With our eyes, ears and souls overwhelmingly focused on the socio-economic crisis and the struggle to fight it, we seem to have neglected the scope of a remarkable transformation that has affected Europe’s traditional political life. In the latter part of 2011, within a matter of weeks, critical political situations have been surprisingly unlocked, paving the way for fresh governments to take office in at least four important members of the EU: Greece, Italy, Spain and Belgium. Whereas the specific conditions of such renewal have differed from one place to another, one thing has certainly united the destinies of those nations: the “fatality” of change. Forget epic struggles of ideas, more or less sincere promises, forward-looking visions or new charismatic leaders; across a considerable part of Europe, political renewal has rather happened amidst emergency plans, hard announcements over future recipes and widespread frustration. Even in Spain, where the Partido Popular has gained the widest parliamentary majority in the country’s democratic history, the clear choice of citizens seems to have been driven more by popular discontent over the outgoing Socialist government than by wholehearted trust into Rajoy’s leadership. In the midst of the continent’s worst crisis since 1945, in sum, new rulers have taken office and original majorities taken form without joy, with the overarching imperative of revitalizing the patients as soon as possible.

That is certainly understandable given the alarming situation many European countries are going through, particularly in the South: high indebtedness, rising unemployment, closing of factories and a generalized lack of confidence. As three political and economic giants such as France, Russia and the United States head for fundamental election this year, however, we see no better wish for 2012 than the hope that those campaigns will mark a solid return to politics. Whereas the term “politics” needs to be interpreted in its widest sense, not just as the fight between this and that leader to get consensus, but as the capacity of painting new scenarios, indicating the way forward to a whole society, in a word building the future. That is indeed what really is missing in the West today, and what young generations need more desperately: a sketch of future, the chance to believe in a long-term perspective. In each of the big countries where citizens are going to vote this year, the new leaders will need to dedicate many efforts to fix problems at home. Yet they also bear a clear chance to redraw a path and a mission for their nations.. Elections, in other words, can and need to get back to what they were invented for: analyzing the state of play of a society, shape new concepts and values to innovate it, and install new leaders capable of anticipating changes, not just dealing with them. That is the essence of democracy, and that is the first and fundamental “raw material” that is needed to get Western societies back on track.

Simone Disegni is a Policy Analyst and a member of the Writing Team at ThinkYoung, the first think tank concerned about young Europeans.


Author :