Friday 20 April 2018

It's a frightening time across Europe - but we must not despair

French Front National leader Marine Le Pen
French Front National leader Marine Le Pen

James Traub

Last week, Frank-Walter Steinmeier made his last visit to Paris as Germany's foreign minister (he is about to become president) in order to issue a plea to the French people: "Please do not surrender to the siren song of populism."

His meaning was plain: Do not elect Marine Le Pen, leader of the nativist Front National, in the presidential election this spring. If France falls, Germany, which votes in September, could be next. And if Germany turns against Angela Merkel, "it is Europe itself that will founder," as 'Le Monde' put it.

There is one crucial player missing in this dire feedback loop; that, of course, is President Donald Trump. The announcement last weekend that the United States was blocking all refugees from Syria, temporarily suspending all other refugee admissions, and blocking entry to citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, while roundly condemned by world leaders, has been welcomed by the populist forces of whom Mr Steinmeier warned.

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