Europe, the continent is an old one. The birthplace of a great many empires, and the home of two of the bloodiest wars in human history. Europe has a rich and detailed history, and it has its fair share of alliances, rivalries and plain confusion. The countries in Europe have some of the longest histories known to man, and they have always been at the forefront of developments in technology and science. However, Europe is not one single entity, despite what many might wish it to be. Europe, as we know it today is a continent, made up not of the twenty-seven nations of the European Union, but of the forty-eight nations that reside within the geographical boundaries of the continent. This essay will seek to convince the reader that Donald Trump’s role in making of Europe, relies on already existing feeling within Europe.
Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States, coming hot off the heels of Britain voting to leave the European Union (Brexit) came as a shock to many. Trump was in the simplest of terms, a rank outsider, he had no political experience and he said things many mainstream politicians were loath to say. He was in short a populist, and to many the head of the movement. His victory encouraged Marie Le Pen the leader of the far-right Front National in France. As well as Geert Wilders, the far-right leader in the Netherlands. They hoped that like Trump, they could capitalise on fears over immigration and jobs, and the refugee crisis to win elections.
Both Le Pen and Wilders. had been around long before he emerged onto the political scene. They, like Nigel Farage and UKIP in Britain and Beppe Grillo of the Fiver Star Movement in Italy, are firm Euro Sceptics, they take a hard line on immigration, and they believe Globalisation has not brought the benefits it promised. Whilst previously they have not had much electoral success, Farage and UKIP achieved Britain’s exit from the European Union-something many did not think would happen- Le Pen is predicted to cruise into the second round of the French Presidential elections, and Grillo is a favourite for Italian President in 2018. Only Wilders failed to make the expected impact, but his presence has spread awareness, and has forced mainstream Dutch politicians to address issues they would otherwise ignore.
Their impact is now only being truly felt, because the mainstream is listening to them. Something that can be accredited to Trump’s election and the shock of Brexit. Now Theresa May in the UK has stuck hard and fast to ensuring a hard exit for Britain from the European Union, to ensure continued support for her Conservative Party against a divided Labour party. The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, arguably won the most seats in the recent election, because he took on some of Wilders’ positions in immigrants and Islam, and moderated them with his other proposals to ensure a wide base of support.
The rise of populism, and its ties to Trump and his provocative statements, provoked fear in Europeans who were of a more centre political view. Mainstream politicians are aware of this and have attempted to phrase the concerns of fringe voters in a way that makes sense to their core voter base. By doing this, they are trying to avoid giving into radical demands, but are not ignoring the serious issues. Europe has faced the problems of unfiltered populism before, and if the current trend is any example, they have learned from it and are acting on it. Instead of division and censorship, you have discussions being held, debate and arguments, protests, all things healthy toward democracy.
By adopting a populist stance, Trump has shaken Europe and her leaders awake. Seeing the threat of uncontrolled populism, politicians across the continent are working hard to ensure that the concerns of voters are truly addressed, whilst trying to avoid giving into the more radical elements of the fringe vote. Trump’s apparent disdain for NATO, has forced European leaders to consider increasing military expenditure, to counter act a growing Russia. The desire for effective protection against outside threats has necessitated deep and thoughtful plans being laid out within each European nation. No longer is complacency or the status quo being accepted. Europe as a continent seems unwilling to slouch behind The United States anymore, and that can only be a good thing, with a highly unpredictable President in the White House.
To conclude, Trump might be a danger to himself and others as President of the United States, but his election and his subsequent actions as President could well make Europe. If not into the single entity that the European Union wants, then certainly into a continent of nations not to be trifled with. Political leaders are listening to the electorate, and military preparedness is no longer being ignored. Europe is preparing, and that can only be a good thing. All of this would not have been possible without Trump and his bold pronouncements that shake the status quo.