European elections 2014: How much diversity does Europe really want?

Article published on June 3, 2014
Article published on June 3, 2014

Eu­rope has voted. The lasting impression is one of considerable miscalculations in the debates about fi­nan­cial cri­sis, EU in­sti­tu­tions and Eu­ro­pean iden­ti­ties. While the media speaks about "earth­quakes" and other nat­ural di­sasters, politi­cians seem to be clue­less and the cit­i­zens fall back onto the democratic sidelines for another five years. What comes next?

The elec­tions are over and Eu­rope is in shock. All of Eu­rope? No. The sound of rev­el­ries, vol­leys of gun­fire and eu­phoric fan­tasies of po­lit­i­cal supre­macy have been re­sound­ing from right-wing pop­ulist par­ties all over Eu­rope. Above all from Ma­rine Le Pen and her Front Na­tional, which, with 25% of the votes quite right­fully call them­selves the "pre­mier parti de France" (first po­lit­i­cal party of France, Ed.). Sim­i­larly alarm­ing right-wing suc­cesses were also seen in Den­mark, the UK, Hun­gary and Greece. Only a few coun­tries ap­pear to have been spared from the right-wing pop­ulist earth­quake - luck­ily Ger­many is one of them. 

Only skep­ti­cal of Eu­rope, or worse?

The Chris­t­ian De­mo­c­ra­tic Union and So­cial Dem­co­ratic Party (SPD) are about even, while the Free De­mo­c­ra­tic Party (FDP) stands on shaky ground. Many Ger­mans are still green-ori­ented and even the Al­ter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD), which is skep­ti­cal about Eu­rope, seems dan­ger­ously tame. Al­though the fol­low­ers of Bernd Lucke tried to gar­ner votes through skep­ti­cal ral­ly­ing cries, the dif­fer­ence of their agenda is still enor­mous com­pared to par­ties such as the Front Na­tional, whose mem­bers hold na­tion­al­is­tic po­si­tions, are in favour of the re­turn of the death penalty, want to re-crim­i­nalise abor­tion and to abol­ish ho­mo­sex­ual mar­riages. But why did the Ger­man Fed­eral Con­sti­tu­tional Court at the last sec­ond over­turn the new 3% pro­vi­sion, thereby in­di­rectly giv­ing the ex­treme-right NDP a seat in the Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment? Luck­ily only 1% of vot­ers per­ceived their na­tion­al­is­tic pro­gram as good. 

Aside from the com­pa­ra­bly small suc­cess of the AfD and NDP, one had to un­avoid­ably ask one­self in Berlin on Mon­day morn­ing: do we live in a bub­ble of mul­ti­cul­tural di­ver­sity? If this is so, are we to thank An­gie Merkel, su­per­star, a good econ­omy or an elec­torate which is deeply con­vinced of the beauty of a uni­fied Eu­rope? The eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion can't be the only rea­son why the right-wing pop­ulists found few sup­port­ers in Ger­many. If that was the case, na­tion­al­ist par­ties shouldn't have been able to gar­ner any sup­port in coun­tries like Den­mark and Swe­den, whereas South­ern Eu­rope would have been swept away by the right-wing surge. It seems more prob­a­ble that the re­sults are a re­sponse to un­pop­u­lar gov­ern­ment poli­cies. Does that mean that once again Brus­sels, with its clause-happy del­e­gates, is at fault? Or have Ger­mans, as is often claimed, de­vel­oped a stronger po­lit­i­cal im­mune sys­tem as a re­sult of their his­tory?

How su­per­flu­ous is a mu­tual Eu­rope to us?

Such ex­plana­tory mod­els will barely suf­fice to un­der­stand Sun­day's elec­tions. In Ger­many we should be able to wipe the sweat of anx­i­ety from our brows, but no one is truly re­lieved. After all, even though the elec­toral turnout rose from a measly 43% in 2009 to 48%, thereby con­tra­dict­ing those in Ger­many who are dis­il­lu­sioned with pol­i­tics, the turnout re­mains low. The cat­a­strophic low in­volve­ment of many cen­tral and east­ern Eu­ro­pean coun­tries can't be white-washed ei­ther. A po­lit­i­cal and ge­o­graph­i­cal union, whose sig­nif­i­cance is su­per­flu­ous to its cit­i­zens, re­mains under at­tack even with­out right-wing pop­ulism. 

But why do the re­sults of the elec­tion still give us stom­ach cramps, even after the ini­tial shock? Crit­i­cism against the EU and its in­sti­tu­tions has to be per­mis­si­ble - for that rea­son the ap­pro­pri­ate par­ties have to exist in the Eu­ro­pean Par­lia­ment. But if one lis­tens closely to the the right-wing pop­ulists, one will no­tice that the po­lit­i­cal con­struction of the EU isn't what's in con­sid­er­a­tion, but rather--and much worse-- the idea of a com­mon Eu­rope. What our "mu­tual Eu­ro­pean val­ues" are isn't al­ways clear, but tol­er­ance, di­ver­sity and sol­i­dar­ity surely be­long to the mix. If par­ties that clearly fight against such val­ues gar­ner the sup­port of a con­sid­er­able amount of EU cit­i­zens, then one has to ask one­self, in a state of be­wil­derment, whether the "EU Pro­ject," as well as the "Eu­ro­pean dream" was only built on sand. Those who hold such virtues dear to their heart must now speak out pas­sionately for Eu­rope, in­stead of re­treat­ing into their pri­vate lit­tle bub­ble.

EU­ro­pean elec­tions 2014 at Cafébabel berlin

Be­cause Eu­rope has not only a hip, ex­cit­ing and young side, but also needs po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions, May 25, 2014 re­mains a fixed date on our cal­en­dars. When, what, how and why are we vot­ing? More in­for­ma­tion about elec­tion day, the par­ties and the po­lit­i­cal struc­ture of the EU in gen­eral can be ac­quired through the ma­g­a­zine, and as al­ways through Face­book and Twit­ter.