The Franco-German engine rebooted

Jürgen Habermas comments on the similar trajectory of Emmanuel Macron in France and Sigmar Gabriel in Germany. While Macron broke open the constellation of the two mainstream party, so Gabriel chose Schultz as an unorthodox candidate in Germany. Habermas remarks that solidarity is not the same as charity, because it is a political concept. Someone who acts in solidarity accepts certain disadvantages in his or her long-term self-interest in the expectation that the other will behave likewise in similar situations. Reciprocal trust across national borders is indeed a relevant variable; but so too is long-term self-interest. Without Germany’s willingness to defuse the ticking bomb of structural imbalances, attempts to pursue more integration in other areas promoting a “Europe of different speeds” are likely to fail. The blessing of being the greatest beneficiary of the European Union is also a curse. For, from a historical perspective, a possible failure of the European project would be attributed with good reason to German indecision. A non-decision is also a decision; and it is hard to exaggerate the implications of such a non-decision.

Laurence Boone thinks that the key is to restart the Franco-German engine. As the deadlock is coming in the north/south divide, if France and Germany really achieved something together, like for example common labour market laws, corporate taxation, or defense, this would likely trigger an appetite for other countries to join this party.

From the Netherlands to France: less populism in the future?

According to Chris van Dijk, there is no room for optimism in the defeat of Wilders’s populism. If the following four years will be fraught with economic uncertainty and clashes with Islamic culture, there’s a good chance that Eurosceptics will one day govern the Dutch state. Yet nobody should underestimate Rutte either, who wisely emulated Wilders’s rhetoric in a manner that is deemed more socially acceptable. Joris Luyendijk criticizes Brexit supporters who took seriously Wilders’s chance of winning. While Wilders had led the polls for a brief period over the winter months, in a proportional system leading the polls means nothing if no other party wants to govern with you. In no country in Europe, are parties demanding departure from the EU a majority.

Even in France, in the case of a runoff between Le Pen and another candidate not a single poll predicts a Le Pen win. The NY Times Editorial board disagrees and concludes that while Netherlands looks set to form a staunchly pro-European government, it would be a mistake to assume the Dutch vote will translate into a defeat for Marine Le Pen and her far-right National Front party in France. Ben Margulies systematically details the advantages of Le Pen: the outrage against political corruption, the stagnation of the economy, Macron’s neoliberal inclinations, the looming threat of terrorism. He also breaks down her disadvantages: she does not have a mainstream party behind her, authoritarian and catholic voters are scared of new options, the presence of another anti-elitist option, the comparison with Trump might damage her, as only 15% of French support him (still only 30% among Le Pen supporters).

Eric Kaufmann argues that populism will stay unless we confront demographic disinformation. Mainstream parties and the media need to acknowledge that demographic change increases anxiety over immigration among whites whose values are oriented toward security and order, who in turn turn to populist parties. Having isolated the real issue, they must then focus their efforts on raising people’s awareness about the realities of Muslim demography in their countries, which are not scary insofar as Muslim total fertility rates is 2.1, precisely the replacement level.


This Ideas Monitor is by Carlo Burelli and Alexander Damiano Ricci


Photo Credits CC European Council


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