In the West, a feverish populist wave has swept ashore. In Europe and the United States, this populism has rooted itself in the political right, with prominent populists such as Donald Trump, Viktor Orban and Mateusz Morawiecki being elected into their respective offices. Other right-wing populists have also been elected in states such as Austria and Italy, with the latter waging an anti-migrant campaign that has further split the European Union on the issue.
The European Union is a political and economic union with 28 member states. The union has a single internal market, open borders between member states and ensures that the member states hold cohesive policies on many issues. However, not everyone is pleased with the idea of a European superstate, especially the governments located in Eastern Europe. What is now described as an East-West divide within the Union, it is clear that the Western European states and the Eastern European states cannot achieve this cohesive policy goal.
An issue that has been threatening to tear the Union apart is the question regarding migrants from Africa and the Middle East. In Western Europe, states such as France, Germany and Sweden have welcomed the migrants with open arms. In the East, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have outright refused to accept the level of migrants the West has accepted, leading the European Union to sue their own member states.
While Western European governments have taken the humanitarian path, the decision has not sat well with their constituencies. In Sweden, the far-right nationalist party Sverigedemokraterna (Sweden Democrats), lead by Jimmie Åkesson, has peaked in popularity. In Germany, the Alternative für Deutschland Party won 13.2% of seats in the Bundestag and have also surpassed the Social Democrats Party in a new poll. In France, the National Rally, formerly known as the National Front, came within breathing distance of winning the French Presidency, losing out to the now deeply unpopular Macron and his ruling party, La République En Marche. The elephant in the room yet to be addressed, the United Kingdom, had held its infamous Brexit referendum. Nigel Farage painted the referendum as British “national independence,” while making prominent issues such as immigration and economic management the tip of his spear in the effort to campaign for his side in the referendum.
With many Western Europeans looking towards the anti-immigrant nationalist right for guidance and Eastern European governments outright refusing to hold a common policy regarding migrants, it is critical to remember that it is not all doom and gloom for the European Union. A poll showed that the E.U. is as popular as ever, with many Europeans noting the increase of economic fortune with their country’s accession into the European Union. Plenty of Britons support a second Brexit referendum and in Germany, a German politician has suggested the creation of the “United States of Europe” — however, it is key to note that his government is making plans for the collapse of the European Union.
Regardless, the European Union, like any political body, has issues it has to overcome. To ensure its survival and the continuation of the battered social democracies of Europe it has to construct a bridge between its Eastern and Western members. Issues such as economic management and border control are key factors in regards to the restabilization of the European Union and the restoration of friendly relations between its member states.