“The European Union is dead, but it does not know this yet,” Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s far-right National Front, proclaimed recently. The mainstream news media was quick to disagree with her, but the question of whether 2017 could be the last year of European unity is on many people’s minds these days. European leaders feel as if they are awaiting the hangman’s noose.
In many corners of Europe, there is a growing anxiety that the populist wave cannot be reversed. The old Continent is torn apart by the bitter divisions brought on by the euro and migration crises. The union is squeezed between revisionist Russia and President Trump’s “America First,” and demoralized by Britain’s shocking vote for Brexit.
Moreover, the coming elections in the Netherlands, France, Germany, the Czech Republic and, most likely, Italy have the potential to bury the postwar European project. While the European economy is recovering, a sense of insecurity is on the rise. A poll by the British poll agency YouGov in January found that 81 percent of the French, 68 percent of Britons and 60 percent of Germans expected a major terrorist attack to take place in their country this year.