Wednesday, July 19, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Whither France? Whither Europe?

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

Emanuel Macron.

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

national elections.

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

Scandinavian countries.

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

its neighbors.

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.


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