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From LePen to Fortuyn: Europoliticians just don't get it

  • (May 2002) From LePen to Fortuyn: Europoliticians just don't get it. Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was shot dead just a few days before national elections in which polls forecast his right-wing party would make historical gains (the party won 35% of the vote in recent local elections in Rotterdam). Hardly a LePen, a Hader or a Fini, Fortuyn represented a more moderate and rational Right. The reason for his popularity was the same as in every other European country: an anti-immigration policy. However, Fortuyn was openly gay and supported the liberalization of drugs: not exactly your average conservative.
    People around Europe are fed up not only with immigration (that's simply the proverbial last straw). People are fed up with the chronic indifference of their leaders towards the real issues that real people experience daily. Take immigration policy itself. There is a real need for immigrants to provide basic services that Western Europeans need, in particular nurses. On the other hand, there is no need for the millions of immigrants who sell cigarettes and stolen goods on the sidewalks of downtown. Governments around Western Europe routinely ignore the millions of illegal immigrants who crowd the sidewalks, but routinely pass laws designed to make it as difficult as possible for ordinary citizens to hire a non-European nurse. Western Europeans are simply punished twice by their leaders. The reason is very simple: their leaders do not need to hire a cheap nurse from Eastern Europe and do not walk the sidewalks crowded by immigrants selling cheap goods.
    Of course, September 11 did not help the cause of the Muslim population. Those Arabs were living in Europe like free men (unlike in their own countries). They were free to work, study, travel. Laws protect them against discrimination. Instead of being grateful to the West, they used that freedom to plot against the West. Arabs who were welcomed in Germany planned to blow up a Christmas market. How many Arabs showed shame over what happened on September 11? Almost none. The majority simply blamed the West for being unfair to Arabs. (They did not blame their own dictators for being much more unfair to Arabs).
    Anti-immigration is not the only issue shared by Austria, Italy, France, Holland and, frankly, every other Western European country.
    Americans who complain about the recession should spend some years in Europe: Europe's economy is chronically mediocre. Many indicators show that Europeans have been getting consistently poorer over the last two decades. Certainly, the number of chronically unemployed people has skyrocketed (estimates of Italians out of job and not interested in looking for a job show that up to 40% of the adult population could be de-facto unemployed). Prospects for university students are grim. Experienced managers are forced to retire in their fifties. Taxes continue to rise while social benefits keep being cut. This is no longer a world power: it is a dying continent.
    There is also a widespread feeling around Europe that the European Union simply means more bureaucracy and more corruption: no Europolitician has dispelled the lingering doubt. Just listen to Romano Prodi or anyone else talking and will wonder why in heaven did any European vote in favor of creating this class of bureaucrats, on top of the already crowded zoo of national bureaucrats.
    Europoliticians just don't get it: people are fed up. The parties of Fini, Hader, LePen and Fortuyn will simply grow and grow. The real tragedy is that, in the meantime, the Chiracs and the Schroeders will keep their hold on power for many more years.
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