Le Pen and the Far Right of Europe

Much debate this week has revolved around what Marine Le Pen’s victory in France’s regional election means for the European project. Rafael Behr on The Guardian interprets the victory of the Front National as a general tendency in Europe to ove away from liberalism. With far right movements gaining prominence everywhere in Europe, he thinks that the liberal dream is disappearing in front of our eyes. Sudhir Hazareesingh, on Politico, believes that the spectacular success of the Front National owes much to the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, because the entire electoral campaign was framed around the issues of security and the “Islamic threat”. She observes that, contrary to the widespread view that under her leadership the party has become more moderate, Marine Le Pen’s rhetoric during the campaign has been radical. Moreover, Holland’s use of martial language and Sarkozy’s condemnation of multiculturalism eventually proved fertile ground for her success. Fernando Betancor, on openDemocracy, offers a different interpretation claiming that it is a mistake to interpret the advancement of the far right as a reaction of shock and fear to the Paris attacks. The popularity of Le Pen is not the result of a sudden outburst. Rather, it depends on the systematic inability of national and European politicians to address recurring problems like the dwindling economy, the immigration crisis, and – now – the terrorist threat. It is disheartening to think, he concludes, that the future of the European Union may depend upon the sickly government of François Hollande and the patience and good sense of the French electorate.

Security or Racism?

Claire Fernandez, on EurActiv, claims that the right to feel safe cannot be secured at the expenses of other human rights. She argues that newly introduced European security controls that target people based on racial profiling are not only unfair, but also counterproductive insofar as they alienate those communities’ support we desperately need in order to fight terrorists. As Hsiao-Hung Pai claims on openDemocracy, far-right parties everywhere in Europe prosper thanks to linking their anti-Muslim agenda with their anti-refugee position. He observes that “islamophobia” is not only practiced by a small minority, but it has become the most widely accepted form of racism.

Reforming the European Economy

Joachim Schuster, on Social Europe, observes that the neoliberal narrative still dominates the economic debate, but what we really need is a progressive growth agenda that aims at increasing domestic demand. More public investments and a revived “Social Investment Package” are necessary to restart the economy. He thinks that social developments need to play a more prominent role in the Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure in order to take into account the negative impact of high levels of inequality on economic growth. On EurActivJörg Haas and Katharina Gnath advocate for a fully-fledged fiscal unions: common debt obligations (“Eurobills”), which would partially replace national debt, would not only prevent self-fulfilling insolvencies, but also limit moral hazards. By insulating national banks from national debt, insolvency of over-indebted countries would become a credible option. A common unemployment insurance scheme or a stabilization mechanism based on output gaps would also be useful as “automatic stabilizers”. Since all countries experience economic ups and downs, they could be calibrated in a way that results in low or no net transfers in the medium term. While ambitious, these reforms cannot be postponed because the alternative is not the continuation of a more or less stable status quo, but the regular recurrence of crises. While fiscal union might have some distributional effects, their cost is likely to be much lower than that of ongoing instability.

What about Denmark?

On EUROPP, two articles by Henrik Larsen and Sara Hagemann draw attention on the Danish Referendum. On Thursday 3rd December, Denmark voted “No” in a referendum on the question of whether to join its EU partners in the area of Justice and Home Affairs (JHA). This issue has gone mostly under the radar, but it may hold important consequences for European Integration. Allowing Denmark to continue participating in the Europol after an ultimate rejection of EU cooperation in such a defining area of EU affairs would send a signal that you can vote “No” to the EU, but still be able to get what you want.

This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli

 Photo Credits CC: Blandine Le Cain


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