Monday, December 23, 2013

How to fight populist movements

There are several movements in Europe which have as common objective to exploit the anxieties of the working classes to promote simplistic solutions to common problems. These simplistic solutions can have different forms, from looking for scapegoats (typically foreign citizens from neighbouring countries or regions, or immigrants) to protectionism or nationalism. Of course, there is some responsibility for these of the mainstream political parties and their inability to introduce necessary institutional and political reforms. But in my view the deep cause of the social distrust is the severity of the economic crisis and the difficulties of finding alternative economic policies. In Europe, the margin for national policies is very narrow, and significant solutions should be sought at the EU level. But the case must be made that populist movements are wrong and that their exploitation of people’s anxieties is dangerous. This requires involvement in public debate, collective organization and use of facts and reason as much as possible. If the next European Parliament has more than a symbolic share of this type of political movements, the project of an integrated Europe as a force for peace and welfare will be severely damaged. And the problems that are at the root of the anxieties will get worse, not better.

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