EUROPE brings a message of hope against rise of far right. The far right candidate in Austrian presidential election was defeated by a wide margin. Norbert Hofer, the elected Austrian president said that he would be an open minded, liberal minded and above all a pro-EU minded president. The victory of Francois Fillon-a moderate nationalist conservative- in France’s conservative Republican Party primary has shown that politics of hate has had its run.
In this regard, a lot depends on the European leaders and the EU. The Europe-US relationship had been skewed against Europe by the leaders like Blair, Sarkozy, corporate interests and cold-war era military mind set including NATO. If the current wave of pro-nationalist vote in Europe continues to grow, it could end the control of neo-liberalism (transfer of economic and social control to private sector from the public sector) and regain their labor, social and civil rights. Vote for Fillon is vote for his economic program. But it is not a vote for resetting France as he wants average voter to believe. It a vote of rich, moderate conservatives in favor of Fillon who wants to bring Thatcher like policies of deregulation, cutting social welfare, increasing working hours, abolishing wealth tax and lowering taxes.
Fillon’s victory is not a vote against Le-Pen which the media is portraying. It is a classic political ploy in which on one hand Fillon is winning the support of rich minority through his so-called resetting of country’s software. On the other hand, he says that France has a huge need for respect, pride and overall authority. It is effort to appeal to the rest of France whose majority is poor and not affluent. Unless, Le Pen and France’s Socialist Party come up with better programs, establishment will return to power in France.
National pride will be nemesis of next French president. He or she will have to adopt an independent policy like Charles de Gaulle to run the country successfully. Or face rejection, unpopularity like Sarkozy and Hollande. Fillon could lose the elections if he continues to implement global policies like his last two predecessors. French are very protective of their social privileges and they will only elect him if he doesn’t go too far with his new plan. For the world, France with strong leader and independent policies will help stabilize Europe and bring peace in the world.
Germany is the pivot in the empowerment of Europe. With or with Merkel, Berlin will have an important role in keeping Europe united. German annual exports exceed $1.4 trillion. It is deeply integrated with USA, France, the UK , China, Netherland and Italy. It will try and maintain a balancing act among Europe, Asia and America in its national interest. It will help Trump and other leaders to respect each other’s national interests in a multi-polar world.
However, Italy’s no vote is a challenge for Merkel and the EU. 40% of Europe’s $400bn total bad debt is with 8 major Italian banks. Renzi’s defeat will weaken Merkel’s position because like Greece, the origin of Italian debt is global financial system in which Germany is its ultimate beneficiary. American establishment transferred the bank bailout to its tax payers and Berlin is transferring it to European tax payers.
It is explains voter backlash against Europe’s rulers. Cameron is gone. Hollande has bowed out of next year’s presidential election. Italy’s no vote is rejection of government’s economic policies (130 percent public debt), 40% youth unemployment and $5bn bank bailout package. The corrupt Italian ruling elite is defying opposition’s call for early election. In UK, May is trying to stay in power without winning vote of confidence but Brexit may force her call early election.
NATO is headed for a downsised. Trump has rightly objected to it. America is paying 73 percent of NATO budget, which is four times more than what the entire EU is paying for its security. By helping to resolve major disputes under UN laws and ending exploitation of developing world, Trump can help end big military setups and allied spending. Instead, he should cooperate with Europe and Asia to prohibit commercial banks in engaging in investment business, recover looted public funds and spend them on public welfare and education. In USA alone there is $1.25 trillion debt on American students. It could be befitting start of Europe, US relation with benefit to rest of the world.
—The writer is senior political analyst based in Islamabad.