European Union: Liberal Institutions in a Time of Illiberalism

It seems a long way away from the days that the EU was being touted as a future superpower. Following the presidential election victory of Donald Trump on 8th November, many are now turning to the possibility of Europe following a similar populist path. Italy’s upcoming constitutional referendum on 4th December followed by a French Presidential election, Dutch general election and German Federal elections in 2017, present a litmus test for the EU project and globalization more generally.

Italy’s constitutional referendum in itself is a domestic matter aimed at realigning Italy’s perfect bicameral system, giving more power to the lower house, the Chamber of Deputies. However, Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, has put his own political future on the line by claiming that he will step down if the referendum outcome opposes constitutional reform.

European Elections

This would mean another election and open the way for the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), led by former comedian Beppe Grillo. With the M5S leading in the polls and having won municipal elections in Rome and Turin in June, it is not unlikely that M5S will be the largest party come the next election. With Beppe Grillo’s on record as calling for Italy to leave the Eurozone and nationalize the banks, any such action would make Italy’s position in the Eurozone untenable.

The Dutch general election on 15th March 2017 will be the watched carefully by the EU. The right-wing populist Party for Freedom (PVV), led by Geert Wilders, are currently polling level with the ruling People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and have promised a referendum on EU membership should they come to power. The Netherlands has already provided the EU with a headache this year following its rejection of a Europe-Ukraine treaty via a referendum, which aimed at developing closer political and economic ties.

President Donald Trump Elected

Following the election victory of Donald Trump, many are now contemplating the unthinkable in France. Although it has long been expected that Marine Le Pen and her National Front (FN) party would make it into the second round of the presidential runoff, anti-establishment sentiment may end up defeating either the Republican or Socialist party. Le Pen also promises to hold a referendum on membership of the EU.

Finally, in Germany, there has been growing support for the anti-EU Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, although they are quite a way behind the leading parties. Pressure has been mounting on Chancellor Angela Merkel from her own Christian Democrat party and Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, who have denounced Merkel’s stance on refugees.

Euroskepticism in the EU

The growing Euroskepticism in the EU is not all the same. In Italy, it is defined by resentment towards globalization and big business as well as stringent austerity imposed by the European Central Bank (ECB). Eurosceptic movements in the Netherlands, France, and Germany focus very heavily on migration and the threat of Islamic extremism. However, they are united in their disdain for elites and the feeling that globalization and in particular the European Union, has not benefited normal people.

Key Principles of Government

With its four key principles: the free movement of goods, services, capital and labor, the EU now finds itself in a difficult position and its multiple actors make any reform difficult. Despite this, the EU does develop an interdependency between the member states making leaving difficult. Following Brexit and the uncertainty it has caused, support for the EU has increased within the remaining member states. Furthermore, the possibility of U.S. retrenchment from security in Europe is encouraging the member states to come together to address common issues of security. What is more, unlike the U.S. the electoral systems in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.

Brexit Election

However, they are united in their disdain for elites and the feeling that globalization and in particular the European Union, has not benefited normal people. With its four key principles: the free movement of goods, services, capital and labor, the EU now finds itself in a difficult position and its multiple actors make any reform difficult. Despite this, the EU does develop an interdependency between the member states making leaving difficult. Following Brexit and the uncertainty it has caused, support for the EU has increased within the remaining member states. Furthermore, the possibility of U.S. retrenchment from security in Europe is encouraging the member states to come together to address common issues of security. What is more, unlike the U.S. the electoral systems in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands

Following Brexit and the uncertainty it has caused, support for the EU has increased within the remaining member states. Furthermore, the possibility of U.S. retrenchment from security in Europe is encouraging the member states to come together to address common issues of security. What is more, unlike the U.S. the electoral systems in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands favor coalitions which encourage a centrism. What is clear, however, is that even if the EU isn’t dismantled by Eurosceptic members, any further expansion of the EU physically or in its four principles of movement; has almost certainly been put on hold.