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Political Extremism: A Threat to the European Project?

Political Extremism in Europe
George Papandreou

George Papandreou is president of Socialist International, an organization of political parties worldwide that aim to establish social democracies. He served as prime minister of Greece from 2009 to 2011 and as minister for foreign affairs from 1999 to 2004 and from 2009 to 2010. Brown Journal of World Affairs: To what extent do you think the rise of extremism in the political scenes of countries like Greece is due to the recession and the EU's response to it? George Papandreou: Political extremism is obviously linked to the economic crisis. I think, however, that it goes a bit further back to a feeling in Europe. As globalization has taken hold, we've seen the rise of emerging markets and more competition between emerging markets and Europe, and therefore rising unemployment. In a sense, this competition with emerging markets has triggered a race to the bottom and a loss of some basic benefits and welfare rates. I think what happened is that a more nationalistic rhetoric emerged that played on these fears rather than adapting to deal with some of the underlying problems in our economy. Such nationalism, in turn, became a stumbling block in solving the sovereign debt crisis not only in Greece but also in other parts of Europe. Instead of dealing with urgent priorities and addressing the real causes of the crisis, we saw scapegoating of different groups or different countries.