By Matteo Vespa
I am an 18-year-old from Sardinia. I have always been intrigued by the great challenge of European integration, transnational democracy, and the integration of people with different values into politically united societies. On 29th November I attended a screening of The Great European Disaster Movie at Teatro Massimo in Cagliari, made possible by the Wake Up Europe campaign.
The discussion which followed focused on the historical roots of the actual crisis, on the new experiments of grassroots-democracy, and on the need for a wider mobilisation of those European citizens who are conscious of the value of the European integration.
Having already seen the film when it was broadcast in Italy by Sky on 8th May, I wanted to share some of my thoughts about the similarities between the dystopic vision of the documentary and recent developments in Europe, particularly the sudden (and ongoing) worsening of a number of crises in the last six months.
The Italian première happened against the backdrop of escalating tension within the Eurozone, during the crucial months of the Greek negotiations, which culminated in the dramatic events of the 'blackmail referendum', the shutting down of the Greek banks, and ‘the longest Night of Europe’, which saw Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras subjected to ‘mental waterboarding’, according to one of his officials.
By the 8th May 2015, the events depicted in the prologue of the film looked like a credible threat for the near future – but they were still not clearly on the horizon. That is why when I watched the film again last week, just six months later, it had an even stronger impact on me, due to the further worsening of the European situation.
In the film Nigel Farage (depicted as a future Prime Minister of Britain) is seen imposing stricter measures on immigrants – today Theresa May proposes solutions similar to those that a Prime Minister Farage would come up with, and the real British PM, David Cameron, seems eager to impose restrictions in the access to welfare for European citizens.
The film imagined "the new President of the French Republic Marine Le Pen” declaring a state of emergency" – today the state of emergency has been declared, but by the socialist President Hollande, whilst Ms Le Pen is flying high in the regional polls.
On the 9th May, the day after the Italian première of the film, I gave a speech on behalf of other students at the Sardinian regional celebration of Europe Day. On that occasion I said that Europe was walking towards the abyss slowly but firmly, today I would say Europe is running towards it, with haste. However, today's challenges are the same as six months ago: terrorism, migration, economic crisis, austerity, the German push for a core Europe (Kerneuropa) against Greece and other countries in the ‘periphery’, Brexit.
One last consideration– probably, the most important one. During the last few years we have witnessed with concern the advances of extreme right-wing parties throughout the whole Europe (Ukip, FN, Jobbik et similia), fearing their imminent electoral conquer of government in their countries. The comparison between the dystopian future told by the film and our actual situation underlines how the most dangerous risk today is not so much the coming into the power by these parties but rather the aping and adoption of their policies by the mainstream parties, whose ruling class has always governed and therefore possesses the abilities to make those policies become real and effective, probably in a more incisive way than what the extremist parties would be capable of.
Thus, behind the respectable name of the EPP, Orban adopts the policies of the right-wing party Jobbik, Sarkozy endorses the same proposals as Ms Le Pen – but also Cameron and Ms May adopt several Farage's proposals, and Hollande and Valls implement the security policies, with the approval of the droite française.
This is the slow-burning nightmare from which Europe had better wake up.