Fortress Europe

Recent elections for the European Parliament of this May had the outcome that had been expected all along − even as it did not become as strong as some had feared: A clear move towards the right, the far right, driven by strengthened populist movements across Europe.

Populists are talking about the Fortress Europe that keeps everyone out who they claim does not belong in the Union. This is somewhat contradictory since other positions of these parties are targeting at making the European Union weaker and returning sovereignty to the individual nations. There seems to be overwhelming fear that Europe is flooded by Muslims and other refugees, mainly from Africa, that “only” need to cross or bypass the Mediterranean Sea.

Influence of these groups is increasing in Europe as it is in other parts of the world. Even with their success in the elections being smaller than some had feared ahead of the elections, the impact on European politics has increased and the open society of which European countries have been so proud in the past is likely to be harmed. Europe − to some degree − may indeed become some kind of fortress.

This will not be easy to overcome. To a high degree, the success of so-called populist parties around the globe is fueled by fears caused by speeding global change and driving globalization. However, change will not stop, it rather continues to pick up speed. But people, especially those in fear of being the losers in this process, are longing for their old comfort zones. They believe them to be reestablished in their old national borders! This is wrong, of course! And people will learn some day.

More so since reforms are overdue but quite unlikely in the European Union of today! Already in the late 1980th reforms had been overdue, as many citizens then felt. Following the downfall of the iron fence bringing a lot of new member states from Eastern Europe, the Lisbon Treaty signed in December of 2007 was finally preparing the ground. However, little has been implemented yet. Reason is the much wider diversity within the Union and an ideology shift in some Eastern European states making it even harder to agree on reforms.

Hence, a lot of harm may be done! The only way to balance it is to keep arguing and promote the potentially positive outcome of this global ongoing change! In the end, this always requires adapting the global regulatory framework to create a wide feeling of justice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like happening quickly. Too many parties believe they will profit from the situation as it is. This may prove fatal in the long run!

Dieter Brockmeyer is a senior innovation and media industry expert and co-founder of the emerging Diplomatic World Institute. On the picture he is speaking about the Future of Europe at the European Days in Neudrossenfeld, early this May (Photo: Egon Lippert)