EUROMEETING 2017 – OFIR (OPORTO - PORTUGAL)
“EUROPE AT A CROSSROADS BETWEEN POPULISM, THE ANSWER TO MIGRATION, DISINTEGRATION AND THE FUTURE”
They say Europe is at a crossroads. What does this mean? For all of us this is about choosing between emerging triumphantly from the crisis or taking the path that will eventually lead us to a dead end.
What is the reason why Europe, sixty years after the Treaty of Rome, appears today as a discredited institution, questioned and often falsely accused of all evils? We should better ask ourselves this question: what are the reasons? since they are plentiful.
There is no doubt that that the first one is the economic crisis which not only European economies are facing at different levels, but also the Western economies.
The effects of this financial crisis occurred in 2008 are today still evident ten years later and they are characterized by a growing indebtedness of the States, a disturbing increase of the unemployment rates, an extremely urgent work insecurity and an impoverishment of the middle class.
This crisis and its impact on the different Member States economies keep on reminding us of the Wall Street Crash of 1929. This memory, however, still makes us shiver when we think of the fatal consequences of this crisis back then. The second important reason that explains this anti-European phenomenon lies in the geopolitical situation in the Middle East.
The fall of the Libyan regime, the revolution in Egypt and later in Tunisia and the war in Syria have pushed thousands of men, women and children into leaving their home countries. This permanet migration flow strengthens in some the previously mentioned sense of fear and isolations. Mediterranean countries such as Greece or Italy are at the very forefront and they must manage the massive influx of immigrants.
The measures envisaged include, among others, the will to reduce the number of crossings and consequently to save lives. This fact means intensifying the fight against smugglers and people traffickers under the program “sea horse”, which consists in the placement of coastguards on both sides of the Mediterranean and above all in Libya; the most common departure point.
Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU (this country had an important attraction to migrants before Brexit) has made it even harder for France, with the migrants trapped in Calais in miserable conditions.
The third reason for the lack of interest of States towards the European institutions could be named “technocracy”. It is repeatedly blamed for its nature of governance: the lack of transparency, the absence of communication, the complexity of the structures and the decision being made destabilize even our most educated citizens. The unanimity rule, which undermines any progress, the obstacle to any kind of evolution, the already mentioned economic scenario of the last years and the distortions of competition related to the absence of tax harmonization contribute to this lack of interest, even to rejection.
The crisis of unemployment and the fear of immigration and, above all, of terrorism interact with each other: the crisis not only promotes electoral consensus with respect to populist forces, but also broadens the effects of fear. Fear reinforces populist impulses and at the same time, widens the effects of the crisis. The crisis of unemployment and the fear of the unknown are the elements that in recent year have made the populist movement ascend and also that many times we consider someone terrorist without even considering him an immigrant.
Populism means sympathy for the people (people + ism), the form of "governing" where resources are used to obtain popular support, where personal propaganda is overly used and abused, where sympathy towards the lower social classes is appealed, without economic or political privileges to attain power. Usually, populist leaders present themselves as humble and redeemers, but it is not surprising that they become arrogant and hypocritical.
In our view, Europe is a victim of populism that affects a growing number of European Union States whose nationalist, even xenophobic frivolities are becoming increasingly open in countries that are very different from one another. Today, in the countries of the European Union, the populist or eurosceptic parties are about a hundred, present in 24 countries out of the total 28. Populism found its place in the emergency created by the three joint crises: the economic disaster and unemployment, migration and jihadist terrorism.
The Finance Corporation Fitch has already figured out the numbers that a hypothetical victory of the populist and eurosceptic parties in the many upcoming elections to take place across Europe this year would mean: more than 100. 000 millions.
Indeed, the increasing political risk may have an important impact on economics and finance. In the worst case scenario, the Eurozone growth may be reduced by one percentage point. According to the latest data, 41% of the European economy (in other words, Germany’s, France’s and the Netherlands’s GDP) would be threatened by Populism and Eurosceptics.
To these insecurities we should add the recent announcement made by the four biggest partners (Spain, France, Germany and Italy) during the mini-summit held in Versailles in early March this year aiming to promote different rhythms so that the mainstay of the EU can move beyond this impasse and drag along the most reluctant, specially the East European countries. That is to say: A two or more speed Europe.
Besides, now a large part of the German population believes that they would be better off without the euro and, in other countries; a similar trend is also seen. Northern European countries fear that the millions of Euros already paid out to bail out structurally weak countries may never come back to them and citizens of countries in crisis consider the reform and rehabilitation requirements monitored by the EU too harsh.
A few months ago, UK citizens preferred Farage, populist leader of the Independence Party and a supporter of Brexit, rather than traditional party leaders, conservative Cameron and Labour Corbyn. Undoubtedly, the "Brexit" has meant a before and after in the history of the EU. According to a research conducted by the London School of Economics the cost for the UK resulting from its withdrawal will affect its GDP between 6,5% and 9,5%, a figure similar to the financial crisis from the years 2008 to 2010. In the United States of America, Republican candidate Donald Trump, also populist and xenophobic was elected president.
For thousands of years, men with similar characteristics have felt the need to organize in groups, to leave their place of birth and to spread throughout the world. The movement of migration is, after all, as old as humanity.
Today migrations result mainly from the lack of hope for a better future and the business model of human traffickers is once again booming. This was also the result of the so-called illegal immigration and the process of reinforcing borders to prevent the mass arrival of unwanted human beings.
To reflect on these issues and on the future consequences on our "home", about 200 pensioners from the banks of seven European countries (represented by the Group of European Pensioners from Saving Banks and Financial Institutions) meet in Ofir (Oporto, Portugal) between May 28th and June 4th, 2017,. From this joint reflection we draw the following conclusions:
The European Parliament should have the capacity to legislate immediately. The ratification that allows each state to enforce the laws, after approval by each Parliament, must be stopped, as this approval can take years. There is certainly still room for improvement in Europe, but in my view, it would be a tremendous mistake if we overlooked it.
Now it is time for those who elect their governments, the voters, to choose wisely. From that choice may depend the salvation of Europe.
GET – Work and Study Group