OPINION

Intimidated Europe

Are the problems that push European voters into the arms of extremist leaders imaginary ones? That is highly unlikely. Europe, as a bloc, and each separate country – albeit to a different degree – have failed in two principal issues. First, they failed to integrate the population that was marginalized, initially by the economic crisis, then by technological progress in the last quarter of the century, and, finally, by the stock market logic of the last few years. The political elites forgot that their job is to give answers and hammer out measures and mechanisms so as to maintain social cohesion. The second aspect of Europe’s failure is clearly its one-sided yet still inadequate focus on the principles of economic performance. No one questioned the need to overcome the crisis of economic stagnancy and inflation in the 1970s. Everyone backed the effort to adapt to a global outlook and international competition – an offshoot of the growth of large multinational firms. Most of us admired the performance of the American model. All these trends, however, have started to intimidate European citizens. Anti-American sentiment, the sense that the European political elite is conspiring against the public will while succumbing to US commands are characteristics which have come with the religious prejudice (mainly anti-Islamic) and the demands for a stronger protective state. The wager of a great integrated Europe is in serious peril…