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Questo articolo è stato pubblicato il 15 maggio 2014 alle ore 15:55.
L'ultima modifica è del 15 ottobre 2014 alle ore 14:18.


PRINCETON – Many Europeans tremble at the likely outcome of the upcoming European Parliament election: a strong showing for anti-European protest parties, which will almost certainly try to present themselves as the real winners. But hand-wringing will not resolve the European Union’s political crisis.

And the crisis runs deep. Nowadays, anti-EU parties – Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, and Nigel Farage’s United Kingdom Independence Party – have been the most effective at organizing themselves into a single political family. Meanwhile, the established families – social democrats, liberals, and the European People’s Party (EPP) bloc – have been discredited in many Europeans’ eyes.

The problem is that the old European parties’ intellectual and moral foundations have rapidly eroded in recent years, owing partly to their failure – or inability – to adapt to EU-level systems. If they do not act fast to re-establish themselves as credible and effective representatives of voters’ interests, they risk fading into the political background, allowing irresponsible populists gradually to take center stage.

Consider the social democrats, whose mission has historically been to facilitate the redistribution of resources. Given that such redistribution in Europe occurs fundamentally at the level of individual countries – which have the needed fiscal authority – it is difficult to view it as a suitable project for Europe as a whole.

Indeed, it may be impossible to Europeanize social democracy under current conditions. The more deeply integrated Europe becomes, the less capacity national governments have for redistribution, because individuals, companies, and jobs can simply leave countries with higher tax rates, as has already happened in countries like France. And an EU-level social-welfare state funded through taxes on corporate or personal income would require large transfers among countries, exacerbating already-high tensions among EU member states.

Economic liberals’ capacity to appeal to a broad electorate has also suffered. In the wake of the global economic crisis, voters have demanded government intervention, suggesting that many have lost confidence in the lightly regulated systems of the past.

Finally, there are the EPP’s center-right Christian Democratic forces, which emerged in the immediate post-World War II period with a religion-based emphasis on social solidarity that provided an alternative to the inhumane collectivism of fascism and communism. Since then, however, Western Europe has secularized considerably, and the notion of basing political decisions on Catholic social teaching now strikes voters as quaint. As a result, the center-right parties appear intellectually thin – do-nothing parties that resist change and offer no new ideas.

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