PARADIGM is a fine word bequeathed to us by our Greek cousins, the ancestral defenders of Europe (watch the Battle of Thermopylae in Zack Snyder’s Hollywood box office triumph “300”). A paradigm(“paradeignma”) shift is a fundamental change in approach or underlying assumptions.
To my mind the question is not what is changing but what is not changing?
If as recently as 2015 Angela Merkel, Martin Schultz, Jean Claude Junckers and Donald Tusk were the accepted, if greyish faces of European polity; that has changed. Rightly or wrongly many among the 500,000,000 EU citizens see them and their ilk as woefully detached from their own realities and aspirations.
The shift away from internationalism is happening at great speed. Post the Brexit referendum Theresa May has understood that the tectonic plates are shifting. At the Lord Mayor’s banquet in early November the Prime Minister spoke of “change in the air” and warned the political élites not to ignore the people who she said: “….. see their communities changing around them and don’t remember giving their permission for that to be the case.”
I think that these are only the early tremors of a political earthquake which could shatter the EU as we know it today.
Looming ever closer, it would seem, is a breed of politicians the like of which Europe has not seen for many decades. As I write the Austrian presidential election has not taken place; it is due on the 4th December. The far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) candidate Norbert Hofer is apparently in with a very good chance of becoming President of Austria.
In France the Front National’s Marine Le Pen seems headed towards the Élysée Palace at elections taking place in 2017. Another right-winger Geert Wilders is hotly tipped to be the Dutch Prime Minister in elections also set for 2017. In Germany, a right –wing party formed as recently as 2013 has already won seats in 10 out of the 16 German regional governments and 6 seats in the European Parliament and in opinion polls has scored higher than Frau Merkel’s Christian Democrats. Then there is Poland and Hungary and so on.
Self-conscious Europeans tend to look across the Atlantic at our colonial cousins (for we have cousins everywhere) for moral justification and support. In Washington they now see a nationalist President Elect, Donald Trump, vocal admirer of Brexit battler Nigel Farrage.
So what impact will the tilt to nationalism and the right have on the “European Institutions”? They certainly will not remain dominated by the middle of the road folk that now run them. The European Council after all is comprised of the heads of state or government of the Member States. Similarly each member of the European Commission is appointed by a Member State and it is obvious that the current broadly centrist commissioners will not survive the paradigm shift. Judges and Advocates General of the European court of Justice are also appointed on a country by country basis.
Think about it. It would be foolish to think that even as the European pendulum swings to the right, the European Union will remain a bulwark of middle of the road liberalism; it will however be a very powerful machine in the hands of whoever takes over.