By Hanif Ghaffari

Risky signals in Europe

January 2, 2018

TEHRAN - While the German government isn't yet formed, and its two mainstream rivals, the Social Democrats and the Christian-party coalition, are seeking to form a coalition government, German citizens' concerns about their political, social and economic future have increased. It shouldn't be forgotten that, along with the political, security and social crises, economic crises in Germany remain strong. An issue that could affect the vulnerable layers of the German community, including retirees and the elderly, in 2018 and the years after. 

"Horst Aschoff", a German researcher in the field of futures studies, has conducted a valid survey. This survey shows that only 19% of German citizens have a positive viewpoint on their future in 2018. By contrast, about half of the German citizens are not optimistic about their own future. The results of this poll and similar researches show that "hope for the future" is falling among European countries. This process can affect the various political and social and even security components and in Germany and, subsequently, in Europe.

The reality is that Germany is struggling with many crises at the same time. It has been forced to significantly increase its security costs due to the adoption of false security policies in the West Asian region and the international system. The danger of Takfiri terrorism and far-right extremism in Germany has risen over the past few years. Now that the ISIS caliphate in Syria and Iraq has collapsed, German officials are warning about the return of this country's Takfiri citizens from Syria and Iraq.

 On the other hand, social crises in Germany have been aggravated as a result of the security crises. The emergence of the immigration crisis (which has also been the result of American and European interventionist policies in Western Asia) has strengthened this trend, and this process will continue in 2018 under the influence of various factors. Also, the reflection of social and security unrest in Germany is visible on the political situation in the country. The distrust of German citizens to traditional parties has led to a reduction in the votes of the two Christian and Social Democratic parties in the 2017 general election. Meanwhile, the right-wing extremists of AFD (Alternative for Germany) were able to find way to Germany's parliament by winning more than 12 percent of the vote.

Right now, the far-right movement is changing the existing equations in Germany. On the other hand, as noted, the economic crisis in Germany remains strong. Germany seems to be the main economic power in Europe and, as a result, should be less vulnerable to the economic crisis. But the increase of poverty in this country shows that Berlin has failed to manage economic crisis. One of the main concerns of German citizens is the simultaneous escalation of security, political, economic and social crises in the country. Given the conditions in the European Union and the current political conditions in Germany, the possibility of simultaneous aggravating of these crises is high. This is the very concern that has reduced the hope of German citizens for a better future.

"Standard", the Austrian newspaper, reported that a study by the Tony Blair Institute in London have come to a conclusion on the EU perspective. The study says Europe's political region is undergoing its largest political transformation since the end of the Cold War. Therefore, a policy of populism is becoming a determining factor in this union, which is a threat to the future of democracy in the EU.

This report notes that:"Europe’s political landscape is undergoing the biggest transformation since the end of the Cold War. Over the past two decades, populist parties have steadily increased their support, entering most national parliaments across the continent. In many countries, they have even taken over the levers of government. An unprecedented populist belt now covers a big and strategically important stretch of Central and Eastern Europe, from the Baltic Sea all the way to the Aegean."

"…Populists are strongest in Eastern Europe. They routinely out-compete the political mainstream and have already taken power in seven countries: Bosnia, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Serbia, and Slovakia. Populist parties are also the junior coalition partners in two additional Eastern European countries, and dominate the opposition in three more."

This report adds: "…The appeal of these populist parties has increased significantly over the course of the past two decades... Existing trends and pre-election polls suggest that right-wing populist parties will continue to consolidate their influence. In Austria, the so-called Freedom Party now has significant governmental influence. In Germany, the AFD aims to establish itself as a leading voice of the opposition by the time of the 2021 parliamentary election. Meanwhile, populists remain popular in Hungary and Poland, and are expected to achieve significant gains during upcoming elections in Moldova, Slovenia, Bosnia, and Latvia."

It continues: "Populists are likely to transform European public policy in radical ways. Many populist parties advocate for the weakening or abolition of international institutions like the European Union; push for protectionist trade policies as a supposed panacea to economic anxieties over stagnating labor markets; or seek to impose stringent controls on immigration in response to cultural anxieties about the identity of European nations. In some countries, populist governments have already succeeded in implementing such reforms. In others, electoral threats from populist parties have pushed the mainstream into more nationalistic directions." 

This study mentions issues such as the weakness or even the abolition of international organizations, economic support policies, asylum and immigration policies, the emphasis on national identities and the questioning of democratic norms as the subsequences of this trend. "Yasha Munch "The head of this study on the European perspective, believes that the end of such a process is not expected. According to the survey, since 2000, the number of European governments with the participation of populist parties has almost doubled, and the level of agreement and satisfaction of them among electorates has almost tripled.

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