In a few decades, History books will mention 2011 as the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring. So far, the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions may have not yet fully turned the two authoritarian states into democracies, but the first signs of democratization are encouraging. The outcome of the difficult phase through which Libya is passing is totally incertain; while the most optimist forecasts believe in a quiet transition by the National Transition Council in case Gaddafi forces are defeated, the most pessimist fear a long “Somalia-like” civil war. The Yemeni turmoil is weakening more and more Saleh regime and the Syrian protests are shaking Bashar Al-Assad inherited power more than ever did any of the political crisis the country has been through. The contamination to Iran and to sub-saharian African countries is often discussed by political analysts. North Africa and Middle-East changed for good, and with it global geopolitics. But what will History books say about year 2011 in Europe?
It might well be that 2011 will be remembered as the beginning of the end of democracy in Europe. What would have looked to be as a highly excentric assertion 5 years ago looks today more and more credible. The global financial crisis of 2008 has severely undermined the influence of Europe in the World, but also the sovereignty of European Nations and the social benefits of the European citizen. Instead of reinforcing the European economy, the Euro acted as a propagator of the deep crisis in Greece and Spain (among others) to the rest of Europe. In this context of local pauperization and global instability, withdrawal was the general reaction.
Until 2011, this withdrawal resulting in a radicalization of populations was thought to be a temporary trend, that would disappear once the effects of the crisis damped. But a recent event shows that on the contrary, it might be here to stay: for the first time since the end of the fall of the Berlin wall, an European nation included in its “genetical code” (its constitution) the seeds of real anti-democratic principles. Hungary (and not anymore the Republic of Hungary) adopted on April 18th a new constitution limiting the independance of justice and increasing powers of the head of the State.
Are we overreacting by considering that the Hungarian new constitution is the first palpable step towards the collapse of democracy in Europe? It may be too soon to know. Nevertheless, the “Hungarian scenario” might well be only the first of its kind, where the rise of the nationalist right wing party first influenced national and european politics, before to imprint the Constitution. Other countries dominated by similar nationalist eurosceptic parties such as Slovakia or Romania are not excluded from following the same path.
The “Scandinavian model” was long considered to be one of the most evolved forms of democracy and the quintessence of social democracy. The first crack of the model might well have happened when the populist “True Fins” party won 39 seats (19%) at the Finnish Parliament on April 17th elections. Finland is one of the strongest member nations of the European Union and the previously unseen success of this euro-sceptic party openly claiming they refuse the bailout to Portugal could be a real hindrance to European initiatives. What will happen to Europe the day the Euro-parliament will be full of euro-sceptics deputies?
The Hungarian case might well be the first regressive step in the internal governance of an European nation and the Finnish case the first one in the global governance inside the European Union. Optimists would say that Europe sad history throughout the 20th century will prevent totalitarism, as the consequences of this dramatic outcome is still extremely vivid in minds; Pessimists would just stick to the rough facts to conclude that what was unthinkable only a few years ago is already happening inside nations and inside Union. When more than a decade ago Austrian nationialist leader Jörg Haider (FPÖ) made his entry in the government, Austria seemed to be an isolated case; today, there is nothing unusual to the fact that right-wing leaders are in governments and parliaments. Majority of European citizen consider those parties as parties like any others.
Since the beginning of the economical crisis, the European ‘fortress’ denied more and more access to migrants from Africa and Asia and hardened the policies towards the existing European Muslim community. The fear of a negative anti-democratic impact of Islam is sweeping Europe from North to South and from East to West, ensuring the success of populist parties. So far Germany might well be the only European nation resisting more or less to the wave, but how long for? The radicalization even begins to disrupt national identities themselves, like we see in Belgium, with no government at its head since now one year, digging up the antagonism between Flemish and Welloon. The ‘worst case’ scenario might well be fulfilled if french presidential candidate Marine LePen is elected in 2012, because of France key influence in Europe.
If things keep going on this way, 2011 might well be remembered not only for the Arab Spring, but also for the European Winter.