Austria and the Future of Europe

Editorial by NY Times
13 May, 2016

“Mr. Faymann resigned after his own center-left Social Democratic Party abandoned him following a stinging victory by the right-wing Freedom Party candidate, Norbert Hofer, in a first round of presidential elections on April 24. The Social Democratic Party governs in coalition with the conservative Austrian People’s Party. The two parties have dominated Austrian politics for decades.

Mr. Hofer is now poised to win the second and final round of presidential voting on May 22. The office of the president in Austria is largely ceremonial. But Mr. Faymann’s resignation could trigger early parliamentary elections, now scheduled for 2018, that will determine who runs Austria’s next government. That would give the Freedom Party a real chance to come to power, which would be terrible for Austria. The Freedom Party has its roots in Austria’s ugly Nazi past. More recently, it has taken up far-right European nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-Islam themes.”

Unfortunately, there’s now a probability that Europe will go through an extreme-right experiment before it comes to its senses and renounces once again the sirens of nationalist populism. Austria is about to fall. Hungary and Poland are already in the throes of nationalist populist governments, and several other central European countries’ governments aren’t much better. The UK government’s stance on migration is very much on the populist side. France’s has presidential and legislative elections soon and might very well end up in a parliament which will only function if a coalition between the centrist right and the extreme right comes to power. Norway could also fall prey to such a discourse. In Brussels, the European Parliament might look very different after the next European elections. The European Council has been holding very conservative views on migration for a long time and the European Commission – long the guardian of common policies and cool-headedness – is incapable of formulating on the issue of migration any long term European vision that would rally a consensus among States. If an anti-immigration and anti-Islam majority emerges in parliamentary elections around Europe, we might be in for a very “bumpy ride” in the years to come. It will take a whole generation to realise that the policies they will put in place are unprincipled, harmful and deleterious.

To read the full editorial by the Editorial Board of the NY Times, please click here.

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