The continent is richer, freer, and more open than ever before – and yet it is witnessing the return of political evils not seen since Europe ended its last civil war in 1945
The Independent Voices
For all of Europe’s many crises – Italian debt, migration, troublesome eastern states, Brexit – it seemed until relatively recently that its political leadership was at least strong and stable, to borrow a phrase. As Angela Merkel’s 18-year reign in Germany drew towards a slightly anti-climactic finale, the emergence of the energetic, charismatic new president of France, Emmanuel Macron, seemed to promise at least another firm hand pointing the way. Now that Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats have chosen the favourite to succeed her, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, the French seem equally set on replacing Emmanuel Macron, though in a rather less orderly fashion. Suddenly, Europe is entering a new, more dangerous phase in its development, and with an increasingly weak sense of purpose.
Mr Macron’s one-man political movement, En Marche! is ironically named indeed. The president can be forgiven for feeling a little bewildered as he sits, effectively besieged in the Elysee palace, caricatured by the increasingly militant Gilets Jaunes protesters as if he were some effete Bourbon.
After all, despite his previous adamantine stance, he has caved in to their demands that increases in the duty on diesel and petrol be reversed; he has offered them talks, though with his prime minister Edouard Philippe rather than himself, a move that may presage a certain amount of scapegoating. Mr Macron’s reforms of the French economy have barely registered, and yet the reaction against him has been violent, extreme and seems to have developed an ugly momentum of its own.
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