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Populism, nationalism and egoïsm

Published in Ouest-France April 28th 2011

The success of the True Finns, the only party that gained ground in the elections on 17th April, heralds further progress for the populists. This trend now concerns nearly all European countries. The economic crisis has encouraged this; immigration for which Europe is now the primary host continent maintains it.

But its origins are elsewhere. Falling back on identity firstly means the rejection of globalisation, the freedom of movement, anxiety with regard to more aggressive economic international competition, a fear of decline. The ageing European population amplifies this trend. Since the turn of the century extremist parties have progressed accusing the elites of being the craftsmen of globalisation that is destroying traditional jobs.

Extremists magnify the nation-state as the true bastion to combat a supposed globalised conspiracy which is bringing wealth to some at the expense of the people regardless of their roots and specific features. Immigration is accused of being the cause of unemployment. However Europe's demographic collapse is not even compensated for by the net immigration of one million people per year, which is accepted less and less due to a lack of integration that is no longer succeeding. The populist discourse is also one against immigration and one of exclusion. Morally condemnable it is above all totally contrary to both national and European interests. An American study by Daniel Hamilton explains that to maintain the same labour force, the European Union (under 20 million foreigners for 501 million inhabitants) would have to triple its present pace of immigration.

Finally populism is an unsubtle type of euroscepticism, that accuses European integration of being the Trojan Horse of globalisation and the most destructive element with regard to national identity. It pleads in favour of closing borders, for the establishment of customs duties and often the end of the euro. These are the many untruths that European political leaders have to fight.

The Union's institutions for their part cannot just satisfy themselves with the opening of the continent, without correcting or to be more exact without improving the role they place in promoting and defending Europe across the world. They have to communicate with people and not just States. The migratory issue has to be addressed in all honesty and not only from the technical point of view of the Schengen agreements the application of which is often only checked on paper.Moreover we cannot continue in all safety to send out one single punitive message to the Europeans ie that of rigour, savings, decreases in salaries and social guarantees together with definitive technical arguments. For discipline to be accepted it has to be part of more effective solidarity and credible political goals for economic recovery. This message of hope is lacking.

It would however be justified for Europe to maintain as an advantage powerful means of leverage on the global stage, a strong economy and an unequalled level and quality of life in the developed world. Above all a certain idea of man and society or freedom, solidarity and generosity still has its place.