Finland celebrated its 100 years of independence in December. As an ungrateful child of the Pax Europana and the EU, I would like to extend the festivity into honoring European democracies and their remarkable achievements of 2017.
The Netherlands, my beloved country of residence, probably made the European record on the length of government negotiations: a striking 208 days. It was a game of empty promises, blindsiding and endless Dutch-style deliberation. The ultra-marathon of government talks resulted in four very different parties led by the former and future prime minister, Mark Rutte, smiling in a press photo, most likely ready to stab each other in the back on one of the 1 253 days left before the next election.
We in Finland showed the world how to get rid of the far-right – by letting them into the government. When The Finns (a creative name, isn’t it?) got a taste of the legislative power, more than half the party instantly started plotting against their leader, Timo Soini. The dispute ended in the party splitting in two in its historical bloom, turning their 20% vote into those minute pillars at the corner of the polls.
2017 will always be remembered as the year when Catalonia almost gained independence from Mariano Rajoy’s Spain. Almost. Streets were filled with angry people, the cops got to knock demonstrating students with batons and the separatist leaders took a long class excursion to Belgium. It’s unbelievable how short-lived the political memory is; Franco’s nationalist dictatorship ended only 42 years ago.
Austria, too, took ein Spaziergang in the near past in the footsteps of Jörg Haider in its autumn election. Sebastian Kurz, a 31-year-old Viennese opportunist driving an erotically named car polished the outside of his conservative party and successfully sold the product to the people. However, the contents of his merchandise didn’t change: the new government program is depriving foreigners of social benefits and closing the Alpine country’s gates to new refugees.
The Icelandic prime minister had to resign and take the government down with him as his father was supporting a sex offender. The UK government is playing an Agatha Cristie inspired party game of and Then There Were None with their posts. Berlusconi is hinting on bringing the bunga bunga back to the Italian parliament.
Bring it on, 2018, and long live the European democracy. It’s a blessing to be able to laugh at decision-makers with no fear.