Euro Earthquake

Elections for the European parliament have been taking place across the EU, and the results are described by many as shocking:

Stunning victories in European Parliament elections by nationalist, Eurosceptic parties from France and Britain left the European Union licking its wounds on Monday and facing a giant policy dilemma.

Across the continent, anti-establishment parties of the far right and hard left more than doubled their representation amid voter apathy, harnessing a mood of anger with Brussels over austerity, mass unemployment and immigration.

While the center-right and center-left will continue to control more than half of the 751 seats in the EU legislature, they will face an unprecedented challenge from noisy insurgents determined to stop business as usual in the 28-nation bloc.

In the United Kingdom, the new Independence Party (UKIP) outpolled both the Tories and Labour:

UKIP won 27.5% of the vote and had 24 MEPs elected. Labour, on 25.4%, has narrowly beat the Tories into third place while the Lib Dems lost all but one of their seats and came sixth behind the Greens.

Outside of London, UKIP was getting consistently more than 30% of the vote in England:

UKIP02

UKIP’s web site is here, its manifesto is here. For the most part, its policy positions will be familiar to American conservatives, but the context is Britain’s participation in the EU. Here are some samples:

A gulf has opened between the ruling elite and the public. Because they must all follow Brussels diktats, each of the establishment main parties is now so similar voters have no real choice.

The EU controls Immigration, Business and Employment, Financial Services, Fishing, Farming, Energy and Trade. It seeks now to control Law and Order, Foreign Affairs and Tax. Only outside the EU can we start to solve the problems our country faces. …

* A vote for UKIP is a vote to leave the EU and recover power over our national life.

* Free trade, but not political union, with our European neighbours. We are the EU’s largest export market: they depend on us for jobs – not the other way around. …

* Regain control of our borders and of immigration – only possible by leaving the EU.

* Immigrants must financially support themselves and their dependents for 5 years. This means private health insurance (except emergency medical care), private education and private housing – they should pay into the pot before they take out of it. …

* Develop shale gas to reduce energy bills and free us from dependence on foreign oil and gas – place the tax revenues into a British Sovereign Wealth Fund. …

* Remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. …

* No to Political Correctness – it stifles free speech.

* The law of the land must apply to us all. We oppose any other system of law.

* Teach children positive messages and pride in their country. We want to unite through better integration.

UKIP is a patriotic party that believes in putting Britain first. Only UKIP will return self-government to the British people.

In France, the National Front, which has been around for quite a while, swept to its first-ever national victory, winning 25% of the vote and besting both the ruling Socialist Party (14%) and the more conservative UMP (21%). “Right wing” parties also did well in Denmark and Austria.

Two closely-related issues drove the insurgency. The first is broadly referred to as Euroskepticism. The bureaucrats in Brussels want to run Europe; they want Europe to be, in effect, a country; and they don’t want to be accountable to voters. Euroskepticism has multiple sources. For example, some people believe that the Euro and continent-wide central banking policy are damaging their economic interests. Others may not be hostile in principle to European union, but don’t want to give up sovereignty to unelected bureaucrats. But most Euroskepticism, at bottom, is the result of persistent nationalism.

For some decades now, Europe’s elites have frowned on nationalism, whether it be French, British, German, Italian, or whatever. The European project has had the long-term goal of molding the continent into a single political entity, in which what were formerly countries would have roles analogous to the American states or Canadian provinces. Intellectuals have justified their hostility toward nationalism by blaming it for the two world wars, which is not entirely unreasonable. But the European impulse arises more, I think, from the desire of Europe’s transnational elites to run a bigger entity–one that stands as an equal with the United States–and to do so without interference from those pesky voters.

The second issue that drives the current revolt is immigration. Logically, if Europe is a single country, then its citizens should be able to move from place to place in search of employment or better health care or welfare benefits. Understandably, many citizens of, say, France and Great Britain have reservations about immigration policies that have not just the effect, but the purpose of obliterating national identity.

The European press persists in describing any political group that has reservations about European integration or, especially, mass immigration as “far right.” To be “far left,” on the other hand, you generally have to use violence to try to install Communist dictatorships. Even peaceful socialists don’t qualify as “far left.” This is a deliberate political choice by Europe’s reporters and editors, but it has unfortunate consequences. With “far right” describing a vast political spectrum that might include most American voters if applied on this side of the Atlantic, ordinary conservatives are forced, to some extent, to make common cause with the handful who can legitimately be seen as extreme. The National Front, for example, has an unsavory past. But where else is a French voter to go, if he wants to be a citizen of France, rather than the European Union?

What is happening in Europe is is largely mirrored in the United States. Here, too, a liberal elite wants to install itself in power on a permanent basis; to stamp out, or at least marginalize, such old-fashioned forces as patriotism and religion; and to operate through administrative dictate so as to avoid any accountability to voters. Democracy is such an inconvenience when you are trying to remake a civilization! Americans should keep a close eye on events in Europe. Our future may well be foretold in the current political upheaval there.

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