Quo vadis Europa?


Deputy Director of the Estonian School of Diplomacy, Dr. Vahur Made shares his opinion regarding the rising rightist movements in Europe, possible other exit scenarios in the European Union, American policy on Europe during Trump`s tenure, future of Western liberalism.


Interviewer: Elvin Abbasli




The Popular Front (France), the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Sweden Democrats, the Five Star Movement... Nowadays, we quite often hear about such populist parties across Europe. What do you think are the main contributors to the recent rise of the populism in Europe? 

Economic difficulties certainly prevail. But they have boosted other tendencies that may contribute even more to the rise of populism. I would point, for instance, on ‘hedonistic imperative’ which is currently increasingly challenged. It can be explained as a promise of continuous good life for everybody disregarding personal skills, abilities to work and contribution to society. Understanding that, I must be well off simply because I exist not because I do a strong contribution to the society. And ‘contributing’ also means collecting garbage, helping in social care etc., not only being a manager in a wealthy firm or some other fancy position.  


Do you think there is a possibility for the future Brexit scenarios in the EU? As some analysts mention that tight money policies conducted by the European Central Bank and the existence of the euro itself resulted in the economic recessions in several eurozone countries which boosted the Euroscepticism sentiment in member countries. How would you comment on this issue? 

Yes, there are definitely possibilities for further exit-scenarios. They may be about the exit from the EU, Eurozone, Schengen and so on. These exit-scenarios are somehow related to the discussions about the multi-speed Europe. On the other hand, there is a possibility that such scenarios may not occur. When we say that Euro is to be blamed on economic and financial difficulties we currently face, we mostly use the emotional argument. We see the national currencies as symbols of sovereignty, not that much as financial instruments. We say that Euro has boosted inflation, and argue that under our own national currency there would have not been such inflation. But that is not true. For instance, there has been strong inflation in Sweden despite of the fact that this country has not adopted the Euro. And Greece is in debt crisis not because it has adopted the Euro but because of its political and economic mismanagements.


Recently the new U.S. President Donald Trump called the EU as a “vehicle for Germany” and questioned the future of the union in his speech. Do you think Trump’s presidency and possible US-Russia rapprochement can restore the solidarity in the EU and stick member states together against him? Can he be considered as a threat to the EU?

I see the main threat in Trump’s trade policies and his dislike of the trading blocks and multilateral trading agreements and regimes like WTO. If he tries to push for bilateral trade agreements this may be a challenge for the ideology of the EU being a solid trade-receiving block. There is a great deal of uncertainty in the air since it is not clear to what extent Trump manages to implement these policies he has been declaring.


The Brexit, Trump`s presidency, sceptic forecasts on the upcoming elections in France... What is really going on in the world? Some say it might even signal the twilight of the European Union. Do you think it is the end of the Western liberalism?

Liberalism as an idea does not disappear. But in order to be really successful liberalism needs a lot of resources, wealthy societies. Long liberal traditions are essential as well. Some societies continue to be liberal despite of the situation. But liberalism is really more popular and authoritarianism is more challenged in economically good times. We have the recession period now but the period of growth shall return sooner or later. 


In 2014, the President of the European Commission, Juncker set out in his Political Guidelines that there would be no enlargement of the European Union for the next five years. Do you think we will witness the continuation of this policy after 2019 as well? How do you think the recent crises will affect the EU enlargement process as some think that they will make the EU more closed?

I think Romania and Bulgaria have provided strongest obstacles for further EU enlargement. The levels of political corruption in those countries have ringed the alarm bells in Europe indicating that the poorer European countries can really be serious problem-makers when becoming members of the EU. On the other hand, if suddenly the EU-membership becomes popular in the EFTA countries there will be a very positive mood for their accession. So, in general there is no willingness to continue with large-scale enlargements based simply on geopolitical arguments. But the ‘quality-enlargements’ may occur.