COMMENT

In a changing Europe

By Costas Iordanidis

The attack by Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independent Party (UKIP), on Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras at Wednesday's European Parliament assembly was especially vehement but it was also indicative of the attitude of many emerging forces in Europe today.

His statements provoked disgust and anger, and not exclusively in the government, but they come as no suprise.

On November 22, 2011, Farage had launched a frontal assault on European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, calling him a nobody and saying that he comes from a “non-country.”

Extreme aggression – expressed in words only, of course – and scathing sarcasm are not foreign to British politics, where histrionics are the rule and where those being attacked usually respond in kind.

In the Greek Parliament, the microphones are turned off when things get out of hand and one senses this is a good thing because it is almost certain that if verbal aggression is allowed to escalate it will lead to aggression of a physical kind.

The issue, however, is not the manner in which Farage addressed the Greek prime minister, but the fact that despite their differences – which can be great – nationalist and extreme-right parties are set to see their influence rise quite significantly after May’s European elections.

The political map of Europe is changing drastically, the decisions made by the European Union’s leadership are increasingly being called into question and the idea that the whole affair of deeper unification is all about serving the interests of big business and the bureaucrats in Brussels is gaining ground.

The Euroskepticism that was once a note of discord in British politics is now taking on a primitive and at times quite disgusting form.

Without doubt, the onus of responsibility lies with the European elite, which tends to downplay the significance of the expected results of May’s elections.

Meanwhile, other than the fact that the outcome of the European polls is expected to be mirrored on a domestic level in Greece’s local elections, the new political formations that have emerged over the past few years are also affecting the Eurocentric parties as well.

In Britain, where his popularity is growing daily, Farage has changed the agenda, with Prime Minister David Cameron calling a referendum for 2017 on whether the country should remain in the EU.

In Greece, under pressure from the opposition, some coalition MPs and public opinion, the government has adopted a stance of resistance toward the troika in the hope that it will get some clemency from the lenders amid fears that the European Parliament elections will boost the standing of the Euroskeptics.

The situation is one of complete fluidity.

Online