The policy is back – POLITICO

BERLIN – Old Europe is witnessing the return of a force long dormant in its civic discourse: politics.

The Brexit roadblock, the rise of populism and the election of Donald Trump have charged the political atmosphere in Europe, galvanizing the public and politicians in the region.

From the wells of the European Parliament in Brussels to the salons of Berlin, the consensual and somnolent debate gives way to a more raw, meaner and unrestricted exchange, long absent from Western European democracy.

Old alliances are cracking under the stress of growing voter frustration, and politicians abandon the center as the battle for ideas shifts from the mainstream to the fringes. Voters, according to their passports and political convictions, demand action on a range of intractable issues, from refugees in Russia to austerity.

As Europe heads into an election year that could redraw the political map from France to Germany, the dawn gun atmosphere threatens to leave behind a scorched landscape and an even more divided EU – without talk about a tattered transatlantic alliance.

“It’s a much more political landscape than it was a few years ago,” said Jan Techau, director of the Richard C. Holbrooke Forum for the Study of Diplomacy and Governance at the Academy. American from Berlin. “People are fed up. “

Mainstream politicians are increasingly entering the populist toolbox by distorting the facts and resorting to personal attacks.

The collapse of the gentleman’s agreement between the biggest European parties on the presidency of the European Parliament is just the latest sign that the affable, one hand washes the other approach to European politics is dying as the political elite see their future at stake.

For better or worse, mainstream politicians are increasingly entering the populist toolbox by distorting the facts and resorting to personal attacks.

Although such tactics have been a mainstay of the turbulent politics of Eastern Europe, they are less prevalent in countries with more stable political cultures, such as Germany.

Abandon double talk

Just this week, a senior Angela Merkel official raised his eyebrows as he said the leader of the Free Liberal Democrats, long the Chancellor’s Tories’ favorite partner, was no different from a leader of the far-right party Alternative for Germany. The withdrawal appeared to be a revenge for the criticism of the leader of the Free Democrats of Merkel.

German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, leader of the Social Democrats and likely challenger to Merkel in the upcoming elections, has also gone on the attack. Gabriel, who ruled alongside Merkel for nearly four years, blamed her for the rise of the far right, accusing her of trying to “put voters to sleep”.

As populists try to exploit public fears about immigrants and security, establishment politicians have been forced to withdraw from the center, drop their double talk and take a stand. This upsets the political status quo in countries like Germany and Austria, where years of great coalitions have left traditional parties almost indistinguishable.

US President-elect Donald Trump | Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Even Merkel, widely regarded as a lone voice of reason in Europe, was not spared. Seeking to quell a backlash in her party over her refugee policy with open arms, she spoke out in favor of a burqa ban last month. The base of his party applauded the movement, but still wants more.

Nervous by increased support for the right-wing AfD, some members of his conservative alliance demand a tougher line on asylum, the repeal of Germany’s dual nationality law and measures to ensure, according to the terms of a recent statement, that “” Germany remains Germany.

In France, the former Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls is a candidate for the presidency, promising that he is a “changed” man. When he was in power, he advocated the reform of the labor system in France by abolishing the 35 hours. Now, he says, the Socialists have “given in too much” to “the forces of money”.

“I have matured,” Valls told an interviewer this week.

The main conservative candidate, François Fillon, is going in the opposite direction, offering a prescription of economic liberalism – long unthinkable in France – to remedy the country’s woes.

What is striking about these moves is that the candidates have avoided trying to outrun the National Populist Front, instead promising a return to the founding principles of their parties.

This is because, in the past, when mainstream parties tried to co-opt populist positions, voters stuck with the original. This was the case in Austria, for example, where the center-right Austrian People’s Party and the Social Democrats have fought for years to stop the rise of the right-wing Freedom Party.

Goodbye Americanism

Some observers are encouraged by the new political winds in Europe. On the one hand, European citizens, whether out of fear or hope, are increasingly politically engaged.

In Germany, where a few years ago the most controversial issue on the political agenda was a road toll project, the political atmosphere has erupted following the influx of refugees and the American elections.

Trump’s surprise victory sparked an increase in applications to join left-wing parties, for example. Some 1,900 people applied to join the Social Democratic Party in November, more than double the previous month. Most of these new party members were young, with 1,000 of them 35 or younger.

“Suddenly, issues like geopolitics are back on the political agenda. With Trump, you have populism in the heart chamber of the western world and it’s having an impact. ” – Jan Techau

It is not only the left that benefits: across the political spectrum, parties are seeing greater commitment from citizens.

“All of a sudden, issues like geopolitics are back on the political agenda,” Techau said. “With Trump, you have populism in the heart chamber of the western world and it’s having an impact.”

The question is, where is this new spirit of debate leading? Some see a more worrying side to it.

Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and former German ambassador to Washington, predicts “serious difficulties” for the transatlantic alliance in the years to come.

“We will have a new wave of anti-Americanism in this country,” Ischinger predicted.

He noted that leading German commentators began to question Europe’s close ties to America, the cornerstone of the post-war order.

“The time has come to say goodbye to Americanism, to naive Atlanticism”, recently wrote Bernd Ulrich, former collaborator of the former German foreign minister and leader of the Greens Joschka Fischer, in the weekly Die Zeit.

Naive or not, such sentiments suggest that Europe may soon be yearning for the boring politics of yesteryear.