The People's Voice? The Rise of Populism as a European Crisis
Crisis Talk on 7 June 2017
The rise of populist parties in Europe is one of the most prominent political developments of recent years. Despite some dampers in the recent 2017 elections, right-wing populist movements in particular have managed to gain a foothold in numerous democracies in Europe; populist rhetoric is even spreading far beyond the borders of these actors. Against this background, the fifth Crisis Talk of the Leibniz Research Network Crises of a Globalized World and its partners - the Representation of the State of Hesse to the EU, the European Office of the Leibniz Association and the Frankfurt Cluster of Excellence "The Formation of Normative Orders" once again attracted great interest. Under the title "Des Volkes Stimme? The Rise of Populism as a Crisis in Europe", Prof. Dr. Nicole Deitelhoff, spokeswoman of the Research Network and Executive Director of the HSFK, Prof. Dr. Ulrike Guérot, Professor of European Politics and Democracy Research at the Danube University Krems, and Thomas Mann, Member of the European Parliament (EPP Group) discussed on 7 June 2017.
After Friedrich von Heusinger, the head of the state representation, had pointed out in his introduction that 2017 could represent a possible turning point in the fight against the shortening of democracy through populist slogans, but that in return Europe had to be seen as a task for all its citizens and not only as a matter of the mind, but also of the heart, Nicole Deitelhoff in her impulse placed the emphasis on working out that the reasons for the rise of populism were not only to be found in external factors, but that they represented a wake-up call for the political systems elites as a whole. Politics must rediscover the controversy. It was not enough to counter the populists with fact-checks. The emotionalisation of politics through slogans only works because people have tried for too long to reduce politics to technocratic functioning. A self-confident advertising of democratic alternatives is therefore necessary.
The subsequent panel discussion chaired by Ralph Sina (WDR/NDR) initially focused on the aspect of the vitalizing power of the populism discussion. Ulrike Guérot agreed with Nicole Deitelhoff that the rise of populism has led to a politicization that the elites have long consciously avoided. Thomas Mann, who had stood in for Reinhard Bütikofer at short notice, on the other hand, insisted that the simplification of criticism, like its personalization, remained wrong. For the political culture of Europe, he said, it harbors far more risks than opportunities. From here, a discussion on the question of the representation of plurality in Europe unfolded: the problem was raised that in the current media landscape, exaggerations and extremes too often dominate the headlines (Deitelhoff) and that plebiscites no longer represent democratic legitimacy (Guérot). While Ulrike Guérot saw the moment for the implementation of a different Europe, Thomas Mann emphasised that radical reforms, such as the proposal to abolish the Commission, did not make European policy better, but rather jeopardised its functioning. Nicole Deitelhoff, on the other hand, argued that it was not institutional changes but a different mode of political competition that was important at the moment. Another facet of this discussion asked about the role of the member states, where the positions ranged from blocking them (Mann) to turning away from the national (Guérot) to warning against overstretching their capacities (Deitelhoff). The concluding discussion with the audience under the banner of Europe's reformability revolved, among other things, around the opportunities of regionalisation and the question of greater financial autonomy for Europe.