Political developments in Europe over the past six months—Angela Merkel’s ongoing strength; Emmanuel Macron’s sweeping victory; the humbling of Theresa May and declining prospects for a strong Brexit—have led many observers to conclude that the wave of populist-nationalism that once looked poised to engulf the Western world has now been decisively beaten back.
These prognostications could well turn out to be correct. The Merkel-Macron alliance, along with the possibility of a more integrated UK, may give the European project a second wind. But despite the upsurge of Euro-optimism of the past six months, many of the forces that were tearing the union apart and boosting populist parties remain potent across the Continent.
A new Gallup poll, for example, shows the persistence of concerns about terrorism and immigration. Notably, even though France handed the anti-immigrant Marine LePen a resounding defeat, more than two-thirds of French continue to see immigration as a “serious problem” for the country.
The European establishment’s enthusiasm at the way the political winds have been blowing over the past few months should be tempered by numbers like these. If the EU’s migration and refugee policy continues to be beset by incompetence and finger-wagging sentimentality while failing to Dassuage the legitimate concerns of European voters, the populists will be back, faster than you can say, “Schengen.”