1. Story of the Week
Another week, another election. This time it was the “socialist hellhole” of Denmark that went to the polls last Wednesday in a festival of democracy that saw 80% turnout (historically low by Danish standards) and the Social Democrats, led by Mette Fredriksen win with over 25% of the vote. The results also reflected the green wave seen in the European Parliament elections with a surge for green parties and a reduction in support for the far-right Danish People’s Party who had gained ground in recent years and had propped up the incumbent liberal government in the past mandate. A victory for social democracy on the surface, a closer reading of the campaign the Social Democrats ran, however, shows that the secret to their success lies in a cunning mix of anti-immigration rhetoric and promises to increase welfare benefits. A pyrrhic victory but a victory nonetheless for centrist forces.
Why it matters
The left has left the building. Or so it seems. The policy the Danish social democrats have employed seems to go against the historical creed of their party and indeed of social democratic movements in general, incorporating humanism and internationalism in every turn of its short yet successful history. More recently, however, the social democrats have suffered from this approach as Europe-wide failures to absorb the migration surges with a disjointed and piecemeal approach has hit certain countries particularly hardover others. This has prompted the centre-left, facing crushing defeats all over Europe (see Germany) to innovate into policies that focus on welfare for citizens (with varying degrees of success in Finland, Spain) to counter the largely perceived impact voters fear immigration will have in their respective welfare systems. The Danish, however, may have taken it just one step too far in adopting an incendiary anti-immigration rhetoric that comes from the far-right in order to justify a social democratic agenda in the years to come. Their playbook shows how far populists have set the agenda and, despite losing the battles of elections, are winning the war of ideology.
The spectacular collapse of the European centre has been a gruesome yet predictable process. The slow degradation of this ‘big tent’ of centrist partieshas allowed a fracturing of the political divide, algorithmically fuelled by atomised social media news feeds and forums making all politics increasingly polarised and sustained with negative messaging for maximum success. The European elections were a testament that the landscape is changing fast and that Green internationalism and nativist nationalism are a real and permanent fixture. Centrist parties are therefore running out of options and there are three distinct strategies available: dismissal, adversarial and accommodation. The first two have been disastrous so the third is now is the default. The Danish Social Democrats saw the failure of the first two and pounced to accommodate some of those policies putting practical nationalism first over moral cosmopolitanism in order to get back into power. Now that they are in charge, however, it remains to see whether they can accommodate Green internationalism with the same vigor setting the example for the European centre-left as a progressive force in an evermore illiberal world.
2. Tweets of the Week
3. Numbers of the Week
The percentage of Europeans that are concerned with food safety. According to a poll held in anticipation of World Food Safety Day on 7 June Europeans are even more concerned, however, with food origin and cost above safety. This is despite the fact that over 23 million Europeans fall sickand approximately 4700 per year die from food poisoning according to statistics from the World Health Organisation. This pales in comparison to the 600 million who fall ill worldwide resulting in 420,000 losing their lives primarily in developing countries. The EU Commissioner for Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis, highlighted that although there is awareness among Europeans it is “the scientific approach is number one because we need to rely on science”
The number of candidates who are running for leader of the UK Conservative Party. The much maligned, yet much sought after post would see the winner automatically become the UK’s new Prime Minister. Not unsurprisingly there is basically one issue dominating the campaign and it is the B-word. All Tory party leaders from Thatcher to Cameron to May have had a long and arduous relationship with the EU, and in the case of these brought about their respective downfalls. The next candidate has the unenviable task of delivering Brexit and keeping country and party together. Wait, are we in 2016?
The number of first-time asylum applications in the EU in the first four months of 2019. The numbers from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) show an increase on the same period from last year and shows a dramatic rise in Venezuelans seeking asylum, beating Afghans to second place with 14,257 applications. Syria was number one in representation, as expected, but there was a surprising rise in numbers from the Western Balkans and the caucuses. The figures are all but expected to shoot through the roof in the coming years as climate change works its way through most of the globe, making already conflict-hit or economically deprived areas of the world more susceptible to mass emigration to the EU and beyond.
A Message From Our Partners
The EFF — European Future Forum held its first general assembly at the European Parliament in Brussels, bringing together a large variety of NGOs and civil society organisations to share their projects with each other, workshop new initiatives and improve their communication skills and methodologies.
4. Quotes of the Week
“The European Union is suing them all the time”
The words of US President Donald Trump commenting on recent EU antitrust measures against US technology companies. Speaking in a half begrudgingly, half praising tone, the protectionist president cited the EU’s recent measures against several US tech companies as ‘’easy money’’ but at the same time suggested that the US should do something similar because according to him “They get all this money, well, we should be doing it. They’re our companies.” The comments were made in a wide-ranging and characteristically babbling interview on CNBC.
“Ryanair is the new coal.”
The indictment of Andrew Murphy, Aviation Manager at the NGO Transport and Environment. The impact of low-cost travel is under scrutiny as millennials, known for their climate awareness, are also hit by the fact that they are also known as Generation Easyjet / Ryanair for their proclivity to fly often, especially within the EU. The first to potentially disrupt this new generational mile high club is the Dutch government which is considering a ‘climate tax’ on flying which would see a 10% price rise and an 11% decline in passengers as a result. Expect the EU to follow suit but meanwhile enjoy that 30 euro round trip to Budapest as it could become a thing of the past.
“I won’t speak for Angela Merkel but should she want it, I would support her.”
French President Emmanuel Macron on the prospect of German chancellor becoming European Commission president. As the political posturing and horsetrading on European top jobs takes place, the rumour mill keeps putting the German chancellor as an alternative to the widely unpopular EPP spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber who Macron has already spoken out against. See an abridged list of the contenders here to whet your appetite for weeks to come.
5. Video of the Week