When Abraham Lincoln accepted his nomination for state senator of Illinois back in 1858, he famously said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” While Lincoln was referring to the situation with slavery that was ripping the United States apart at the time, his words ring true for European nations that are now divided against themselves. This presents a dangerous trend that could seriously threaten the future of Europe, with or without the European Union.
In her traditional New Year’s address, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned about the rise of right-wing political movements in Europe that could fuel instability and turmoil. In Germany, right populism has been gaining traction and showing up in the form of anti-Islamic protests and harsh words against immigration to the E.U. During his New Year’s Eve address, French President Francois Hollande expressed similar concerns, as well as the outgoing Italian President, Giorgio Napolitano. What all of these movements tend to have in common is a distrust of the E.U. and its single currency. If right wing populism is able to become disruptive once again, peaceful Europe could turn into a fragmented one characterized by nationalism and a collapse of its union.
The world is witnessing the situation unfold in Greece and how divided the country is regarding the right course of action it should take. While there are few options left, the country is further weakened by a clear lack of consensus and leadership. If instability in Greece can cause so much turmoil for the E.U., what would happen if right-wing populism were to result in a similar faction in countries like Germany, France, Italy, and even Sweden? Back in March of 2014, Sweden called its first snap election in more than half a century after a far-right party was able to defeat the center-left minority government’s first budget presented to its parliament.
In Hungary, the government is not politically divided against itself as right-wing populism has enabled Fidesz to consolidate its power. Prime Minister Orban continues to drift further and further to the right as he has made statements about bringing back the death penalty and proposing to build a wall between Hungary and Serbia. Is this all rhetoric just designed to get some attention? Perhaps, but there is an underlying and disturbing trend that is churning in nations all across Europe. Nationalism, decentralization, and anti-immigration are catching headlines rather than just being dismissed. Europe cannot stand if the nations that define it are internally divided. While the falling of the Greek house has not brought the Big House down, the next one surely will.
For more information on Divided Houses, please refer to the following articles:
Swedish PM calls first snap vote in 50 years after far-right force budget defeat, Reuters, BY JOHAN SENNERO AND NIKLAS POLLARD, December 3rd, 2014, http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/03/us-sweden-government-budget-idUSKCN0JH0M520141203
Right wing in Europe could bring 'turmoil', CNBC, Holly Ellyat, January 5th, 2015
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