On Tuesday 13 October, ECAS’ Membership and Outreach Manager, Marta Pont, moderated a panel on strategies to counter Euroscepticism as part of a 5-day capacity building programme, “How to Counter Right-Wing Populism and Extremism in Europe”, which was organised by the Heinrich Boll Stiftung EU Office.
The capacity building involved 16 young Europeans from France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Sweden and the UK, who were brought together to discuss the roots, ideologies and strategies of right-wing populist and extremist parties and movements in their respective countries, the impact that this is having on EU politics and possible ways of addressing this trend with actors in the European institutions, NGOs, think tanks, academics and politicians.
The panel, which ECAS was invited to moderate, focused specifically on strategies to address the rising Euroscepticism following the last European Parliament elections in May 2014. The panel included two speakers –Mana Livardjani, director of the Union of European Federalists (UEF) and former President of Cafebabel, and Ilke Toygur, PhD Candidate at the Department of Political Science and International Relations of the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and Mercator-IPC Fellow in Istanbul Policy Center, who has extensively written on Euroscepticism and the change in voters’ behaviour in the context of the crisis.
The workshop started with a presentation by one of the participants from Sweden, who gave some hints on the possible causes of rising Euroscepticism in the EU Member States, in particular in his country, and pointed at some ways to address this challenge, including the need to focus on growth, to better showcase the benefits of EU citizenship and to build a common European identity.
Following a very lively debate, in the course of which several interesting points were raised, participants agreed on several strategies the EU institutions could undertake to counter Euroscepticism:
- They should ensure that EU’s fundamental values and freedoms, as enshrined in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights and in the Treaty of the European Union, are fully observed and upheld, particularly within its territory. In line with this, it should be possible to impose sanctions to a Member State where such rights are not being respected. Such a strategy might be unpopular among some constituencies, but it would increase the EU’s legitimacy and credibility and could serve to counter Euroscepticism.
- Evolve towards a more Social Europe by developing a genuine social and employment policy at EU level which can respond to the challenges Europe is facing nowadays and persuade the Member States about the EU’s added value.
- Ilke Toygur stressed the importance of defining what “European integration” currently stands for, in order to know what we mean nowadays when we want to advance towards an “ever closer union”.
- Finally, several speakers highlighted the need to put the citizen at the centre of policy-making, as it is only through their voices and actions that change will be possible in the EU.