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Study: Europeans don’t trust the European Commission

By Vincent van den Born
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On Valentine’s Day 2017, Demos, self-proclaimed “leading cross-party think-tank in Britain, which produces original research, publish innovative thinkers and host thought-provoking events,” published a study into the love European citizens feel for its politicians.  The title is both long and revealing (PDF): “Mapping and responding to the rising culture and politics of fear in the European Union; Nothing to fear but fear itself?” But while Demos might ‘feel the love’, European citizens do not. When holding a survey on levels of trust in political institutions, Demos found “strikingly low levels of trust.” When asked to mark their level of trust on a scale from 0 to 10, more than half of respondents from all over Europe reported having low levels of trust (0-4) in the European Commission.

Beyond reporting what has been painfully obvious for some time, however, the Demos report’s political inclinations obscure the possibility of gaining any real insight into the material under scrutiny. The report is full of high-minded rhetoric, that falls flat on closer examination, like the opening of the Introduction:

There is a spectre haunting Europe: a culture of fear that is finding its form and asserting its growing influence in myriad ways. This is a fear of the unknown: a fear of the other, a fear of the future. Its political consequences have been shown most starkly in the UK’s vote to leave the EU, and the electoral success of authoritarian governments in central Europe. However, fear is also taking hold of the politics of other European nations, marked by the growing success of other ‘populist’ right-wing and Eurosceptic parties, including the Front National, Alternative für Deutschland, and the Swedish Democrats, as well as the rise of street movements such as the anti-Islamic Pegida. This new populist politics is having tangible effects on national public policy, through tighter border controls, the erosion of liberal freedoms and so-called ‘welfare chauvinism’, where social security eligibility is made ever-stricter. Its social impact can be seen in the increasingly nativist and ‘othering’ discourse in the public realm, the disintegration of civil society and declining social trust, and the resurgence of exclusive national and regional identities.”

Right of the bat, the report posits a far-reaching claim, for which it offers no proof. A “culture of fear” no less, a “fear of the unknown“, which is then described as “a fear of the other, a fear of the future.” It sounds grand, but it signifies nothing. It is the same old story that has been told a thousand times already: everything not in line with current policies, everyone with an alternative vision is depicted as being inspired by fear. Is it really only fear that leads the governments of Germany, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Norway to instigate border checks? Are they all lead by ‘populist governments’? Surely then the EU Commission is too, by allowing them?

Really Demos, there is nothing beyond the “culture of fear” that somehow, magically sprung up within Europe, to explain the need for border security? Or are you really arguing there is no need for border security in Europe? There have been no terrorist attacks, we are not facing “[the] most serious terrorist threat in ten years“?

The Demos report, of course, does mention terrorism:

Against a backdrop of an ever-present threat of terrorism, it is not surprisingly that many leaders are themselves embodying the fear of their citizens in hardening security and migration practices. (…) However, the response to the migration crisis also reflects fears more related to a sense of erosion of cultural and social identity. Some governments, with the notable exception of Germany, have refused to take large numbers of refugees, in part due to the fear of losing support to populist parties.”

And that is it. The threat of terrorism – and not, you know, the actual Jihadist terrorism that has cost hundreds of Europeans their lives in the last two years – leads “to leaders embodying the fear of their citizens“. Not taking measures to prevent attacks and protect their citizens, in other words, doing their bloody jobs, no, “embodying the fear of their citizens.” You really have to be a highly educated to be this special kind of stupid.

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  • Leo Savantt

    Demos is pushing the meme that to mistrust the Commission’s form of unelected governance is “right wing” and therefore suspect and probably dangerous.
    Never-the-less and leaving aside the inference that right wing thought is to be feared, historically a ludicrous assumption, anti-Brussels sentiment is found throughout the political spectrum across the continent. In the UK referendum it was traditional left wing Labour voters who swung the result in favour of leaving the EU and it was French trades unionist who led the campaign against the constitutionalist treaty that became Lisbon.
    What Demos seem to have failed to grasp is that whether or not one leans left or right there are many who don’t want to loose their own demos.

    • Sue Powdrill

      It is, of course, unthinkable that any person of sound mind could possibly oppose an undemocratic, expansionist, dictatorial, corrupt, and narcissistic empire. Demos actually proves that the EU is akin to a communist/fascist dictatorship.

  • jeff page

    Sounds very much as though these fools attended the same School For The Demented.
    None appear to be of a sound mind. They don’t possess the common sense to see and hear what many of their own citizens are having to put up with since the tsunami of Muslim immigrants swept through borderless Europe. It has taken some of them an awfully long time to understand their own stupidity. I heard the speech by Viktor Orban where he stated that Hungary (so far) has not had any instances where Hungarians have been mowed down by lorries in the streets, not been shot and killed by maniacs with AK47s and most definitely have not suffered a rape epidemic!
    The EU is a failure, the politicians are a failure. Their world is collapsing around them and yet they still refuse to see it as any fault of their making. It just makes you wonder what these lunatics are thinking. Why are they deliberately putting lives of EU citizens at risk. What are they trying to prove?
    They moan about the rise of populist parties. They just don’t get it do they? Numpties!

  • Sue Powdrill

    Fear leads to paranoia, not populism. A desire for self-determination, national sovereignty, control of one’s borders and laws, national identity leads to ‘populism’, more correctly named democracy.