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When political Europe changes

As in all democracies the political landscape in Europe is in turmoil. The traditional forms of exercising power are under challenge. The main parties are contested. The coalitions that emerge after a proportional vote are increasingly difficult to put together. The extreme right and left-wing parties are flourishing with their ideas of protectionist and nationalist withdrawal. Citizens believe that their leaders no long control what is going on.

In Europe it is the collapse of social-democracy that has been the most spectacular of developments. The Greek PASOK was the first to sink with the country's accounts. But what should we think of the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Germany and of course France, where the outgoing president's party only won 6% of the vote in the presidential election? Unable to identify a cause, troubled by the collapse of communism, which facilitated their rejection of totalitarianism, whilst enabling them to advocate equality, they have been abandoned by disappointed electorates who did not get the great performance they had hoped for, since this was replaced by sad administrative rhetoric. The Portuguese exception cannot hide the fact that there are only six to lead government in the European Union.

The parties on the right however have not seen their audiences grow, since they are also contested by dangerous, sometimes xenophobic populists. In Italy, France, Spain, in the United Kingdom and even in Germany they are paying a price in a maybe too long sequence in power, for unkept promises of prosperity, or for their outdated positions. Even when they have remained in power it has no longer been enough to appear to be serious leaders or guarantors of freedoms; they now have to prove that the new economy is an opportunity and not the cause of unemployment, loss of status, or inequality. The modern face of capitalism is being challenged because the questions asked by citizens go beyond the economy - they are linked to identity, an eminently inflammable idea, which often paralyses them.

The real surprise on the European continent is coming from a new generation of leaders who are now entering office. Eight of them are under 50 years of age, in France, Ireland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Croatia, Estonia and in Lithuania. New methods, more directive narratives, audacious reforms, typify some of them, who just like the French president, are helping Europe make its return to the international arena, to it asserting its identity, and possibly to it defending Democracy and Freedom in the face of increasing numbers of autocratic regimes.

National political scenes are changing shape in Europe right now. This will impact 2019, affecting European debate, the elections, the appointment of the Union's leaders and the direction of its future policies. It will no longer be possible to continue as before. Diplomatic miracles will no longer suffice. This means fundamental questions focusing on the organisation of our societies and their relations with a deeply changed world. Pure politics!