One hardly ever sees news from Austria or Czechia* in the American press. Yet recent developments in these two small European countries have big implications for the continuing viability of the European integration process.
The Austrian People’s Party poster: Kurz: Now. Or never! Source
In Austrian elections a week ago the greatest gainers were the Austrian People’s Party and the Freedom Party of Austria. Both parties can be described as right-wing, populist, and anti-immigration, and the Freedom Party is, in addition, Eurosceptic (which means that want to reverse European integration). If they form a governing coalition, as seems likely, this would result in a significant rebellion against the EU governing elites.
Czechs had their own elections last weekend, and the resulting ruling coalition is also likely to be right-wing, populist, anti-immigration, and Eurosceptic (Euroscepticism is particularly strong in Czechia). Now keep in mind that the current governments of Poland and Hungary are already governed by similarly Eurosceptic leaders. In other words, there is a rebellion in the middle of the European Union, and it’s growing.
I’ve written extensively about the disintegrative processes gaining momentum in the EU over the past few years:
The surge of right-wing populism, which resulted in a formation of a group of European countries whose political trajectory increasingly diverges from that prescribed from Brussels, Berlin, and Paris, thus, is only the latest sign of how far disintegration of the EU has gone. In fact, it’s remarkable how many various fault lines there are, which increasingly divide Europe.
One of the most important is, obviously, Brexit, which should end with the UK leaving the EU. Then we have the Greek crisis that could end in Greece leaving the Eurozone. Although this seems to be off the table at this moment, the fundamental problems that resulted in the crisis haven’t been addressed.
In addition to fault lines between the EU center and constituent nation-states, there are a number of problems within the states. Catalonia is number one, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the ham-fisted tactics of Madrid eventually lead to a violent conflict between the Catalonian secessionists and the Spanish unionists.
The independence movement is also very strong in Scotland. In Belgium secessionists essentially won, because the Flemish and the Walloons cannot any longer agree on living in a common state. The only thing that keeps them from declaring two newly independent states is the question of how to divide up Brussels. It’s rather ironic that Brussels is both the capital of the EU, and of Belgium, a failed state.
Last weekend also saw “nonbinding” referenda in which over 90 percent voted for greater autonomy in Veneto and Lombardia. In short, wherever you look in Europe, the signs of impending fragmentation abound. And I have probably missed some in this sad list.
*Czechia is how the Czechs now want their country to be referred to. See ‘Nobody calls it Czechia’: Czech Republic’s new name fails to catch on