Europe today: storm clouds over the continent?

Battle of Ideas festival 2022, Saturday 15 October, Church House, London


Across Europe, politicians are braced for a febrile winter. In the Netherlands, farmers continue to protest against new measures to reduce nitrogen that require a huge reduction in the number of farms. In Germany, awkward questions are being raised about the country’s reliance on Russian gas. In Italy, technocrat extraordinaire Mario Draghi resigned as prime minister, with a coalition of parties led by Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy – and including Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia – set to replace him. In France, Macron, still haunted by the gilet jaunes protests and bruised by recent elections and the enduring threat of Le Pen, contends with droughts, which have threatened harvests and food production. And Greece is racked by a series of scandals and talks of renewed tensions with Turkey. All the while, tensions continue to play out about the correct response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Eastern European and Baltic countries demanding ever tougher measures such as tourist and visa bans, whilst leading EU powers like Germany and France worry about the long-term consequences of slowing gas supplies to Europe.

Whilst the shocks and crises vary from country-to-country, almost all European countries are dealing with populist revolts of some shape or form, and a shared economic struggle in times of inflation and energy shortages. What are the roots of this continent-wide malaise?

Why does European politics feel more unstable and unpredictable than ever? Are old certainties, such as Germany’s economic power or Holland or France’s agricultural economy, being put into question? And where is the EU in all of this? In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many forecast a new renaissance for the idea of Europe, and the institution of the EU. Such predictions seem now to have been optimistic at best. How can the continent, its politicians and institutions, survive the current storms? What Europe lies at the other side?

Ivar Arpi
journalist; publisher and podcaster, Rak höger; co-author, Så blev vi alla rasister and Genusdoktrinen

Sabine Beppler-Spahl
chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36; author, Off-centre: how party consensus undermines our democracy; Germany correspondent, spiked

Thomas Fazi
journalist and writer; author, The Battle for Europe: how an elite hijacked a continent – and how we can take it back and The Covid Consensus: the global assault on democracy and the poor – a critique from the Left

David Goodhart
head of demography unit, Policy Exchange; author Head, Hand, Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in in the 21st Century and The Road to Somewhere

Stepan Hobza
journalist; staff writer, Lidové Noviny; creator, Kulturní války (Culture Wars) podcast

Bruno Waterfield
Brussels correspondent, The Times