Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Joint CAP-AEI Report Explores Growing Polarization and Political Instability in Europe
Press Release

RELEASE: Joint CAP-AEI Report Explores Growing Polarization and Political Instability in Europe

Washington, D.C. — Populist and anti-establishment forces have upended European politics and contributed to growing fragmentation and uncertainty in the European Union, according to a new joint report from the Center for American Progress and American Enterprise Institute.

This analysis of European elections finds that there is no common agenda or governing strategy for populist or far-right groups, but that these parties have contributed to a more complex political environment for the EU. Insurgent parties on the right, as well as growing support for liberal and green parties on the left, have contributed to the weakening of traditional center-right and conservative blocs that once controlled the European Parliament.

“While the rise of illiberal populist political parties has not resulted in the sudden dissolution of the EU, they have contributed to increasing polarization,” said Matt Browne, senior fellow at CAP and director of Global Progress. “What we are seeing is that European politics looks more like the deeply partisan divides of politics in the United States, especially on contentious issues such as immigration, globalization, and the European project.”

“We don’t expect to see far-right parties dominate European politics in the future,” noted Max Bergmann, senior fellow at CAP. “But we do expect that the EU political landscape will remain fragmented. New alliances will be critical to making any forward progress on the EU’s traditional agenda.”

The report argues that despite these political divisions, the case for European unity and a solid trans-Atlantic alliance is stronger than ever, especially given rising challenges to the liberal world order from countries such as China and Russia. Political instability in the EU and the United States poses a threat to effectively confronting these challenges in the future. Leaders on both sides of the Atlantic should rise to the challenge.

Read the report:Beyond Populism: European Politics in an Age of Fragmentation and Disruption” by Matt Browne, Max Bergmann, and Dalibor Rohac

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Sam Hananel at 202-478-6327 or