The threat to democracy in the countries of the European Union with the rise of nationalisms and populisms in recent years was the focus of a debate organized Thursday by the Cervantes Institute in New York, in which diplomats and experts participated.
The ambassador of Spain to the UN, Agustín Santos Maraver; the director of the Council for European Studies (CES) in the Netherlands, Jan Willen Duyvendak; and Professor of Political Science at the Carlos III University of Madrid, Ignacio Sánchez-Cuenca, spoke about how immigration and the perception for some that it is a danger to the welfare state has led to greater support for populist movements.
"Governments in the liberal world, and in this case in the European Union, have failed, we have not been able to develop policies to deal with immigration, and the consequence of this failure is that everyone is looking for a national response," he explained. Saints at the event.
The Spanish ambassador pointed out that with the objective of winning an electoral victory, what the populist and nationalist parties usually present is the concept that "if too many immigrants are going to use our resources, or if there are too many immigrants in your hospital, you they will try the same. "
He also pointed out that populisms, both on the left and on the right, clearly feed off "social conflicts", although the way they propose to solve them are "very different".
For his part, Duyvendak raised the paradox of how the countries of northern Europe, such as the Netherlands or Denmark, had rotated more towards right-wing populisms in reaction to immigration even though they were not so affected by the 2008 economic crisis, and therefore public health and education remained intact.
However, he countered, the European nations most affected by the recession, such as Spain or Greece, have rotated more towards the left populisms that accept immigration even though they were severely beaten and therefore their welfare state was more threatened.
In that sense, the professor of Carlos III explained that, from his point of view, this phenomenon has occurred because "if you have a very strong welfare state, you want to keep all the benefits it brings you."
"The welfare system, however, is weaker in Spain and Greece, and that is why it does not defend itself as much," Sánchez-Cuenca added.
Duyvendak said he agreed with this approach, but added another factor: the huge difference between the liberal society of countries like Holland, and the conservative nature of immigrants who come, for example, from the Arab world.
"Immigrants are not so progressive, and therefore socio-cultural differences also create a great distance," which is why he explained that northern Europe has tended more towards right-wing political parties that reject immigration.