I recently sat down with Brian Beary, who writes today about recent elections across Europe for The European Institute — including Poland, Switzerland, Portugal, Greece and state elections in Austria.
One of the concepts that we discussed is the nature of European integration today, and the notion that European governance, on everything from migration to fiscal policy, have now become driving forces in national and even local elections:
According to Lees, this is a signal of the EU’s coming of age in a sense. “The EU has become a living, breathing issue in politics. It has moved beyond an issue discussed by lofty elites. It is better that these debates are happening now at the national and local level,” he says.
The evolution was a predictable consequence of the EU’s expansion into so many policy areas. Greeks are acutely aware that their government no longer sets fiscal policy autonomously, with Brussels to a large extent in the driving seat. And Poles can see from the refugee crisis that their EU membership may involve ceding some control over who to admit to their country as the EU seeks to introduce mandatory quotas of refugees to more evenly redistribute them across the 28-member bloc. Syriza’s pledges to fight tooth and nail with the EU to end austerity and bring debt relief, and the PiS’ refusal to swallow the European Commission’s refugee redistribution plan reaped rewards for them at the ballot boxes.
This moment in EU history can be likened to the ‘Articles of Confederation’ period in America’s history in the 1780s where weaknesses in the confederation form drove the founding fathers to decide that a more closely-knit union was needed to enable the nascent nation to function better.