How the desertion by national politicians of the EU is feeding the citizens’ feeling of a European political vacuum.
There is something wonderful about European politics. First, it doesn’t really exist in itself since most of the political power remains at the national level, but still the first target is always “Brussels!”. Second, the more perilous the political and economic outcome of the crisis is likely to be, the more urgent a radical solution becomes, and the more the national political classes seem to be ignorant if not indifferent to European issues.
It is amazing to see how the EU has evolved and deepened during the last decades. But, at the same time, national politicians have still followed their provincial paths towards power without a glance towards the cold bureaucratic world of Europe. The so-called gap between the EU and its citizens is in fact a gap between national politicians, who strongly hold the power in their hands, and where a significant part of our democratic power is exercised, e.g. Brussels. Such politicians reflect a true and complete inability to understand the EU, which makes their natural recipients, the electors, feeling pretty uncomfortable when it comes to judging how the EU is managed. Who could blame them?
Actually, the strong rise of populist speeches if not ideas (the two are probably not the same since populism is more about reaction than action) in Europe is clearly fed by this fundamental inability of the political elite to understand the EU. It gives a feeling of big issues being out of the control of elected governments. That impacts strongly on the credibility of what moderate leaders could express. It also becomes easy for populist divas (there is an intriguing proportionality between lack of political maturity and the size of the egos) to point to the inaccuracy of decisions when there is indeed a lack of coordination within the EU for reaching consistent and efficient policies. Hubris, or possibly shyness, prevents leaders from talking about the reality: for large-scale issues such as the economy, foreign policy and defence, none of the Member States have any longer the means, if not the will, to act alone.