For those in support of the EU, there have been several moments of positivity. Elections like the ones in the Netherlands and France have rejected populist leaders who gained unexpected ground and came close to achieving victory. Ever since the outcome of these elections, in which Mark Rutte remained Prime Minister of the Netherlands and Emmanuel Macron became the President of France, the EU has had a chance to breathe. These results have signaled that, while the voice of populism is rising, those in favor of it are still in the minority.
However, despite the victories of these pro-EU candidates, their supporters should be wary. In the Netherlands, victory came by a slim margin. Rutte barely clung to a majority and his challenger, Geert Wilders is still very much a threat. In France, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, a right-wing, populist party, made an unexpected run to the final round. Despite being handily defeated by Macron, who himself was an outsider, her influence is still very apparent. The establishment was entirely rejected this election cycle, with not a single mainstream candidate making it past the first round. Macron, the new President of France, has never held public office and promises vast free market reform in the country. Despite EU victories in both countries, the people clearly want change.
Another interesting country to watch is Germany. Although current pro-EU Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democratic Union is expected to claim victory in the next election cycle, there is still cause for concern for EU supporters. Extreme nationalist parties such as the AfD (Alternative for Germany), who have drawn sharp criticism and comparisons to the Nazi Party, have been gaining ground. However, Merkel's party is expected to maintain control and the main opposition parties such as the Social Democratic Party are still very pro-EU.
The Italian Elections in 2018 are another important election to pay attention to. The ruling Democratic Party (PD) is facing a tough challenge from the rising Five Star Movement (M5S). The M5S is a populist party which like many, is anti-EU, anti-Immigrant, and led by outsiders. They are a direct challenge to the PD and Italian-European Union relations. Although the election is a year out and is it impossible to predict who will win, it will be interesting to see how the effects of the populist movements of this year carry into next year's Italian election.
Colleges students could be damaged as well. Increased populism closes borders and limits cooperation. The end of the EU could mean a few things. It could limit travel between borders and make it harder to visit Europe as a whole. It could also limit cooperation and hamper research efforts of college students wishing to research.
The world is changing. Populism and nationalism are on the rise, causing decade-old institutions and customs to be put to the test. Unexpected election results are shocking the world and showcasing a more isolationist international community. They are challenging leaders to adapt to changing times and face new challenges. Over the next few years, the European Union will have to face challenges to its legitimacy as an effective institution, and it will be interesting to see the results.
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