The future of the European Union

Nov. 20, 2012

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Beverly Clark
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beverly.clark@emory.edu

The future of the European Union is uncertain as the Greek parliament passed new austerity cuts, and coordinated protests across the Eurozone gave way to a slide back into recession. Emory University political scientist Thomas D. Lancaster says this crisis is as much political as it is economical.

"The very model of how to get out of the crisis--the German austerity model--is being questioned now more than ever," says Lancaster, an expert on European politics. "Key, of course, is that it is the middle class, working class and retired people who feel they are the ones having to pay the highest price for, as they see it, the German-directed, austerity policies in Europe."

These measures are starting to show in the changing political and social ideologies of many Eurozone countries. In Germany, whose population is growing weary of paying to prop-up other countries' economies, more people now hold extreme, right-wing positions, according to a new survey from a German political foundation.

"It reported that nearly 9 percent of all Germans hold extreme right wing views and nearly one-quarter of all Germans are xenophobic," Lancaster explains.  "Looking at a comparison between former East and former West Germany, in 2006, the West has a 9.1 percent right-wing tendency and the East was 7.3 percent. In 2012, these numbers have changed to 6.6 percent in the West but 15.8 percent in the former East.

"These increasing right-wing strengths are clearly a product of a growing dissatisfied and alienated young, unemployed, and predominately rural section of the population."

Similar attitudinal changes need to be watched in other economically troubled countries in the Eurozone as they continue to try to cut their way back to economic prosperity, Lancaster said.