Although this article, which was written long before the recent French elections, sets out to examine long-term trends, it is also extremely illuminating about the present political situation.
While there are clear differences among countries (in particular between the Protestant nations of Northern Europe and the Catholic South) it highlights the general decline in interest in politics and in turnout at elections, especially among young people. By contrast, it stresses the rise of new forms of political activity based on protest.
Pierre Bréchon ponders how much trust Europeans place in their institutions, and shows - although, again, there are obvious differences between countries - that some institutions are well regarded, depending on their purpose, for example the systems providing education, social security and healthcare.
By contrast, stressing the gulf between political leaders and the electorate, Bréchon points out how far the democratic institutions such as parliaments are criticized for being unrepresentative.
He then goes on to look at political affiliations, in particular the Left-Right divide; he shows that although this is now much less marked, it still has a certain sense, as can be seen from the importance attached to a range of values emblematic of the two sides.
After focussing on xenophobia, the changes in attitudes to immigrants and the immigration policies adopted by the various countries, Pierre Bréchon looks more closely at democracy itself. He argues that although it is well established in Western Europe, this does not mean that it is above criticism, sometimes energetic.
Overall, the author stresses that the trends observed over the last 20 years remain steady, including the continuing diversity among countries which appears not to have diminished in spite of the growth of the European Union.