Does Europe have an alternative to Populism?

This commentary was published at Carnegie Europe on August 30, 2018

https://carnegieeurope.eu/strategiceurope/77134

Tessa Szyszkowitz UK correspondent for the Austrian news magazine profil

The financial crisis 2008 and the refugee wave of 2015 have swept forces into power whose promises will not deliver answers to the challenges of the twenty-first century. If European countries want to stay competitive, stopping immigration is not an option for aging populations. Nationalism in Europe has historically been more destructive than constructive. Populism in Austria comes on top of that with a far-right twist, which leaves a bad aftertaste.

There is an alternative. The crisis of the old established parties on the center left and right needs to be overcome by renewing the contract with society and voters. The European model of the welfare state—combined with values of liberal democracies in the framework of the European Union—has in principle produced very good results. Where it has not, EU leaders need to start reforming EU structures. In this age of anger, people’s parties need to regain the trust of voters by taking their fears seriously—but not by legitimizing xenophobic policies. These will ultimately harm societies and economies. In the long term it will be more productive to emphasize inclusive values like solidarity, cooperation, and openness.

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© 2018 Tessa Szyszkowitz