The biggest danger facing Europe isn’t so much Brexit, or even the “populist wave” sweeping the continent. It is the depressing fact that continental Europeans seem to be losing an appetite to even try to understand one another across national and cultural boundaries. Ignoring or even provoking your neighbour has become a new normal as countries become more and more inward looking.
From Munich to Milan, political narratives are driving citizens into ever more separated mindsets
“In recent weeks, I’ve travelled to a number of European capitals. What I picked up is that a fragmentation of minds is under way, even though so many contemporary themes, from globalisation to migration, are the common concern of all Europeans. There is particular pathos to this as the centenary of the 1918 armistice approaches. With a key European parliament election just seven months away, the psychological divisions across the continent seem to be deepening, not diminishing.
This is not just about the tensions between populist and non-populist governments. We know that two camps are pitted against one another: on one side, Hungary’s “illiberal democrat” Viktor Orbán, Poland’s nationalist leadership, Italy’s far-right strongman, Matteo Salvini; on the other, France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Angela Merkel and the Netherlands’ prime minister, Mark Rutte. This will define the looming 2019 electoral clash. What’s less explored is how, at a grassroots level, people’s perceptions have drifted far from the European “demos” or public realm dreamed of by the creators of the EU.”