Winds of Change: Nationalism Sweeping Over Western Europe

Based on historical trend the last 75 years, it would seem the Western nations would forever forge ahead on establishing international cooperation and alliances. Political, social and economic barriers started coming down. New regions that offered competitive advantages were being discovered. Economic interests were shared. The world was coming together as one in this process called globalization.

But winds of change were in the air as early as 2009 with the Euro Zone crisis. The once powerful economic community was basically held hostage by one of its own members, Greece. The entire world waited with bated breath as Greece voted in 2012 to agree on a financial bailout package and stay with the Euro Zone. Greece voted to stay on but the austerity measures that came with the financial package showed just how vulnerable global alliances can be.

2016 may have been the turning point. Brexit was the term coined when the United Kingdom voted to leave the European community after 43 years. Officially, the UK will no longer be part of the European Union (EU) by March 2019. The idea of a single market assuring free movement for trade, equal work opportunities within the community and competitive pricing was great in theory.

In reality, too much regulation made trade movement inflexible. Competition could not ensure quality of goods and services. The single market also encouraged migration of talent to regions with better conditions.

Then Donald J. Trump, he of the controversial statements was elected as the 45th President of the United States of America. Trump surprised everyone; including himself of the win over Democratic front runner Hillary R. Clinton.

Trump’s right-wing, nationalist inflected rhetoric resonated with counterparts in France, the Netherlands and Germany who were likewise preparing for their own elections.

France’s Marine Le Pen was the National Front’s candidate versus Emmanuel Macron. Le Pen was proudly anti-globalization and anti-immigration. Similar to Trump she vowed to “Make France Great Again” and had sworn to take France away from the EU if she won the election. Le Pen would eventually lose to Macron.

On 24 September 2017, Germany will likewise hold its own elections for representation to the Bundestag. It will pit current Chancellor and liberal conservative Angela Merkel against Martin Schulz of the Center-Left Social Democratic Party, Christian Lindner of the Center-Right, Alexander Gauland and Alice Weidel of the Right-Wing and Far Right.

Chancellor Merkel is often referred to as the champion of globalization in the face of rising nationalist movements the world over. Issues on immigration, climate change, social inequality, national security and terrorism will be at stake.

Opinion polls so far have Merkel’s party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) winning the majority of seats in Parliament and a fourth term as Chancellor for Merkel.

While Trump’s win may have emboldened nationalists, the truth is their seeds may have borne fruit as early as 2015 when Poland and Hungary established anti-globalization governments.