Refugee crisis 'has put a strain on democracy in EU'
The migration crisis which swept Europe in the summer of 2015 put a strain on Europe's democracies and will further weaken relations between member states as populist parties gain traction, according to a new report on the state of the world's democracies.
The impact of the crisis will "last decades" and see EU nations make greater decisions on a national level - using their opt-outs more - said the Economist's Intelligence Unit (EIU) in their Democracy Index 2015 report.
According to its ranking, one European country, France, ceased to be classed as a full democracy, which was "the result of a deterioration in social cohesion" and pointed to the rise of the Front National (FN) as "just one example of an increased appetite among voters in western Europe for populist, anti-immigrant and eurosceptic parties".
According to Joan Hoey, editor of the report, anxiety and insecurity caused by terrorism and economic threats throughout the world is particularly pronounced in Europe.
Ms Hoey pointed to worries over Russia, migration, falling prices, the global economy and Islamist terrorism. "The Cold War is over but the world is perceived to be a more dangerous place," she said.
The authors observed that the refugee influx from the Middle East and north Africa also raised "troubling questions" about how democracy was exercised and national sovereignty.
"In Europe, the striking thing is that the majority of countries are full democracies [yet] Europe is a region [whose democracy] has stagnated or regressed the most," Ms Hoey added.
In the aftermath of the crisis last summer, Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president, forced through his plans for 160,000 migrants to be spread across member states despite opposition from eastern European countries. Despite this, only a few hundred have been moved from one country to another. Such policies are encouraging populist parties and politicians, said the report.
As well as the refugee problems, the global economic and financial crash of 2008 led to a decline in trust of public institutions in western Europe while the eurozone crisis had a negative effect on democracy scores in 2011 for countries such as Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Ireland.
"In 2011, seven countries in western Europe suffered a decline in their democracy scores, largely due to the erosion of sovereignty and democratic accountability associated with the effects of and responses to the eurozone crisis."
The eurozone crisis was also cited by the authors as an example of "forces pushing the EU in the direction of a looser and less uniform set of relations between its member states".
The authors attacked Europe's poor economic performance, weak political leadership and the growing gap between traditional political parties and the electorate, pointing to the insecurity exploited by FN's Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands.
The report places countries into four categories: full democracies, flawed democracies, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes.
The list is devised by analysts grading a range of indicators that take into account the electoral system, pluralism, civil liberties and functioning of government. (© Daily Telegraph London)