Zeitgeist

The E.U. project could thus be looked at in a darker way: as the retroactive arrogation of the Cold War peace dividend by a generation of leaders — baby boomers, or ’68ers, as they are more often called in Europe — who were lucky enough to find themselves in midcareer when the wall came down. The union’s rise brought a wave of public browbeating about the lessons of the Cold War, even though the 1968 generation had been profoundly divided over it, and about World War II, which that generation was too young to remember. It was as if Nazism and Soviet Communism were just two ways of being anti-European avant la lettre. As long as the baby boomers still had parents and grandparents to tell them about the horrors of World War II, this was sufficient to freeze opposition to the European Union in its tracks.

To understand today’s discontent with the European Union, it may help to look at the recent elections generationally rather than ideologically. It has shocked some observers that in France, the National Rally, descended from the hard-line National Front that Jean-Marie Le Pen founded in 1972, drew so many votes from the young: 28 percent of those under 35, more than any other party. Among voters under 25, the National Rally took 25 percent, tying for the lead. In Germany the nationalist and anti-immigration party Alternative for Germany more than tripled its vote among voters under 25, to 16 percent from 5 percent, since the last E.U. election five years ago.

Baby boomers and other adults who were alive in 1992 see the economic ghosts of that time. They think about what the European economy might look like if only we could revitalize trade unions or reopen shipyards. Members of Mr. Bardella’s generation ask: What’s a trade union? What’s a shipyard? Their economic policy is more transactional: They’ll cut heating bills. (See Note.)

Europe is different. Europeans are mostly not aware that they have been enlisted in a project that has as its end point the extinction of France, Germany, Italy and the rest of Europe’s historic nations as meaningful political units. Brussels has been able to win assent to its project only by concealing its nature. Europe’s younger generation appears to have seen through the dissembling. We are only at the beginning of the consequences.

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/06/23/opinion/european-union-elections-nationalism.html (May require subscription)

Note:
Jordan Bardella (born 1995) is President of France’s National Rally, a French nationalist and populist political party, having the largest single parliamentary opposition group in France’s National Assembly. The Party opposes immigration, advocating significant cuts to legal immigration, protection of French identity, and stricter control of illegal immigration. The Party advocates for a ‘more balanced’ and ‘independent’ French foreign policy by opposing French military intervention in Africa and leaving NATO’s integrated command. It supports reform of the European Union and related organizations and supports economic interventionism, protectionism, and zero tolerance for law and order breaches. French President Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron, given recent EU Parliament Elections where in nationalist parties’ candidates earned considerable seats, has called for French Parliament Elections in two rounds on June 30 and July 7.

https://apnews.com/article/france-european-election-national-rally-marine-lepen-b132616d24de829660d8dbe0659e50fd