Things still seem to be going downhill for the EU, or at least for the left-wing elements of it.
The biggest news comes from Austria, where the populists are now part of the government. As with Germany, the Austrian parliamentary electoral system requires a coalition system, unless a single party gets a majority, which seldom happens. And as with Germany in September, in Austria’s October elections the populists made strong gains.
The strongest party had been in coalition with the socialists, but given the results they have now switched and joined with the populists. This is in contrast with Germany, where the Merkel party is still struggling to form a government with the lefties.
The new Austrian government is decidedly cool to EU dominance. In fact the populist party in the new coalition ran on a platform that calls for a referendum on leaving the EU, along the lines of Brexit in Britain, perhaps Austexit or some such. The new government is holding off on this move for now, but that could change down the road.
This anti-EU feeling potentially puts Ausrtia in league with their EU neighbors to the East, such as Poland and Hungary. It may even be correct to say that Austria has left Western Europe and joined Eastern Europe, just when the tensions between these two spheres are becoming truly serious.
As I noted earlier here at CFACT, Western Europe’s war on coal is a major point of contention with Eastern Europe. The Easterners get most of their electricity from coal and they do not want to switch to Russian gas. Germany’s failure to form a new government was based directly on the issue of coal phase-out, so they are caught in the middle between East and West, just as they are geographically. Germany used to be half East and half West.
With regard to the coal phase-out issue, it is important that Poland has just built by expansion what is now Europe’s biggest coal-fired power plant, one of the biggest in the world in fact. This is clearly in defiance of the entire EU alarmist position on climate change, as well as the war on coal.
On paper it might seem that France at least is coming to the EU’s defense, while Germany remains paralyzed. The new Macron government is ignoring the populists and calling for what sounds like strengthening the EU. But a careful read finds that most of his proposals are aimed at the Eurozone, not the full EU.
For example, he wants the Eurozone to have its own budget. He also proposes that it create an organization to oversee country bailouts, along the lines of the International Monetary Fund. It might even have its own parliament.
But the Eurozone is just those countries that have adopted the euro as their currency, and they are almost entirely in Western Europe. In fact the Eurozone might be the logical fallback position it the EU falls apart. In that sense the Macron proposals to strengthen the Eurozone do little to shore up the European Union. Ironically, they might even weaken the EU by creating a strong inner state within it.
An interesting feature of all this news is that the reports seem to draw no connection with the Trump populism in America or the Brexit revolt in Britain. They treat the German, Austrian and Polish events as local or regional news. Yet it seems clear that there is a widespread rise in populist sentiment, one that cannot be attributed to local conditions.
If the establishment refuses to see that there is a widespread movement going on, they are likely to be the worse off for their blindness. This is true in America as well as in the European Union. The times they are a’changing. Here’s to the New Year.