Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Irresistible Rise of Mr. Nation

All over Europe the right has been gaining momentum over the past few years, Austria, Denmark, France and Finland to name a select few countries. The irrestable rise if Timo Soini and his True Finns party earlier this month personifies the trend. The True Finns are a party that at first may seem ambiguous as they champion of what appear to be leftist ideals on economic policies, while having strong conservative ideologies. In practice there is a potential for a progressive social policy, but only for those that are fall into the True Finn caste.

We are not far into the Twenty First Century, but the economic crisis coupled with a lamenting for a ‘traditional’ past. Historically the hard right, has gained momentum. The right in general terms is a practice in exclusion, be you a true Finn or a staunch Irish Nationalist, there is no doubt that any that conservatism sets itself against others in a practice of exclusion from their future plans. The youth factor is one that is catching on as we see a lost generation latch onto the populist ideals of the various proponents of liberal nationalism, conservatism etc. Unfortunately these world views miss out on the bigger picture.  

In the last general election the young vote evaporated for Fianna Fáil and the Greens and transferred over to the likes of Labour, Fine Gael and Sinn Féin. The latter being the most important one. Sinn Féin made similar gains proportionately to that of the True Finns, while not quadrupling, but tripling their numbers in the Dáil. While overall there is some form of balance in Irish politics, conservatism and nationalism made major gains.

Looking at the wider trend in Europe at this point in time there are many characteristics of a Europe that has not only stopped growing and is now entrenching. The somewhat forgotten phrase ‘two tier’ Europe is now in fact a reality as there is an inner core of European countries for a variety of reasons are far better equipped to weather the storm of this current economic crisis. When Ireland rejected Lisbon Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, suggested a ‘club of the few’ could be established to ‘move ahead’. This is problematic in a number of ways as it is one that excludes an opposition, an opposition that is in very general terms confined to the peripheral states of Europe.

In looking at contemporary Europe, France is now considering ‘temporarily suspending’ the Schengen Agreement, as immigration from Tunisia and Libya rises steadily. This follows an incident in which the Southern Border of France was closed to Italy on the 18th of February this month over France’s crack down on immigration. This event caused an outcry from Italy, in which it stated that the terms of Schengen had been violated. This phenomenon is not isolated as the beleaguered Southern periphery of Europe struggles to deal with immigration. The attitudes adopted to Turkey and whether or not it should be a part of Europe has also highlighted the prevailing attitudes of a Europe leaning to the right. Quite recently these attitudes were ousted by our very own Soini, Lucinda Creighton, Minister of State for Europea Affairs. Creighton’s views are conservative to say the least, grounded in deeply seeded religious and nationalistic rhetoric which has alienated such people as Dr Kerem Oktem of Oxford University, who had been invited to Ireland to launch his book Angry Nation: Turkey since 1989, in which he illustrates all of the positive influences that Europe has had and can have on Turkey, an extreme periphery of Europe.

The Rise of Mr Nation, Soini, Sarkozy etc is certainly a regression for Europe and perhaps is testament to the limitations of the European ideal. Mr Nation also represents a Europe that is about borders rather than a Europe without, a story of seperation. Increased Euro scepticism on Ireland's part will only serve to be antagonistic to voices that are already unfavourable. It is now more than ever that peripheral countries need a strong voice in Europe if it is to survive.

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