One of the biggest failings of European governments over the past 25 years has been their unwillingness to explain to their electorates the profoundly changing dynamics of the global economy and the pressures this will place on their economic future. European welfare systems and other aspects of the socio-economic contract have become increasingly unsustainable in this international context. Yet governments have tended to underplay the extent of the challenge, avoided or postponed necessary structural responses, and constructed fair-weather institutions to disguise the gaps between policy choices and needed reforms. The result has been deep popular resentment to the halting reform process, which is seen as helping preserve the riches of the few rather than creating fair opportunities in the future, and an erosion in public trust in established parties.
Can parties, politicians and governments recover in the coming years, and what will they need to do? What is the balance of responsibilities at the national and EU institutional levels? What risks might throw them off course?