The future of Europe: dismantle populism

This evening I attended the most interesting event host by Open Society at the Hub Brussels, aimed at launching Counterpoint‘s report on the spread of populism throughout Europe.

I am still eager to go through the whole study, but screening it with studious frenzy and after having listened to the discussion in the Hub, I can say that the work is worth to be analysed in detail. Briefly, the report aims at underlining some of the causes of the rise of populist, xenophobic nationalists parties in Europe, focusing of the French, Dutch and Finnish cases. Apart from a detailed statistical analysis, it also provides some valuable policy suggestions, claiming that a majority of populist voters are in fact “reluctant radicals” attracted by populist parties for very different reasons, which derives from common identifiable causes: lack of education in primis.

Populism: a matter of education

The discussion over the findings of the report, however, spread far beyond the geographical and thematic boundaries of the reports itself, touching the very essence of the crisis of democracy we are all experiencing nowadays in Europe. I have to say that I found myself pretty in live with the point made by Prof. René Cuperos . e basically affirmed that the “stigmatisation” of far right/populist/xenophobic parties is useless and dangerous, given that the rise of those parties is linked – not to say caused – by the failing mainstream political parties, which suicided politics in the last two decades. Descending to a more practical level of discussion, European political elites belonging to the so called “mass parties” did not managed to retain contact with the voters; instead they detached themselves more and more, failing in manage the (inevitable) changing process Europe and the concept of European democracy in a globalised world. In the very end, European political elites are failing in managing transition, change: populists parties are therefore legitimate claims of part of the populace, the one more affected by globalisation, by a knowledge-driven economy, by immigration.

While listening to those valuable contributions, I could not refrain from thinking at the Balkans and at their European path. In the last chapter of my manuscript (which will hopefully published soon), I have “unleashed” my critical vision of the European Union, affirming that the halt of the enlargement process shows all the limits of a cracked European identity: our leaders did not nurtured the European ideals enough to make them root within our democratic system. The greediness of local and personalistic interest harmed the Union more than anything else, including the economic crisis. In more than 50 years of “life together”, EU Member States are still not enjoying all the EU instruments at their best. This lack of committment, the general lack of knowledge of the EU is due to the narrow-mindness of most European politicians, which de facto halted the development of an European identity. That is why, I believe, we are still talking about populist movement in Europe. That is also why EU Member States national policies are driving the Balkans towards suicide foreign policy trajectories, like the one Nikolic is taking towards Russia.

The big question, however, remains: how to manage change? How to manage fear derived from change? I cannot provide an answer at this moment, mostly because, regarding this particular topic, I am the objective of my own research.

Curiously, though, I find myself more comfortablein discussing the future of Europe from the Balkan perspective than from the Italian one.