As many of the member states of the European Union
have recently abandoned their post-World War II
preferences for socialist and social welfare politics and
governments, the two leading continental powers,
Germany and France, seemed to settle for more centrist
regimes under Chancellor Angela Merkel and President
Merkel has now retired, and Germany, like virtually
every EU country, has seen its politics polarized to the
left and the right.
In France, however, a former businessman, Macron,
emerged several years ago with a new majority
party, as the French left virtually evaporated, and the
nationalist right, while growing, repeatedly failed to win
Meanwhile, conservative leaders and parties won
elections in long-time social democratic Western
European nations and former Marxist Eastern European
Most recently, the seeming perpetual leftist governments
in Greece and Italy were replaced by their voters with
very conservative regimes. This had followed similar
voter choices for the right in Hungary, Czechoslovakia,
Austria and Poland, as well as in the iconic social welfare
Currently, the leftist Dutch leader has resigned, and
imminent Spanish elections could see the Spanish
government replaced with a conservative coalition. Even
though the social democratic party leads Denmark, its
conservative policies have become a model for many
on the right in the rest of Europe.
In the island nation of Great Britain, a conservative
government has become embroiled in controversies
which have spurred a revival of its leftist Labour Party
that could return to power in elections next year, but
this drift to the left appears in contrast to the general
trend to the right on the continent.
With Merkel’s retirement, President Macron seemed to
have become the leading EU figure, and France had
seemed to avoid the endemic instability in so many of
But massive immigration from the Middle East and
North Africa in recent years has provoked tensions
and controversy throughout the EU, and complicated
by the untenable accumulated costs of once-popular
social welfare programs, has frustrated native voters,
and polarized public opinion throughout the EU.
Macron’s raising the French retirement age set off the
first recent period of widespread riots and unrest, but
it was the police shooting of an immigrant which set off
the second. Macron has lost his once-commanding
in the French parliament. The leader of the largest
French party on the right, Marianne LePen, perhaps is
poised, after twice failing, to win the next French election.
It was the loss of member-state sovereignty which
provoked Brexit and the British withdrawal from the EU,
and economic issues which provoked subsequent
tensions within the EU, but now it is immigration policy
which has further weakened the EU bonds — and has
helped drive European majority voter opinion to the right
while also reviving leftist parties.
Several EU member states are resisting previous and
new rules regarding immigration from outside the
continent, and this further lessens the Union’s
cohesion. More “Brexits” are possible. Easy to resolve
solutions to the EU’s problems seem non-existent.
Current EU unity with Ukraine in its struggle to defeat
a Russian invasion only temporarily masks the inner
conflicts of the EU member states and their relationships
with each other.
With a pivotal presidential election in the U.S. next year,
and China’s ambitious activity in Asia, Africa and South
America, the unease in Europe only makes the prospects
for 2024 and the near-term only more a very big question
Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.