itself what is left of the values that forged the European integration project, if Budapest can act as it pleases.

Writing on EUROPP, Simon Franzmann focuses instead on the German Alternative für Deutschland party (AFD). In particular, Simons traces the history of the AFD and explains how the party turned from being a movement of economists into a fully-fledged populist party. According to Franzmann, adding populist traits to the rhetoric was a tactical step as it “blurred the extreme neo-liberal positions that are not supported by large parts of the potential AFD sympathisers”.

On the future of the EU

European governance and the future of the EU were among the top concerns of intellectuals over the past week. On Social Europe, John Weeks claims that Brexit and a possible Grexit highlight the degeneration of leadership and governance inside the EU. Weeks argues that the EU governance framework minimizes democratic processes, as it is heavily dependent on the EU Commission. Moreover, according to the author, treaty-based conditions shrink the space of manoeuvre of national governments, which in turn undermines the confidence of citizens.

On the EUROPP, Vivien Schmidt and Matt Wood discuss the White Paper “On the future of Europe”, presented by Jean-Claude Juncker a few weeks ago at the European Parliament. According to the authors the White paper acknowledges the crisis of legitimacy of the Union, but it fails to evaluate the risks linked to a “Multi-speed” approach in terms of transparency and accountability. The latter two principles require clear and consistent procedures with an obvious centre of authority or at least a definition of decision-making paths. If this challenge is not properly tackled, a differentiated integration approach could create more tensions than the current institutional framework.

An independent Scotland? Time for a second try

On Monday, Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that the Scottish Parliament will debate the issue of a new independence referendum to be held by spring 2019. On The Guardian, Ruth Wishart argues that it was Theresa May’s inability to forge a compromise with Edinburgh that forced Sturgeon to make her move. Moreover, Wishart claims that compared to 2014, Sturgeon holds better cards in her hands to win the vote in 2019.

Larry Elliott claims that Scotland has good credentials to become an economic and competitive spotlight on the European stage. He argues that financial businesses might be attracted by the country as it could become the new access gate to the European Union. At the same times, Elliott warns about the weaknesses of the Scottish economy, namely a staggering public deficit (9%), a weak 0.7% growth rate (below the average 2% of the UK), and an ageing population.

This Ideas Monitor is by Carlo Burelli and Alexander Damiano Ricci

Photo Credits CC Minister-president Rutte 

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