Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has apologized for her undiplomatic “(bleep) the EU!” remark intercepted on her phone call with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Yet it appears that tens of millions of Europeans share her feelings about the European Union, which they believe has arisen to rule over them.
And Feb. 9, the Eurocrats heard a fire bell in the night.
In a referendum backed by the Swiss People’s Party, a clear majority voted to impose quotas on all immigration, even from other European nations.
Though Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it has signed the Schengen Agreement on freedom of travel across European borders. Now it wants to be rid of Schengen – and any more immigration.
The Swiss vote was not just a shocker for the champions of “one Europe.” It has given a tremendous boost to the populist parties on the continent. Hailing the Swiss vote, many are demanding similar referendums in their own countries.
Nigel Farage, head of the U.K. Independence Party, which wants a referendum to quit the EU entirely and is pressuring the Tories of David Cameron, hailed the referendum.
Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, is praising the “great courage” of the Swiss and has launched a petition drive to put a referendum on the ballot in France.
“Similar calls have come from the Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, who is ahead in several recent polls; the Austrian Freedom Party, which showed strong gains in September’s national elections; the Danish People’s Party … and Sweden’s Democratic Party,” writes the Financial Times.
In Norway, the Progress Party, which is part of the government, is demanding a referendum on immigration.
What makes the Swiss vote explosive is that it comes three months before the May elections for the European Parliament, in which anti-EU parties were already expected to make strong gains.
If these Euroskeptic parties can fold into their campaigns for the European Parliament their campaigns for a national vote to restrict immigration, they could make dramatic gains, and send a shock wave across Europe and a message to the world that Europeans are rejecting the future being planned for them.
Though the parties of the patriotic, populist and nationalist right have been notoriously independent of one another, three months ago, Le Pen’s National Front and Wilders’ Freedom Party joined forces for the May elections. They have invited like-minded allies, such as Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and Italy’s Northern League, to join them.
Virtually every nation in Europe now has one party dedicated to halting immigration or leaving the EU. Though all have been demonized with the same political slurs – extremist, ultranationalist, xenophobic, neo-fascist – the differences among them are as great as the distance between the Swiss People’s Party and Golden Dawn in Greece.
But about almost all of these parties, certain statements are valid. They have all been gaining strength at the expense of older center-right parties. They are all detested by the Davos elite. They all draw their growing strength from the working and middle class.
Collectively, they lack the power to break up the EU. But their strength is such that the EU may not be able to hold a referendum on any change in its constitution without risk of having it voted down by a half-dozen member countries.
Can the European Union, so divided, continue to stand?
What propels these parties?
First, there is the desire in each country involved to retain its own ethnic, cultural and national identity and to halt immigration that would alter its character, especially from the Islamic world and the Third World.
Second, there is the desire for sovereignty and liberty we Americans, above all, should understand. French, Dutch, British, Italians and Germans do not want to be ruled by the European Commission in Brussels any more than Thomas Jefferson’s generation wanted to be ruled by the king across the sea whom Jefferson described in his declaration in Philadelphia.
Third, unlike transnationalists and multiculturalists, the patriot parties hold their countries to be the largest entities to which they can give love and loyalty. And they do not worship at the altar of economic efficiency or measure happiness by the gross domestic product.
Davos Man may have difficulty understanding them. Not so 20th-century man.
In 1919, the Irish, among the poorest people in the British Isles, rose in rebellion because they preferred their own country, their own culture and their own kith and kin to being part of the greatest empire since Rome.
What has all this to do with us?
The ethnonationalism roiling Europe is not unique to Europe. It is roiling the world. And it is not absent from the hearts of Americans.
If the May elections for the European Parliament turn into a sweeping rejection of the EU, what is happening there will find an echo here.
How would Americans vote on a timeout on all immigration? How would Americans vote, if given a chance, to repudiate our entire political elite?