The European financial and—partly stemming from this—fiscal crisis is the most severe economic crisis to have occurred since the 1920s. As with every crisis of such dimensions, it has created insecurity and doubt about the existing political systems and institutional arrangements. These concerns are being exploited by nationalistic parties and the virulent media, and are solely focused on the national political arena. National selfinterest and prejudices against European neighbours and fellow European citizens are increasing: southern Europeans are portrayed as averse to work and unwilling to reform, northern Europeans as lacking solidarity. Abusive comparisons with Fascism have even been made.
The boost to populist parties and the receptivity of the public to their messages have been facilitated by the current crisis. The magnitude of the electoral gains that populist parties have been able to acquire due to their anti-European slogans and programmes is surprising and worrying. They succeed by delivering apparently straightforward solutions, which are often derived from national interest, to what are actually complex political problems—solutions that have persuasive power amongst a broad audience. This kind of nationalist and anti-European rhetoric endangers not only economic prosperity, but also democracy.