Can Swe­den de­fend Euro­pean core val­ues?

Global Times - - Front Page - DING GANG

As Swedish elec­tions con­cluded on Septem­ber 9, Euro­pean coun­tries breathed a sigh of re­lief. Even though the vote for the far­right Swe­den Democrats had in­creased, the So­cial Demo­cratic Party (SDP) still won the largest number of votes, dis­count­ing fears that the na­tion­al­ists could gain ground in the coun­try con­sid­ered an epit­ome of lib­eral val­ues.

Many Euro­pean schol­ars re­gard Swe­den as the bas­tion of the core val­ues that de­fine Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion, despite the Nordic model of de­vel­op­ment be­ing some­what dif­fer­ent from the rest of Europe.

It can­not be de­nied that the core val­ues of Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion ac­cord with the con­ti­nent’s in­te­gra­tion, and help Euro­peans unite.

How­ever, the refugee cri­sis and il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion have led to an un­prece­dented fear that the orig­i­nal val­ues of Europe are be­ing threat­ened and could be eroded.

Al­though the So­cial Democrats re­ceived the low­est share of the vote in the party’s his­tory, that it still won the most votes in the elec­tion has in­stilled a sense of sta­bil­ity to the whole of the Old Europe.

For over 100 years the SDP has been Swe­den’s largest po­lit­i­cal party and has ruled the Scan­di­na­vian coun­try for a long time. What has bol­stered its pop­u­lar­ity? It’s be­cause the val­ues that it ad­vo­cates and ad­heres to have been en­dorsed by more Swedish peo­ple. The party, for in­stance, at­taches im­por­tance to so­cial fair­ness, hu­man rights, equal­ity for women, en­vi­ron­ment pro­tec­tion and cli­mate change, as well as ad­vo­cates de­nu­cle­ariza­tion and rejects hege­mony.

Swe­den’s ad­her­ence to th­ese prin­ci­ples won’t be af­fected by the elec­tions. From the broader per­spec­tive of Euro­pean civ­i­liza­tion, th­ese prin­ci­ples will not be eas­ily shaken, even if some coun­tries may make some tweaks in

pol­i­tics, econ­omy and diplo­macy. Which­ever the party the SDP forms a cabi­net with, the coun­try’s for­eign pol­icy is un­likely to change.

The con­cern is that right-wing Swe­den Democrats are gain­ing pop­u­lar­ity and ob­tained 17.6 per­cent of the vote this time. Al­though less than ex­pected, the sup­port rate for the right-wing party has reached a his­toric high, beat­ing the 12.9 per­cent in 2014.

There are two as­pects to the ris­ing in­flu­ence of Swe­den Democrats. First, when the tra­di­tional val­ues of the SDP are un­der threat, many peo­ple tend to go for ex­tremes and be­come sup­port­ers of Swe­den Democrats.

Sec­ond, many of th­ese sup­port­ers do not nec­es­sar­ily op­pose the tra­di­tional po­lit­i­cal val­ues of the SDP. Rather, they are worried that their coun­try will be con­sumed by the cul­tures and val­ues brought in by im­mi­grants and refugees. Such fear is also shared by some Old Euro­pean coun­tries such as Ger­many, France, the Nether­lands and Italy.

This elec­tion has crys­tal­lized fears that so­cial demo­cratic par­ties in Europe are fac­ing se­vere chal­lenges. Al­though the so­cial democ­racy that they pur­sue has solid pub­lic foun­da­tion, more peo­ple may be led to go for the ex­tremes un­less the par­ties can bring about eco­nomic growth, curb un­em­ploy­ment and face the refugee in­flux through re­forms. Some peo­ple opine that Europe should ac­tively adopt poli­cies to as­sim­i­late im­mi­grants. But Europe’s ex­pe­ri­ences so far show that it can hardly be suc­cess­ful, given the dif­fer­ences in cul­tural, tra­di­tional and re­li­gious be­liefs. This is also a rea­son why North­ern and South­ern Europe find it hard to in­te­grate.

In his new book Iden­tity: The De­mand for Dig­nity and the Pol­i­tics of Re­sent­ment, Fran­cis Fukuyama sheds some light on this. He writes, “Iden­tity pol­i­tics is no longer a mi­nor phe­nom­e­non, play­ing out only in the rar­i­fied con­fines of univer­sity cam­puses or pro­vid­ing a back­drop to low-stakes skir­mishes in ‘cul­ture wars’ pro­moted by the mass me­dia. In­stead, iden­tity pol­i­tics has be­come a mas­ter con­cept that ex­plains much of what is go­ing on in global af­fairs.”

Iden­tity cri­sis has be­come a key fac­tor lead­ing to eth­nic, re­li­gious and cul­tural clashes not only in Europe, but also in the rest of the world.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu Rui/GT

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