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The West’s Crises Are Over, but the Populist Fury Remains



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The results of last week’s European Parliament elections were mixed, which meant that every side could claim a victory of sorts. Right-wing populists did gain ground, but so did some decidedly left-wing parties, such as the Greens. The only clear conclusion is that the traditional parties that have dominated the continent’s politics since 1945 continued to see their appeal wither and their power wane.
But elections are often lagging indicators of social change. By the time the public becomes aware of and engaged on a certain issue, the problem might well have passed its peak. Consider the two issues that most people seem to think are fueling populism in the Western world: fears about immigrants and a lack of economic opportunity. In both cases, the crisis appears to be over, but the fury remains.
The number of migrants coming into the European Union illegally is the lowest it has been in five years. In 2018, 117,000 people crossed the Mediterranean to seek entry into Europe, an 89 percent drop from the 2015 figure. This reflects European cooperation with countries in North Africa and the Middle East to strengthen their borders and stimulate economic development while getting much stricter on asylum applications. Applicants are now rejected 2 to 1, the reverse of the statistic in 2015.

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