On 21 January 1997, almost 300 people representing 42 youth political organisations gathered for a weekend of debate and discussion at the Facultés Universitaires Saint-Louis in Brussels. The event would become the Founding Congress of the Youth of the European People’s Party (YEPP) and was the final step in a long journey towards building a single European umbrella organisation for the youth of Christian Democratic and Conservative parties affiliated with the European People’s Party (EPP).Centre-Right Youth
Youth of the EPP: 25 Years on the Right Side of History
27 Apr 2023
In Western democracies the core principles of an open society are under threat from political polarisation, (self-)censorship and a decline in the opportunities for open public discourse. It is mainly centrist parties, particularly conservative–liberal and Christian Democratic ones, that have been hit by these deformations. The paper will analyse the genesis and characteristics of the current public debates on these issues and develop ideas from a conservative–liberal perspective on strengthening the political and ideological position of centre–right parties. It argues that it is not, first and foremost, the debates and divisions surrounding values in modern societies which pose the biggest challenge for modern democracies and democratic parties. Rather, it is the deliberate, culturally induced assault on free and rational public discourse that is damaging the core mechanism required for a functioning pluralistic society and multi-party system.Centre-Right Democracy Values
Culture Wars: How to stabilise liberal democracies and regain ground for the centre–right parties
18 Apr 2023
Without a doubt, 2022 will be remembered as one of the most challenging and shocking years of the 21st century, as we faced the greatest challenge in our Eastern neighbourhood since the fall of Communism in the late 1980s.
The increasingly complex geopolitical circumstances in which Europe finds itself require the development of a European response that can effectively address current challenges and anticipate future threats, while preserving the bloc’s inherent values and principles.
The Martens Centre’s ambition was to react to the above-mentioned challenges through our research, projects and communications strategy, to incite expert debates, raise awareness, and provide our centre-right leadership and our network with such ideas and recommendations that could address the issues we face in this increasingly fractured global environment.Centre-Right EU Member States European Union Leadership
Activity Report 2022
30 Mar 2023
Almost exactly 30 years ago, on 19 June 1991, former French President Jacques Chirac (at the time the Leader of the Opposition) delivered a speech decrying the untenability of France’s immigration policies, explaining the importance and urgency of a proper conversation about immigration, lest the situation worsen and benefit extremist political actors. Famously, he described ‘the noise and smell’ of immigrants as an extra reason why immigration was a problem for the country.
If you look past the overt racism (Chirac rightfully apologised years later), the fundamental message was near prophetical: Running a populist campaign with mixed themes of xenophobia, nationalism, and Euroscepticism, Marine Le Pen is set to win the first round of the Presidential election next year, before narrowly losing to incumbent Emmanuel Macron in the second round, with polls predicting she will receive around 47% of votes.
In addition to these poor figures for the French political establishment ahead of this vital Presidential election, public attitudes are clear: a recent survey showed that 62% of French people are in favour of a referendum on the question of limiting immigration. Last month, it was revealed that 69% of French people were opposed to increased immigration as a solution to falling birth rates, an issue affecting France along with the rest of Europe.
Despite this data, politicians like Jean-Luc Mélenchon (leader of La France Insoumise, a left-wing party) are unwilling to proactively engage the topic, asserting instead that French society will adapt both culturally and demographically to immigration. This idea was firmly pushed back against by François-Xavier Bellamy, head of the French EPP delegation.
There are other signs that the situation is becoming untenable: in April, 20 generals, around a hundred high-ranking officers, and over a thousand other French military personnel signed a letter calling on French political leaders to more adequately defend “patriotism and the French nation”, in the face of a cultural clash and a perceived rise of Islamism in France. The letter was condemned for its menacing tone and barely veiled threat of civil war, yet 58% of French people declared they supported the initiative of the signatories. At heart, the question is whether the French model of integration still works, or indeed if it ever worked to begin with. One thing is clear: French society is begging for a conversation on this issue and a response to their concerns.
The absence of such a response leaves all the space in the world to polemists like Eric Zemmour, a right-wing journalist turned TV personality. His punditry is a conveyor belt of ‘Clash of Civilisations’ discourse, and his undeniable oratory skill has seduced many, allowing him to punctuate his commentary with despicable conspiracy theories like the Great Replacement while retaining his mainstream presence. His commentary has greatly popularised Marine Le Pen’s ideas, albeit her positions are less extreme.
The depressing reality is that many French politicians wish to ignore Marine Le Pen’s genuine popularity, dismissing her views as xenophobic and her strategy as demagogic. While that may be true, this is the same mistake that led many election observers to underestimate Donald Trump. This is complicated further by a reliance on the ‘front républicain’, the strategy of left-wing voters voting for right-wing candidates, and vice-versa, when this is necessary to ensure the far-right is not elected. However, if trends continue in a linear fashion, she would be elected President in 2027 with a comfortable margin, having taken 33% of the vote in 2017 and poised to obtain nearly 50% next year.
So what can France do? The obvious option is to break free from the false dichotomy between Marine Le Pen’s extremism and the inaction of most of France’s political class. Luckily, it seems that this process has already begun. On Sunday, Les Républicains and other EPP-affiliated forces enjoyed a resounding victory in the first round of the Regional elections. This vindicated the fundamental message of the centre-right’s campaign, which presented Les Républicains as the party of active pragmatism, as opposed to the reactionary identity of Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN). As is often the case in local elections, voters chose action over rhetoric.
Although Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen remain clear frontrunners for next year’s Presidential election, the recent election has greatly revitalised EPP forces ahead of the vote. More importantly, it has shown that the far-right does not have a monopoly on the most important themes of the day, chief among which is security.
And this demystification of the RN’s pull on the right extends beyond security. Relating to all the challenges mentioned above, Xavier Bertrand has expressed support for a referendum on French laïcité and immigration, a key step in answering French concerns. Bertrand is the only declared EPP-affiliated candidate for next year’s ballot, but it is still unclear who will brandish the centre-right banner. Other prospective candidates include Valérie Pécresse and Laurent Wauquiez, who are both sitting Regional Presidents like Bertrand. All three are expected to win re-election next Sunday.
Like Bertrand, the other two candidates are aware of the RN’s attractiveness and the danger this poses, both to their political family and France as a whole. Taking a holistic view, Pécresse has pointed to urban separatism and ‘ghettoisation’ as a key reason for the lack of social and economic integration of certain communities. She proposes fixing this through targeted government investment to create a better socio-economic balance in certain neighbourhoods, limiting the ‘separatism’ that has been the topic of much discussion.
Wauquiez has lamented that the right ‘capitulated’ on certain topics, and stated he would not let the RN monopolise the immigration debate. He argues that France simply cannot accept as many immigrants as it has been doing over the past few years. The lucidity exhibited by these three candidates regarding voter expectations and the challenges currently facing France is the only way of stopping the exodus of French EPP voters to the RN, the main reason Marine Le Pen’s support has swelled recently.
Should the political and social climate continue to degrade over the next year, and should France elect a nationalist Eurosceptic as President, the country would be in fundamental trouble. This is to say nothing of Europe, which would have to contend with a hostile actor in its second largest nation. For the good of the European project, let’s hope the French centre-right steps up and prevents this.Theo Larue Centre-Right Elections
France Needs the Centre-Right
23 Jun 2021
When polling stations close next Sunday evening in the East German state of Saxony-Anhalt and the first exit poll results flicker over the screens, one German will be watching with particular attention: Armin Laschet, the embattled German Christian Democrats’ (CDU) candidate for Chancellor. This regional election, the last before all Germans head to the polls on 26 September, is widely considered a litmus test for Laschet’s ability to lift the CDU and CSU out of the losing streak they had in opinion polls and two regional elections in March and April this year, and to become Chancellor.
While in Germany’s Western Länder, the CDU/CSU’s declared chief opponent (and potential future coalition partner) are the Greens, in Germany’s East, the main competitor is the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany (AfD). In Saxony-Anhalt, the AfD has been breathing down the CDU’s neck in the polls, just as the Greens have in the West, where they even overtook the CDU for some weeks in April. Nationwide, Laschet has been catching up recently, but if in this Land the AfD beats the CDU, or even comes close, he’ll be in trouble again.
And with this prospect, the old German East-West question is back on the table: the Ossi-Wessi debate about what went well and not so well in the last three decades since unification in 1990. Since their 13 percent score in the last federal election of 2017, the AfD has been falling back to single-digit results in Western Länder, but in the East, it has actually replaced the Left Party (Die Linke – the follow-up to the East German Communist Party) as the go-to option for Ossis who feel disenfranchised by a politically correct, urban, West German-dominated mainstream. Ever since the migration crisis of 2015, in Germany’s East, the East vs. West question has been strongly overlapping with the centre-right vs. right divide. The resentment-driven spirit of being ‘left behind’ and under-represented is the same in both cases. And in no German party has this been more virulent than in the CDU in the East, which is deeply riven between those who, by and large, see the AfD as the main opponent and those who can imagine cooperating with them, and say so publicly.
The list of tensions within the Eastern chapters of the CDU, and between Eastern and Western Christian Democrats, is long. To name only the most important recent milestones: in 2019, there was a flirt with AfD in the Thuringian state parliament that was nipped in the bud, but still led to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer’s resignation as CDU chair. In 2021, the nomination for the Bundestag in Southern Thuringia of an ultraconservative former counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism chief, Heinz-Georg Maaßen, drew loud protests from centrists in the party. And a few days ago, the statement by the Federal Government’s Eastern Länder envoy Marco Wanderwitz that some East German voters are ‘lost to democracy’ because of their socialisation in the GDR dictatorship, was followed with angry reactions among Eastern conservatives. The fact that, counter-intuitively, Maaßen is West German and Wanderwitz East German has not changed the basic pattern in all these instances: Perceived Western know-it-all lecturing meets Eastern resentment.
All this is why next Sunday, not only the relative strength of the parties is important to watch, but also which coalition the – actually rather popular – state Premier from the CDU, Rainer Haseloff, might form after the election – and whether there will be more unity within the CDU, or more of the bickering we’ve seen over the past months. Armin Laschet is walking a tightrope: On the one hand, he has to draw a thick red line vis-à-vis the populist right, and rule out not only cooperation with the AfD, but also any adoption of their ideological memes about ‘globalist’ and COVID-related conspiracies, as well as the radical Ossi narrative of an alleged elite terror by the ‘liberal’ West against the ‘conservative’ East. Otherwise, he loses in the centre.
On the other hand, and to shore up the right flank, he has to subtly respond to the existing resentment among conservatives and Easterners, especially in his own party, and allow for a certain bandwidth of opinions – as is normal for a big tent party like the CDU/CSU. Above all, he has to show he can deliver in terms of policies for the people. That concerns persistent economic disparities between Wessis and Ossis, but also the pandemic: The currently improving health situation, Laschet’s job as state Premier of North Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s biggest Land, and his proven record as a smart integrator of extremes are a good point of departure for all this.
Ultimately, the CDU’s dilemma is that it is being squeezed between a dynamic liberal centre (in Germany’s case, the Greens) and a populist right, identical to the dilemma of the EPP political family at EU level in recent years. The European centre right’s survival depends on mastering this dilemma, and successfully walking that tightrope without falling off. Next Sunday will be an important bellwether for this.
 For a more intricate analysis of East and West German narratives about unification and its aftermath, albeit written before the emergence of AfD, cf. this essay from 2009: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1007/s12290-009-0104-8Roland Freudenstein Jonas Nitschke Centre-Right Elections
Armin Laschet’s East German Tightrope
03 Jun 2021
29 June, 1995; nearly 26 years ago, the conservative party Partido Popular was elected to the government of the Spanish capital region. They have not left the ruling office since. And they will not do so until at least 2023, with the situation seeming like there is still a long way to go before the left can regain their long-lost centrum.
26 years is a long time (back then, the PlayStation 1 was still the premier video game console!), and the robust victory by PP’s Isabel Díaz Ayuso this past Tuesday, 4 May, may let us think that Madrid is simply a conservative region and that there is not much to be analysed here. The truth is that only two years ago, Partido Popular fielded the same candidate (for the first time then) and the party’s main competition, the socialist PSOE, ran the same candidate as they did last Tuesday. Back then, the Socialists took 37 seats to PP’s 30 in the regional parliament and took 27% of votes (22% for PP). This week, the conservatives more than doubled their 2019 result, while the socialists dropped by over 10 points.
What changed so dramatically in just 2 years? A global pandemic happened. In the most decentralised country in Europe, our regions have quite a big autonomous power, and the nearly year-long national ‘State of Alarm’ did not change that much. This made the measures to fight COVID-19 quite heterogeneous among the 17 regions of my Iberian homeland, especially after the first wave of the pandemic. And Madrid stood out in a clearly differentiated way.
Last Autumn, Madrid’s regional government decided that every business and sector of activity that could remain open would. They launched an original approach, based on massive testing campaigns and small, partial lockdowns by districts. Here is a blog post from two months ago with detailed information on the singularities of the COVID fight in Madrid. This approach made it possible to reach a few important milestones for the region: in the last quarter of 2020, Madrid’s economic growth was 9 times bigger than the national average, it is the only Spanish region to have experienced a solid employment recovery, and it became the richest region in the country for the first time, overtaking Catalonia in terms of GDP, despite having a smaller population. All these benefits, without a worse outcome in terms of COVID-19 deaths, hospitalisations, or infection rate.
Then, in early spring, Spanish political hormones went a little bit crazy and PP’s preferred partner, Ciudadanos (Renew Europe), aligned with the socialists in a motion of no-confidence against their own coalition governments with PP in the South-eastern region of Murcia and North-western region of Castilla y León. Before it could also happen in Madrid, the regional president and party leader, Ms Díaz Ayuso (or simply Ayuso, as she is commonly referred to), dissolved parliament and called for early elections. 54 days later, Ciudadanos no longer exists in the regional landscape and Ayuso and PP robustly defeated the parties of the national government coalition, PSOE and Podemos.
Why did so many people vote for the centre-right this time, despite having voted for the left two years ago? Of course, the ‘Freedom’ (Ayuso’s political slogan in this campaign) to continue doing business, socialise, go to bars, restaurants, concerts, or museums, while most of the rest of Spaniards could not, created a major incentive to vote for her. But also the relatively good economic data, not only during the pandemic but also in recent years, during which la Comunidad succeeded in attracting many national and international businesses with its soft taxation on both companies and income, its great infrastructure, and quality of life, have made its citizens appreciate liberal policies much more than in other Spanish regions.
Madrid is a rich, dynamic, diverse, and socially free society. Capital of the World Pride, not only is it one of the most LGBT-friendly regions in Europe, but also one of the most welcoming destinations for both tourists and workers from around the world. Its model attracts businesses, but also talent, individuals, and families looking for a safe, warm, and prosperous place to call home. Because of all of the above, the strong and direct character of Isabel Diaz Ayuso – who has become a true pop icon- and because of the poor management of the leftist national government, a majority of Madrilenians voted for Partido Popular and sent a strong message to Pedro Sánchez and his party: we are back!
The immediate future of the party on a national level is yet to be determined. Still, polls indicate that the party is growing firmly and that a national election, if held today, would probably result in a tie between the socialists and Partido Popular, with an uncertain outcome regarding the strength of left and right blocks in the parliament. In any case, two days before the regional election, on 2 May, Madrid celebrated its local festivity, on the anniversary of the uprising against the Napoleonic occupation, marking one of the first ever defeats of the greatest army in the world, La Grande Armée. Back then, in May 1808, the citizens of Madrid lit a flame that would begin the fall of Napoleon and his empire (ABBA did not make a song about it, but it was much more epic, believe me). I am optimistic that this 4th of May of 2021 will also be a historical event, during which the people of Madrid lit another flame, relaunching the centre-right project of not only Partido Popular, but also every EPP member party, whether in Poland, Ireland, France, or Slovakia. Do not let the flame die and join us, Madrilenians, in shouting out: we are back!Álvaro de la Cruz Centre-Right European People's Party Party Structures
Álvaro de la Cruz
The centre-right flame burns in Madrid
06 May 2021
For those who view the pandemic as an event that will change societies and economies permanently, the post-COVID horizon seems limitless. From working patterns to the digital transformation, from increased public spending to greater European integration, Coronavirus is being used as a cypher for sweeping visions of the future.
And while fundamental issues (such as operating the Single Market or tackling climate change) are absolutely vital to the long-term sustainability of European prosperity, the EU risks having its future successes circumscribed by its scattergun approach in seeking “more Europe” as the answer to every conceivable policy area.
This cannot be the centre-right approach. Because it will end in failure.
Europe’s economies and societies are uniquely vulnerable. This is not just attributable to the impacts of the pandemic, as dislocating as many of its side effects are. The reality is that these vulnerabilities have been built up over the preceding decades, particularly in the period since 2008. Europe’s responses to the combined crises of the past decade have veered from the barely sufficient (economic and banking) to the scarcely credible (migration).
The pandemic has significantly worsened these existing economic and societal weaknesses. In this context, the centre-right simply can’t afford to get this recovery wrong. If it does, the reality will be felt through a significantly smaller parliamentary representation in Brussels post-2024; and an electorate increasingly alienated from the wider integration process.
It’s fine for the centre-right to have grander ambitions, but its immediate post-COVID delivery must be focused on the day-to-day realities facing Europeans today.
In some ways, the current set of economic conditions are viewed with trepidation by many centre-right decision makers. Concerns about rising public and private debts, asset bubbles underpinned by loose monetary policy, and the looming threat of inflation are already evident in calls favouring more restrictive policies.
Politically, the economic options facing the centre-right are often viewed as a binary choice between continued monetary/fiscal stimulus, or a return to more restrictive pre-pandemic norms.
But this is incorrect.
The real challenge for the centre-right is to develop a more nuanced, or mixed, policy approach which takes specific account of the vulnerabilities of Europe’s economies and societies. Vulnerabilities which, it should be pointed out, almost all existed in a pre-pandemic landscape.
But this “Middle Way” approach can only be successful if it delivers the necessary payoffs to maintain support across the broad swathe of the middle classes. And as the recovery begins in 2021, it is essential that the centre-right focuses on the key issues which are driving voters to political parties outside of the traditionally centrist, pro-European tent.
Three key issues must be afforded the highest priority.
The first is employment. But not simply the standard social media rhetoric about creating “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs”; what is needed is an integrated approach which actively promotes employment creation, especially for younger people. No new EU projects or funding streams are required. Simply the flexibility to allow member states to invest in technical/digital skills, hi-tech manufacturing, and in facilitating new ventures and businesses. Not every young person needs to learn to code, but every young person deserves an opportunity to work and to be covered by social security, regardless of their position. The centre right must make meaningful employment its top priority.
Second, the centre-right remains worried about the wrong type of inflation. Housing affordability – be it rents or real estate prices – are a key concern for many young people today all across the EU. If young families continue to be priced out of the housing market, the drift of voters to the fringes will continue. To hold the centre ground, the centre-right has to win the battle for housing. Affordable, good quality, and accessible housing is a key ingredient of the European middle-class lifestyle. This issue cannot be seriously addressed without tackling inter-generational wealth issues and the concentration of such capital in older generations. On this, the centre-right must be brave.
Thirdly, the under-provision of basic public services generates a large portion of societal unease. For families, issues like childcare, schools, and leisure facilities represent a fundamental part of their ability to enjoy a sustainable work-life balance. Again, this is a common issue across most member states, increasingly also in Central and Eastern Europe. The centre-right must double down on giving the middle classes a stake in a society that they feel is working for them.
It’s fine for the centre-right to have grander ambitions, but its immediate post-COVID delivery must be focused on the day-to-day realities facing Europeans today.
The moon can wait, it’s time to fix Europe first.Eoin Drea Centre-Right Economy Society
It’s Recovery or Bust for Europe’s Centre Right
14 Apr 2021
Download research paper: https://oy99maarxf.preview.infomaniak.website/publication/towards-a-sovereign-europe-a-centre-right-approach/
As the debate on European sovereignty has gained traction in recent years, Europe’s centre-right should develop its own distinct vision of European sovereignty, one that reflects its own priorities and values.
This policy brief aims to develop a tentative theoretical and historical framework that can be used to work out what this conservative and Christian Democratic vision could look like. It argues that it is important for the centre-right to ensure that its vision stands apart from those of both the nationalist populists on its right and social-liberals on its left. Against populists the centre-right needs to show that conservatism and European integration can be compatible. As the historical overview in the paper shows, conservatives throughout history have supported processes of political and economic centralisation as long as these have taken place in piecemeal fashion and the resulting institutions have reproduced in their conduct and outlook the values conservatives stand for. Against the centralisers on the centre-left, who are currently monopolising the slogan ‘more Europe’, the centre-right must articulate more clearly how its own understanding of EU integration is a more pragmatic, effective and viable way forward. Contrary to progressives, who view European and international institutions as instruments of ideologically-driven social change, European conservatives see institutions as expressions and safeguards both of diversity inside the EU and of the distinctly European imprint on world politics externally.
The paper offers a first outline of how a conservative perspective on EU sovereignty could be applied to a range of policy areas, from foreign policy to economic governance to migration.Angelos Chryssogelos Centre-Right European People's Party European Union
Teaser video: ‘Towards a Sovereign Europe – A Centre-Right Approach’
Multimedia - Other videos
27 Aug 2020
A podcast series that aims to challenge commonly held assumptions about the European project in a tour de force through European history, culture and civilisation. Podcast host Federico Ottavio Reho redefines political correctness with the help of razor-sharp arguments and beautifully drawn historical parallels.Federico Ottavio Reho Centre-Right
[Europe Out Loud] Cultural Destruction Is Never for Good
Europe out Loud - Multimedia
31 Jul 2020
In 1891, Rudyard Kipling published ‘The Light that Failed’, his first novel about an artist’s unrequited love for his childhood playmate and his progressive loss of sight. It must have been this last theme that made the title seem appropriate for a new important book by Bulgarian political scientist Ivan Krastev and American political theorist Stephen Holmes. Since Sophocles’ depiction of King Oedipus in ancient Greek tragedy, Western culture has associated loss of sight with hubris. Also known as the ‘pride that blinds’, this dangerous overconfidence often provoked the downfall of even the mightiest in history.
The authors’ goal is to explain the ongoing global retreat of liberal democracy after the long end-of-history ‘illusion’ that saw it as the inevitable destiny of the entire post-Cold War globe. Resorting to the instruments of political psychology, they essentially impute this retreat to the hubris of liberal democracy’s upholders in the last three decades, and to the resentful reaction of those they patronised. Francis Fukuyama, the leading theoretician of triumphant liberalism, suggested in the early 1990s that an ‘Age of Imitation’ was dawning. In this new age, western liberal and capitalist democracy would come to be seen as the highest form of political organisation, and the rest of the world would be expected and invited to converge on it – to imitate it.
What Fukuyama did not realise, Krastev and Holmes observe, is the antagonistic nature of imitation: if I want to be like you, I ultimately want to replace you. The politics of imitation implied a moral asymmetry (one side, the original, was by definition better than the other, the copy), put inherited identity at risk and exposed the imitators (post-communist countries and beyond) to the judgmental monitoring of conformity by supercilious imitated. This was particularly true for Central Europe, one of the book’s three case studies, together with Russia and the US.
Central Europeans seemed not only to wholeheartedly adopt the means and techniques of western liberal democracies, but also to introject their goals and desires. Somewhat puzzlingly, in the region the model long imitated has increasingly become an obstacle to the self-esteem and self-realisation of the imitators. The authors convey this complex twist of political psychology by showing how, in countries like Hungary, Poland, Romania or Bulgaria, the gripping fear of incoming foreigners really conceals the existential anguish created by millions of their own citizens leaving to the West over the last three decades.
Theirs, Krastev and Holmes contend, is a desperate defensive posture against the model – the ‘original’ – that attracted so many of their best and brightest, awakening the spectrum of depopulation and demographic implosion. They are thus creating a countermodel based on the ideal of tightly-knit and culturally homogeneous national communities, which they hope will make them worthy and attractive in their own right, and not as pale and approximate copies of an unattainable original: the liberal, multiculturalist West.
The mutation of liberalism over the last decades – something I have myself tried to capture in the past with the concept of liberal overreach – is also given due attention. It is accurately described as the story of ‘liberalism abandoning pluralism for hegemony’ and creating the resentful impression that ‘(imposed) no-alternative Soviet communism, after 1989, was replaced by (invited) no-alternative Western liberalism’.
Though written by two longstanding defenders of liberalism, the book acknowledges the reality of liberal hubris and its negative consequences.
On the international scene, this hegemonic posture was outspokenly articulated in the ambitious – and disastrous – agenda of neoconservatives. However, and this is something the authors are almost silent about, the same trajectory could be observed in the internal affairs of Western democracies, where the rise of political correctness has created a thought-and-speech police chastening conservative positions about religion, national identity and traditional societal values. This probably contributed to the illiberal backlash of latter-day too. After all, as Krastev and Holmes do write, ‘in the eyes of conservative Poles in the days of the Cold War (…) Western societies were normal because, unlike communist systems, they cherished tradition and believed in God. But today, suddenly, Poles have discovered that Western ‘normality’ means secularism, multiculturalism and gay marriage.’
The authors are well aware that theirs cannot be the whole story. They recognise the ‘one-sidedness, incompleteness and empirical vulnerabilities’ of their thesis. It cannot, for example, account for the evolution of post-communist countries such as the Baltic states, which did not so far experience a major illiberal backlash. Most importantly, it does not explain why the backlash had to take the precise form it did. Why could it not produce a more moderate form of central European, conservative liberalism that would have continued to believe – like the Cold War West of Thatcher and Reagan that so many anti-communist dissidents admired – in God, nations and traditional values, but without questioning the foundations of liberal democracy? Besides, the important question of what precisely the liberal democratic West could and should have done differently since the fall of the Berlin wall is never precisely answered.
Nonetheless, the book is commendable on several grounds. It abandons the crusading tones so far adopted by both liberals and anti-liberals in their important debate about the current state and future prospects of liberal democracy. Though written by two longstanding defenders of liberalism, it acknowledges the reality of liberal hubris and its negative consequences. Through the concept of imitation, it offers an innovative interpretation not only of Central Europe, but also of Russia and Trump’s US. Most importantly, the book is rather plausible in its reading of the historical phase we have now entered.
The rise of China, we are explained, marks the end of the ‘Age of Imitation’ because, unlike Russia, the country’s leadership never even pretended to imitate the liberal democratic West. On the contrary, much like the strategists of the Meiji restoration in Japan one and a half-century ago, the communist heirs to the Middle Kingdom have selectively appropriated the technical prowess of the West at the service of their own political and cultural system, which they have no intention of abandoning. Meanwhile, the US has for the first time elected a president that is openly dismissive of America’s calling to spread democracy and human rights and sees his country as just another great power looking to increase its wealth and defend its interests. Those are significant moves away from the various universalisms of the last century.
In the passage from the Cold War to the Age of Imitation, the authors claim, the clash between two universalist political doctrines – liberalism and communism – gave way to the energetic exportation all over the world of the one that seemed victorious. However, we now start to apprehend that, in its sudden and bloodless death, universalist communism might have wounded universalist liberalism too, slowly reawakening the more atavistic forces of nation, culture, ethnicity and religion in the process.
We therefore might be entering ‘a pluralistic and competitive world, where no centres of military and economic power will strive to spread their own system of values across the globe’. A world that might vindicate Samuel Huntington’s predictions more than Francis Fukuyama’s. And one that the European Union – with its edifying but increasingly quixotic liberal messianism – might find most challenging and inhospitable to inhabit. The ‘chastised liberalism’ proposed by Krastev and Holmes – a moderate liberalism that abandons hegemony and returns to authentic pluralism both internally and internationally – might thus be needed in the EU more than anywhere else.Federico Ottavio Reho Centre-Right Democracy Values
Federico Ottavio Reho
Liberalism: The Light that Failed?
25 Mar 2020
A doctrine whose propagators ask the question “What if we were wrong?” is a doctrine that must be doing something right. Western nations, together with their guiding philosophy, liberalism, have asked themselves this question repeatedly, through centuries, more often and more intensely than any other doctrine, philosophy or civilisation. Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes quote Barack Obama who, at the end of his term in 2016, asks this question, and they apply it to the history of post-1989 liberalism in the world. Looking at the new illiberalism in Central Europe, Russia’s militarised kleptocracy, the United States under Donald Trump and increasingly assertive authoritarianism in China, they admit to being former defenders of liberalism (if Irving Kristol hadn’t coined the term for neo-conservatives, Krastev and Holmes might be called “liberals mugged by reality”). And with the zeal of the disillusioned and newly converted, they emphatically answer that, indeed, post-1989 liberalism has spectacularly failed.
In the text that follows, they join the fashionably growing chorus of authors who claim that Western universalism is outdated and that post-1989 liberalism is passé because the West, Icarus-like, flew too high – victim of its own hubris (think Fukuyama 1989), hypocrisy (think Iraq 2003) and undermining of its own principles (think PC liberal illiberalism). We’ve been hearing this narrative in different versions for at least 12 years now, since the beginning of the global financial crisis. For some particularly remarkable examples of post-liberalism literature, look up US scholar Patrick M. Deneen’s ‘Why Liberalism Failed’ or Polish MEP Ryszard Legutko’s ‘The Demon in Democracy’. Consequently, there is nothing new about the failure thesis. The only novelty in Krastev and Holmes’ book is the application of personal psychology to the politics of post-1989 liberalism with their imitation scheme used to characterise elites in Central Europe, Russia, and China.
Without a doubt, Krastev and Holmes have written a well-formulated and well-documented study. But I would like to pick out three fundamental problems in ‘The Light That Failed. A Reckoning’: They relate to the way the authors frame liberalism itself, the way they depict the “process of imitation” in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989, and finally the way they sketch out the world of the future.
The framing of liberalism
The West is a normative project, says the German historian Heinrich August Winkler, which means that it represents a model, an ideal state which is never fully reached. (Here’s a little element of Catholicism, for what it’s worth). It has always had its internal acts of betrayal of its own norms. France under Napoleon, for example, was a military dictatorship, even by contemporary standards. But more than any other civilisation, the West, and its guiding philosophy, have the ability to self-criticise and correct their own mistakes. This has always been elementary. And it is overlooked by Krastev and Holmes who suggest that liberalism went astray in 1989.
In characterising Western liberals’ triumphalism in those days, Krastev and Holmes quote avowed illiberals such as Ryszard Legutko with “Communist orthodoxy was replaced by liberal orthodoxy” without exposing the preposterousness of the claim. The same goes for Hungarian historian Mária Schmidt who speaks of “Western colonialism”. But there is no single plausible parallel between liberalism and communism, neither in content nor in method – unless someone can tell me the name of the latest liberal Gulag – except for the claim, upheld for about two decades at most, that “there is no alternative” – which, in itself, was quite significantly a mantra of Margaret Thatcher who amazingly still counts as an idol for today’s illiberals.
There certainly was hubris in Fukuyama’s “end of history”. But no one defends this hubris anymore today, quite the contrary – and least of all, Fukuyama himself.
The depiction of Central Europe’s reformers
In depicting Central Europe’s reformers wholesale as imitators, Krastev and Holmes become victims of their own idea. What may be true for some of that region’s elites, becomes a highly unfair caricature when applied to the entire group. I myself have met, and worked with, a good part of Poland’s intellectual elite before 1989, and its intellectual, political and business elite after 1989. These were not people who wanted to become someone or something different. These were women and men who felt their country had landed on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain in 1945 and they wanted to help bring it back to its natural place, in the middle of Europe and as part of the West. That does not mean they approved of everything the European Commission demanded in terms of reform steps in the accession process to the EU. But to say that Central and Eastern Europe’s “inherited identity” was “at risk” and that it was “forced to enact policies formulated by unelected bureaucrats”, as Krastev and Holmes do, is to adopt the rhetoric of Orbán and Kaczyński.
To present these and other autocrats as the true face of Central and Eastern Europe today is not only playing into their hands, but also factually wrong. There are real conflicts going on in the newer member states of the EU, between different worldviews and different concepts of modernity – just like in Western Europe. To suggest that one side in these conflicts – the nationalists, kleptocrats, and populists – represents the real Central Europe, and the other side thin urban elites removed from the people, is far from the complex reality.
Towards a pluralistic and competitive future?
Like so many interesting texts, this one ends at the most interesting point: How exactly should we imagine the brave new world of “zero hypocrisy”? Krastev and Holmes only very superficially speak about a world that is “pluralistic and competitive” and “where no centres of power will strive to spread their own system of values around the globe”. This begs the question: How will the West compete with Russian hybrid aggression or Chinese neo-imperialism (as if those were without hypocrisy, to put it mildly), if not through self-confident support of democratic ideas and democrats across the globe? How to explain to a Taiwanese or a Hong Kong democracy protester that the West has failed and is now covering its head with ashes?
‘The Light That Failed. A Reckoning’ is beautifully written food for thought. But in attacking liberal hubris, Krastev and Holmes are beating a dead horse. In their rendering of non-Western “imitation”, they are grossly pigeonholing Central Europe’s former dissidents and later reformers. And in their depiction of a post-Western world as a desirable state of things, they risk betraying democrats across the globe and may well be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Defeatism is the wrong sequel to triumphalism. The West and liberalism may need a more chastised and realistic approach. But despite all their shortcomings, when looking at the alternatives, they remain a promise and an offer to all of humankind.Roland Freudenstein Centre-Right Democracy Values
When Disillusionment Becomes Defeatism – An alternative review of ‘The Light That Failed. A Reckoning’
25 Mar 2020
Although the final number of seats obtained by each political party won’t be finalized for several days, the results of the Irish election indicate a marked shift in Ireland’s staid political landscape. Dominated by two centrist political parties since the foundation of the state in 1922 – Fine Gael (EPP) and Fianna Fáil (Renew Europe) – the recent election marks a significant milestone in Irish politics.
Although Europe was almost entirely absent from the recent campaign, Sinn Féin (GUE/NGL) represents a clear challenge to Ireland’s traditional, pro-European stance at a policy and decision-making level. While Sinn Féin’s historic “anti-Europe” policy has moderated in recent years, this is mostly attributable to very high Irish public support for Brussels and to the EU’s support for Ireland during the Brexit process. However, Sinn Féin remains a deeply Eurosceptic party far removed from positions of influence in the European institutions. After a very disappointing European election campaign in 2019, Sinn Féin retains only one MEP in the European Parliament. Their 2020 election manifesto retains a commitment to “radically reform” the EU.
The policies of Sinn Féin in power – likely as an equal partner (almost) in coalition with the more centrist Fianna Fáil – sets an uncertain context for Ireland’s future relationship with the EU. In particular, there are three areas – the Eurozone, taxation and trade – where Sinn Féin’s priorities could seriously impact on Ireland’s traditional national consensus (and relationship with Brussels).
Sinn Féin’s policies regarding the Eurozone are copied from the standard hard left response to the global financial crisis starting in 2008. They are based around vague notions of ending “the Eurozone straitjacket” through flouting European fiscal rules and reforming the European Central Bank. The overall objective appears to be the “direct transfer of newly created money to governments so they can engage in green investment and by quantitative easing for the people”. These proposals highlight a party completely out of touch with both the realities of Brussels based decision making and the operational structure of the Eurozone (not to mention the pro-market economics which underpin it). They also evidence scant understanding with the complexities of Ireland’s existing public debt and its obligations under existing agreements.
It is in the areas of the Eurozone and Trade policy that Sinn Féin’s policies have the potential to seriously undermine Ireland’s position in Brussels
On taxation, Sinn Féin’s positions are more nuanced and not completely out of tune with the Brussels establishment or companies investing (or invested) in Ireland. Although, they call for the continuation of national vetoes on taxation matters in the European Council and the retention of the 12.5% Corporation Tax rate, they support global efforts (presumably at OECD level) to update the global tax system. Sinn Féin wants Ireland to adopt a more transparent approach to dealing with foreign multinationals including ending the appeal against the European Commission’s Apple ruling on alleged unlawful tax arrangements with Ireland.
In recent years Sinn Féin’s policies on the Irish economic model (and its attraction of FDI) has moderated considerably. As noted, they now support both national tax vetoes at EU level and Ireland’s present rate of Corporation Tax. Their focus lies more on their traditional wish to create a state agency “to support the growth of indigenous small businesses”. Sinn Féin’s policies, in this area, will continue the longstanding Irish consensus of advocating for national competence on tax matters (including Corporation Tax) while helping to alleviate some EU (predominantly French) concerns regarding the transparency of the Irish tax system.
On trade, Sinn Féin’s policies conflict directly with both EU objectives and traditional Irish policymaking. Their plan to veto the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) follows the example of other hard-left movements throughout Europe. As with their disjointed Eurozone policies, their promise to promote “fair global trade rules and policies” seems to deliberately ignore the fact that the EU has emerged as the global leader in delivering transparent and accountable trade deals since 2014. Sinn Féin’s stance could also prove problematic given the ongoing negotiations between the EU-UK on future trading arrangements given that it’s Sinn Féin’s raison d’être to achieve a United Ireland.
This brief analysis highlights that it is in the areas of the Eurozone and Trade policy that Sinn Féin’s policies have the potential to seriously undermine Ireland’s position in Brussels. However, a number of factors mitigate these dangers.
First, Sinn Féin will, at best, form just half a coalition government. Its ability to deliver its more extreme policy pledges will be significantly constrained by the political realities. Second, and as noted, Sinn Féin’s overarching objectives are national – namely trying to attain a United Ireland and increasing public involvement in housing to remedy the current domestic crisis – so its primary gaze will be fixed in places other than Brussels. Third, Ireland remains a very pro-EU country and Sinn Féin understands this explicitly. This limits their potential to adopt anti-Brussels positions consistently. Fourth, the recent example of Syriza in Greece highlights the real constraints imposed on radical left parties that assume political power. The compromise of power will challenge directly Sinn Féin’s mantra of being the radical alternative.Eoin Drea Brexit Centre-Right Elections EU Member States Eurozone Trade
Much ado about nothing? What Sinn Féin in power will mean for Ireland in the EU
11 Feb 2020
In the last few years, a swirl of publications and initiatives have attempted to develop the doctrinal foundations of ‘trumpism’ and to offer intellectual defences of right-wing populism, that most anti-intellectual of doctrines. One way or another, they have all amounted to a variation on national conservatism, the belief that nations are our historically grown ‘homes’ and that it is therefore the primary duty of conservatives to defend their specificities from the levelling encroachment of globalisation and international institutions. According to these apologetic treatments, that’s precisely what Trump and his political mates across the globe are up to.
There has been no shortage of outraged commentaries on such takes, but they have mostly come from the liberal left. It is therefore welcome that a robust conservative and classical liberal like Dalibor Rohac – a Slovak by birth, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a research associate at the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies – took up the pen to offer a powerful rebuttal from the centre-right of the political spectrum.
Rohac’s treatment is quite conventional in his belief that the current ‘globalist’ international order has coincided with an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity. This alone should enjoin those right-wingers who now want to overhaul it to show some real conservatism and pursue at most its cautious and gradual reform. However, his book departs in important ways from mainstream opinions on globalism. It understands international institutions not as top-down, enlightened bureaucracies but as bottom-up, evolutionary creations subject to constant adaptations and devised as responses to concrete challenges that transcend national borders. Such challenges include the like of trade barriers, security, pollution and the management of natural resources. For his analytical toolbox, Rohac owes an acknowledged debt to the pioneering work of Elinor and Vincent Ostrom on the governance of the commons, federalism and polycentricity. His attempt to apply the Ostroms’ principles to international cooperation and European integration is cutting-edge and fruitful.
The book also contains a very unconventional reconstruction of what the author refers to as ‘the West’s globalist history’ and I have referred to elsewhere as ‘Europe’s supranational past’. Rohac convincingly contends that ‘international’ integration, and not the national state, has been the norm for most of European history. He reflects on the historical meaning of such polycentric and multinational structures as the Holy Roman Empire, which comprised large swathes of the continent for a millennium, the Hanseatic League and, more recently, the Gold Standard, which acted in everything but name and trappings as a global currency into the 20th century. Although he stops short of openly drawing this conclusion, Rohac’s concise treatment clearly concurs with a reading of the European project as, historically, a restoration more than a radical revolutionary break with Europe’s past. This should encourage conservatives to cherish the principle of supranational integration rather more than they have done lately.
A robust conservative and classical liberal like Dalibor Rohac took up the pen to offer a powerful rebuttal from the centre-right of the political spectrum.
Rohac’s related effort to revive a tradition of internationalist conservatism inspired by the likes of Friedrich Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Alexander Rüstow and Wilhelm Röpke also seems worthwhile and even urgent. One could add to this group of – mostly liberal – thinkers other figures such as Alexandre Marc, Denis de Rougemont, Richard Coudenhove, Otto von Habsburg and the Christian democratic founding fathers of Europe. The real question, however, is not whether conservatism and supranationalism are compatible. They are, at least since Edmund Burke wrote of the ‘commonwealth of Europe’ and Prince Metternich proclaimed ‘I have taken Europe as my fatherland’. As the author mentions, the problem is rather that there can be different forms of supranationalism, not all of them equally palatable to a christian democratic or conservative taste. Even Hayek and Röpke, who were conservative liberals, would likely have reservations about some regulatory and bureaucratic excesses of today’s EU, not to talk about the postmodernist cultural rhetoric often underpinning its policies.
To rein in the rise of national conservatism, therefore, the centre-right ought to do more than merely develop a more convincing defence of globalism and European integration. It must also articulate a meaningful reform agenda based on stronger subsidiarity, the protection of national and regional identities and a more open emphasis on the cultural foundations of European unity. The book makes some important advances in this direction, for example by insisting on the need to limit the reach of international institutions through narrower mandates, as well as to open them up to bottom-up experimentation and market incentives.
To me, the one limit of the book is the author’s embrace of a liberal internationalist – if not neoconservative – outlook, as opposed to a ‘classical’ conservative one. On the one hand, Rohac defends a polycentric interpretation of international cooperation gradually evolving by trial and error and based on institutional diversity. On the other hand, he adopts a somewhat dogmatic view of the international society that acknowledges only liberal democracies as fully legitimate actors. This contains an element of liberal messianism, is subversive of the existing international order and restricts the range of acceptable institutional diversity and experimentation.
Relatedly, the book presents a limited view of political realism and connects it with a nationalist and Hobbesian outlook: ‘realism’, writes Rohac, ‘posits the existence of self-interested sovereign nation-states as the basic units of analysis, disregarding both the rules that might constrain their behaviour as well as the various governance structures that facilitate their cooperation—providing a perfect starting point for a Trump-like doctrine of unfettered national egoism’. Although this might be a correct characterisation of the ‘structural realism’ of American scholars like Kenneth Waltz and John Mearsheimer, it leaves out the classical realist European tradition of statecraft, which had its masters in figures like Metternich and Castlereagh and more recently found an outstanding epigone in Henry Kissinger. Metternich was perhaps the main exponent of international conservatism in the 19th century, and the chief theoretician and architect of an integrated supranational governance in Europe at the time.
Arguably, this tradition has some advantages over both the structural realism of Trumpians and the liberal internationalism preferred by Rohac. Unlike structural realists, classical realists attach importance to institutions and rules. Unlike liberal internationalists, however, they understand that functioning institutions and rules cannot be designed in the abstract by enlightened planners and based on universally valid principles. They are always culturally and historically embedded. As such, they can only flourish in a specific context and gradually evolve with it. This approach seems more attune to Rohac’s own understanding of globalism as an evolving ecosystem. Combined with his highly innovative arguments, it might not only help the centre-right counter conservative nationalism with a conservative and christian democratic internationalism. It might also contribute to formulating a new EU foreign policy doctrine more adapted to the emerging multipolar (dis)order than the currently prevalent saintly visions of the EU as a ‘civilian power’.Federico Ottavio Reho Centre-Right Christian Democracy Development Values
Federico Ottavio Reho
Globalism and the centre-right
11 Feb 2020
I say Europe you say?
Europe, Europe as well.
What was the biggest myth about the EU that you had to dismantle during your career? Or to explain to your co-citizens?
There were many, but I think the most common one, and to some extent, the most dangerous one, is the myth that the EU is going to take away national states and identities. I think that we have to make clear to people that we live in a world where you have different identities. For example, I have a regional identity of the place in Sweden where I was born, a national identity as a Swede, and a European identity as a European. The fact that we can upgrade our identities to double or triple ones is very important but sometimes slightly difficult to get across.
You often argued that Europe is far behind China and the US in terms of internet governance, global technology, and digital economy. How can the EU take the centre-stage?
We are gradually losing that particular race and I’m afraid that when we go to the next stage of the race with artificial intelligence we are going to fall even further behind. I think what is needed first is that we fund basic research and our universities. So that’s the number one: fund basic research so that talent remains in Europe. Secondly, we need to have capital markets that work. We need to deepen the digital single market and avoid regulatory digital protectionists.
Could you share with us one of your favourite visits while you were either the Prime Minister or the Minister of Foreign Affairs back in Sweden and why you picked that specific one?
When I was Foreign Minister we also chaired the Arctic Council for two years, so I went to strange places where most people haven’t been. I am going to mention two. Salekhard in Northern Siberia up where the Ob River meets with the Cora Sea. The Ob River is six kilometres wide at that point. It is frozen ten months a year and Salekhard has no road connection, no railway connection, but it’s still a really important place.
Second, Iqaluit which is the capital of Nunavut which most people don’t know what it is, but it is one of the northern provinces of Canada, which is a huge area. The northernmost part of Nunavut is closer to Stockholm than to Ottawa and has the population density of northern Greenland.
After French President Macron has stated that the EU should first reform itself before it considers taking up any new members, how do you see the European perspective for the Western Balkans?
I think the French have really messed it up, which is based on a certain reluctance that has been there the entire time when it comes to enlargement and a lack of understanding about what is happening in the Balkans. How exactly they are going to get themselves out of this particular hole remains to be seen. The European perspective for the Balkans is extremely important – we have a role and a responsibility there. And if we back off, it is not primarily about the fear that the Russians or Chinese or anyone else will step in.
It is rather about the fact that the forces of disintegration will take over from the forces of integration and we know from history what that might lead to and why those forces are dangerous. So exactly how we are going to solve this remains to be seen. I think it will be or rather it has to be one of the key talking points of the Council and the Commission next year. We have a Croatian Presidency in the first part of next year, we have a summit meeting of the EU and the Balkan countries coming up in Zagreb in May.
Over the years some of the headlines in which you have been featured had named you a Twiplomat. In the world of hyper-connectivity we are living in today does it seem like digital diplomacy could replace the public one?
Well, it’s already an obvious part of diplomacy. Of course, more and more of the things that we do are an integral part of the digital sphere. So is diplomacy. You have to be there, in the social media sphere, you have to use all the instruments of digital communication. Because that’s where, particularly young people, live. And if you’re not in the digital world, you’re not in the world.
Speaking of digital, we have seen on your social media that you are a frequent flyer. Do you happen to know how many photos of planes, for example, you have on your Twitter feed, or how many times have you been up in the air?
When I was Foreign Minister, there were some people who were saying ‘you travel too much’ and I said, ‘it is an unfortunate fact that most of the world is outside of Sweden’. Some people have difficulties accepting that fact, but it is a fact. But yes indeed, I must fly quite often as there are no good train connection from Stockholm to Los Angeles.
With which EPP colleague would you choose to assemble a piece of IKEA furniture with?
Probably my wife, Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, but I’m not quite certain that she’d like to do it with me!
As the co-chair of the European Council on Foreign Relations could you maybe choose one favourite project or initiative that you are doing?
There are two things I would like to outline that I think we have devoted our attention to over the last year. The first is European sovereignty issues, same as the Martens Centre is doing, and this has become much more topical, but still remains fairly complicated. European countries are increasingly vulnerable to external pressure that prevents them from exercising their sovereignty.
The second we have done is a work looking at the experience of European common foreign and security policy reforms during the last five years, and see what can be done in order to reform it, less the substance, more the mechanism of institutions and the way they’re working in order to make them more effective. So those are two things that have been fairly high up on the agenda lately.
Which topic would be your favourite one to discuss over Fika?
Over Fika, I want to discuss…the weather. The news of the day. Fika is a time to be slightly less serious, to discuss what’s on your mind today, things like that.
What is, in your view, the most effective level of governance at which we could tackle climate change? Is it the local, is it the regional, is it the national, or the supra-national?
Well, the problem, of course, is that the answer has to be all of the above, I mean we clearly need a global approach. Because if you look at it at the moment, Europe is in the lead, tackling the issue, but we need to do more, we need to implement more consent on what we are going to do. But the main challenge is going to be the coal use of China and India, these sort of rather booming billion-people economies of Asia.
To get them, or have them to get off coal, and be on a sustainable track to reducing emissions, that is absolutely critical. And that can only be done at the global level. At the same time, we need to continue to demonstrate leadership in Europe. To demonstrate that we are not a utopia in doing it, and to demonstrate that it is actually feasible to be doing it. And some of that will have to be done at the local level.
Swedish Krona or Euro?
Well, it would be the Euro. At the moment, we don’t have any public support for that, so we had to bet it on the krona, yes.
European Commission or the European Council?
I very much appreciate the Council as the fora for dialogue with different political leaders of Europe. It is very useful to sit down and listen to the different perspectives that are coming from different nations. If we don’t anchor what we do in Europe on the national level, we are lost. The Commission has its role, which is of indispensable importance, but it is in the Council where we anchor what we do in the different national political cultures.
Which EPP colleague or person would you nominate for our next interview, and what would be the questions that you would ask?
Donald Tusk: what he’s going to do with Viktor Orban. That’s got to be an interesting one.Centre-Right European People's Party Leadership Values
I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Carl Bildt
I Say Europe
04 Nov 2019
I say Europe, you say…?
What was the biggest myth about the EU that you had to bust during the campaign?
There are a lot of myths about the EU. I’m a first-time politician, never ran a European campaign, never ran in any campaign. But I am very passionate about people. One of the myths was that if you are not from a political family or with political experience, you would never make it to the European Union. And I am very honoured to be an example that you can kick that myth in the derrière and make a difference.
You are one of the youngest MEPs in the European Parliament, but it would be interesting to know what your first job was?
I was 8 or 9 and I used to work in our local market where animals are sold. I used to help farmers load and offload sheep into the trailor. My first paying job was when I was 12, I worked in a local guest hotel, cleaning and serving. This enabled me to build a rapport with different personalities and was fun.
What was the inspiration behind serving as a member of the Army Reserve in Ireland and volunteering with the Cavalry Corps? What was the most interesting part of that experience?
This is really important to me. If I could do both, be an MEP and a trooper in the reserves, I would do it happily. I was born American and raised in Ireland, and I always had admiration for our volunteers, as well as towards our fulltime soldiers men and women who put on a uniform and represent our country.
Now, Ireland is a neutral state and we protect that. But we also have soldiers who are constantly training to protect us in climate issues such as flood relief, or in a bomb squad, special forces, or protecting our dignitaries. Our defence force does a number of jobs even in a neutral state. When I realised I was getting a bit older and if I didn’t go for the reserves when and if I did, it would’ve been one of my greatest regrets. I absolutely adored it. It challenged me, it allowed me to be a better team player and to appreciate my Irish flag much more.
You mentioned that you spent a part of your life in the United States and I know that you are a member of the delegation for the relations with the United States. What do you think is the future of the transatlantic relationship?
It is not lost on me that the Commissioner-designate for trade is an Irishman called Phil Hogan, with a breadth of experience, particularly in agriculture. As the European Union, we are constantly negotiating better ways for our citizens and our trade to be protected. And then you asked me earlier, democracy. That is important now in the US more than ever and we need to make sure that our politics and the way our communities are thriving, being built and rebuilt is protected by both sides. There is a lot more to be done and I am excited to sit on that delegation.
This year we have witnessed the election of the first female Commission president and for the first time, we will have a gender-balanced Commission college. What do you see as the next milestones to further gender balance in Europe?
When Ursula Von der Leyen spoke in the hemicycle in Strasbourg, I, as a first-time MEP, as a female, as the youngest MEP coming from Ireland – it was remarkable to see history in its making. And I think perhaps it was lost on some, but it wasn’t lost on me. We need to work better together on the gender pay gap, on gender pension issues, and I would love to see more diversity in the Commissioners college. What do I mean by that? Well, our ethnicity, our cultures, our religions, our orientations, that’s more important, not just gender, because we have a number of words attached to diversity.
What are your three favourite Twitter and Instagram accounts?
This is so hard. I go through a bit of a love-hate relationship with social media. But it’s now more than ever that social media has a great footprint for us on how to translate the information back to our Member States. In terms of politics, I love and I highly recommend people to follow Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – @RepAOC, a first-time Congresswoman. When it comes to diversity there is The Shona Project @shonadotie and when it comes to mental health it would be Jigsaw Offaly @jigsaw_offaly. You can find them both on Twitter and Instagram. I am a big sports fan so @MayoGAA would be a big one to follow from my side.
You’ve just mentioned mental health and I know that this has been of the topics that you have urged the new Commission to take as a priority. What should we focus on first to address this issue?
All throughout the campaign, I’ve talked about driving the European year of good mental health. I’m not expecting that to happen tomorrow but within the mandate of 5 years, but I personally want it next year. I want it as quickly as possible. Because I think if we are really looking at trade, as we talked about earlier about the US and China, about trade with our neighbour the UK, we’re actually talking about currency and developing skillsets for our labour market. At the centre of every conversation is mental health. And if we have citizens being mindful of the impact of the positive and negative mental health, then nothing moves.
Our whole communities break down and it frustrates me that it hasn’t been a competency of the EU yet. But that’s why we have passionate people like you and me here to drive that message. We need to get it into our education programmes and get funding for pilot programmes on mental health resources for both our young and old. Education and up-skilling is a great start for that. But I personally need every Commissioner talking about mental health as if it’s bigger than anything else that they’re going to look at. Everything is a thread into mental health and we need to secure that.
Speaking of translating topics to citizens, you are already a sitting member on the Employment and Social Affairs Committee. How do you translate complex topics such as social policies and employments to the voters back home?
Firstly you have to constantly make sure that you are asking the questions that you think the citizens would like you to ask. It’s important that you dissect that and bring it home. When people think of the EU, they think of European symbols like funding. But the EU means a lot more than that. Over the campaign, I’ve challenged voters, particularly young ones to look for European symbols such as EU supported buildings, universities, and roads. When we look at the visible footprint, not just the financial impact, we begin to understand the pro-European stance better.
Let’s say that you are playing football. You are the captain of “Team Europe” and it’s the last minute of the game. You have to pick one colleague to make the penalty. Whom do you pick?
I should wear my country jersey and say that Sean Kelly could kick a good penalty. He was the president of GAA, which is the biggest sports organisation in Ireland, so I would say that he would be pretty dissent in taking a pint or a penalty. I’m going to regret saying this though. Yes, I say Sean Kelly.
Coming back to your home country, agriculture is a big part of life there and your economy relies heavily on this sector. How do you see the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices?
Actually, I just came from a call with a young constituent that I have in my area, a man called Kevin Moran who won ‘Young Farm of the Year’ a couple of years ago. He is not only planting trees but he’s also targeting his herd emissions, aiming to be close to 0% emissions as soon as the next 2-3 years. We need to start listening a little bit more to our younger and older farmers who farm the land.
All throughout the campaign, I’ve talked about a transition period. We cannot point fingers and say ‘you’re not green enough and this hasn’t happened enough’, but we need to help our citizens along on this transition and it can’t happen too fast because we can’t leave people behind. Our first female Commission President has tasked herself with the Green Deal and all eyes are on that. It’s my job as a new MEP to keep the pressure on my government and to make sure citizens are heard.
Heels or army boots?
Pizza or fries?
Hozier or U2?
Which EPP colleague would you suggest for the next interview and what would be the question you would ask?
I would choose Polish MEP Magdalena Adamowicz. She is a phenomenal woman tackling hate speech through her own personal circumstance and also a first-time MEP in the EPP Group. She could kick a good penalty too if needed! My question to her would be: what is the one thing that we could do tomorrow in the EU to reduce hate speech?Centre-Right EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party Leadership
I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Maria Walsh
I Say Europe
10 Oct 2019
I say Europe, you say…?
When I think of the European Union, I always think of an old Irish word: “meitheal.” It’s an old tradition where people from the neighbouring farms came together to help each other, to save the crops, to save the hay. The essence of it was to be reciprocal, and it benefited everybody. This is the way I feel about Europe. When we come together, we devise a way in which we can work together. We share our sovereignty to some extent, but we help each other. And I think that Ireland, my own country, can certainly be a testament to this kind of solidarity.
What is the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career?
Yeah, the first thing I suppose in my own portfolio, I had to debunk the myth that farmers were not needed in order to ensure that we achieved a number of our objectives in relation to public goods. You cannot actually have a good environment, a good landscape, you cannot have good conditions of food standards and food security without the participation of our farmers.
So, I had to convince people that if we want to have action on all these public goods, including growing ambitions on environment and climate action, we need people in the rural areas who will do this work for us. And I don’t know of any other sector that can do this work except farmers, and we have to reward them. So, the common agricultural policy is a good vehicle in order to ensure that we achieve a lot in our public goods agenda.
You grew up on a family farm, so we wanted to ask you what your favourite chore was.
Well, first of all as a young person I was really thrilled when I could drive the tractor. And then of course, when I was a little bit older, I liked managing the dairy herd, particularly in the summertime, it’s not so easy in the wintertime. But it was wonderful to see the cows eating the fresh grass and seeing the flow of high quality milk during the summer months.
You have said that the Common Agricultural Policy is “constantly evolving to meet the challenges of the day.” What are the major challenges for agriculture going to be over the next decade or so?
I suppose generational renewal is always going to be an issue. We need to get more young people involved, it’s a big disappointment that only 6% of the farmers of Europe are under 40 years old. And equally then we have to get our farmers to do more on the climate and environment agenda. They are the big challenges; protection of our natural resources, climate action, and getting more young people into the area of agriculture and the food business.
You have developed a reputation as a tough negotiator over your political career. What do you do to avoid “having beef” with your counterparts?
I respect everyone’s point of view. And, you know, I think if we are good negotiators, we have to understand that there has to be an outcome that each side can sell to their respective stakeholders and constituents. And this is the basic principle which I apply to all politics: negotiation is a people business, and therefore if you respect people and understand their personal objectives in any negotiation you will hopefully be able to find an accommodation that is good for both sides.
This May, you said “we urgently need to tackle climate change and the degradation of our ecosystems if we want to preserve the planet for future generations.” What is the EU doing to make the agri-food sector more environmentally sustainable?
Well, as we see in the Common Agricultural Policy proposals that we published in June 2018, we have doubled the amount of funding in relation to actions on climate, and we have to make sure that these targets are met by every member state, and by each sector, in line with the Paris international agreements. Also, we are linking every cent of the Common Agricultural Policy to climate and environment action in areas of conditionality, and in areas of direct investments. So, we have to make sure that our farmers play their part.
Your home county, Kilkenny is famous for its success in hurling, Ireland’s national sport. Which Commissioner do you think would make the most formidable hurler?
Oh, I would certainly say the President of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, he has mastered the concept of the political side-step – which is very important in hurling. He’s always one step ahead of the game as well.
According to Eurostat, by 2050, the population of Europe’s urban regions is projected to increase by 24.1 million people. By contrast, the population of rural regions is projected to fall by 7.9 million. How is the Commission going to tackle rural depopulation and revitalise our rural areas?
Well I am very conscious of this major challenge for the vitality and vibrancy of our rural communities. And this is why I convened all stakeholders in 2016 to a conference in Ireland, and we adopted the Cork 2.0 declaration for rural areas. And we are now implementing these proposals in the Common Agricultural Policy reform; which require investments by every member’s state in rural areas.
Also in broadband connectivity, and in the concept of smart villages – which is putting the focus on village settlements to ensure that they have all the connectivity and social, economic and environmental capital that they need for people to live there. And if we focus on these issues in the context of our pillared funding in our Common Agricultural Policies and our Rural Development Policies, I think this would make a big difference in the next 7 years.
What are the three things you must have in your suitcase when you travel?
Well apart from the usual necessities I need an iPad, I need a good book to read for the long-haul flights, and of course I need to have the latest proposals and policy papers from the Martens Centre!
Ireland is going to be the EU member state most impacted by Brexit. How is the Commission preparing to shield Ireland’s vital agri-food sector from the effects of the UK’s withdrawal?
Well first of all the European Commission on the whole has really acknowledged the unique difficulties that would emerge in Ireland in the event of a hard Brexit, and this is appreciated by the Irish people. We now have 95% of the people of Ireland in recent surveys saying that they are very pro-European. So, I am very pleased about this. And Mr. Barnier and Mr. Juncker have made it clear on many occasions that it’s Ireland first.
But of course, we are developing the necessary responses in all of the Commission to help all member states, including Ireland, in the event of a hard Brexit. And we will see in the event of a hard or soft Brexit that we’re able to cope with some of the difficulties in Ireland. We want to maintain the peace process, and we want to maintain the strong trading relationships between Ireland and the rest of Europe in the event that we are cut off from some of the opportunities in mainland Europe by the bridge that we have through the UK at the moment.
So, many challenges, but European solidarity is very much appreciated in Ireland.
The EU recently signed off on a free trade agreement with Japan. What will the benefits for Europe be?
Well most of the tariffs have been eliminated, and particularly on industrial goods, and we have the biggest trade deal ever achieved by the European Union. Japan represents 120 million people, but it represents about a quarter of the world’s GDP, and therefore it is certainly a contributing factor to the enormous amount of purchasing power for European and Japanese consumers alike, when we join together as 630 million people. So, this in agriculture and industry is a wonderful opportunity, and we already see the benefits of it.
Guinness or Kilkenny Beer?
Kilkenny; it’s brewed in Kilkenny, my native city.
Which comes next: US or China trade deal?
US is to be expected, if they start to behave themselves a bit better.
The ‘1-hectare Initiative’ or ‘Trees for Kids’?
‘Trees for Kids’ because it’s nice to see the young generation embracing the climate and environment impact of more deforestation as quickly as possible.Agriculture Brexit Centre-Right EU Institutions Leadership
I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Phil Hogan
I Say Europe
27 Jun 2019
Dimitar Lilkov Centre-Right Technology
Is regulating tech beyond left-right politics with Svetoslav Malinov
Brussels Bytes - Multimedia
25 Jun 2019
Now that some of the dust has settled, the European People’s Party should start drawing the lessons of the EP2019 election and define the agenda ahead. The Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, at its annual Think-In with its member foundations across the EU in Prague in early June, has developed a list of points to be considered. They are based on the individual reflections of member foundation representatives, and are subdivided into four chapters:
Any deep post-electoral analysis begins with the questions: who are we? Who do we want to be? Much has been made of the obsoleteness of the classical left-right divide in politics. Many claim that in the wake of the crisis of the West, and more specifically the economic and migration crises of the last 10 years, the new paradigm is ‘open vs. closed’, pitting global, liberal thinking and borders open for migration and trade against local, traditional thinking and protectionism in terms of trade and migration. Against that backdrop, it does seem logical to look for a new self-description of the EPP political family. Alas, it is no coincidence that in the open vs. closed paradigm, the EPP has a foot in both camps. If we let that rift grow, it will weaken and eventually destroy us.
But if we turn this weakness into a strength, by maintaining and actually reinforcing a common bond beyond and above the new political divide, then we can still remain Europe’s strongest political force. Such a bond is most likely to be found in the combination of Christian Democrat, conservative, liberal and centrist political thought that has already defined our political family in the past decades. If a new term better suits this complex picture than the time-honoured labels ‘people’s party’ and ‘centre right’, then let’s go for it. But it will be no easy task.
Out of the many strategic conundrums for our political family, three stand out:
- Who is the enemy? Until the late 2000s, the answer on the European level was clear: our main competitor (but also permanent cooperation partner in the EP) were the Socialists. Extremists left and right were enemies, but not so relevant. Since the economic crisis after 2008, and especially since the migration crisis after 2015, the populists (mainly from the right) have increased in strength, while social media has helped them garner attention and create echo-chambers. Since 2017, the European Liberals have become more of a competitor, with Macron’s attempt to repeat on the EU level the total remodelling of the party system that he successfully managed in France. Finally, the Greens have now emerged as a serious competitor, at least in North Western member states.
- Copy and original: in the debate about the proper centre right answer to populism, one often repeated statement stands out: If we try to copy the populists, the voters will always prefer the original to the copy. That is as often true as it is false. It just depends on the circumstances in place. But the dilemma can now be extended to our new struggle to come to grips with the popularity of the climate change issue and the rise of the Greens in some important member states. The challenge here is to address climate policy more intensively, but using tools and approaches of the centre right, not trying to copy the regulatory approaches of the Greens.
- Maintaining unity: the EPP political family has seen a constant expansion since the 1980 in terms of member parties, which has automatically led to a wider variety of political standpoints. If this unity has now begun to falter (as in Spain and France, for example), the position of the EPP as the strongest political family is in serious jeopardy. Maintaining unity, however, presupposes defining and strengthening what still binds us together: fundamental values such as freedom/responsibility, subsidiarity etc. But maintaining unity can also mean saying goodbye to member parties which are endangering cohesion.
Europe’s centre right has a number of classical areas of competence: first and foremost, these are security and economics – meaning defence and homeland security as well as fiscal prudence and policies leading to economic growth. Migration, the most important topic for many Europeans 2015-2018, has – to some extent – become an issue of competence for the centre right, at least more than the left. But in #EP2019, a number of new issues have emerged that are calling for more attention from the EPP political family:
- Climate: there is near universal consensus that the climate topic is important, that it is here to stay and that the EPP so far has not excelled in climate policy. Having said that, it is still important to keep in mind that the boost for the Greens has happened only in a North-Western minority of member states: practically the entire South, as well as the East of the EU are not affected for the moment. And of course, climate policy may be replaced by other, even more urgent topics, in a few years, such as migration or the economy.
- City-countryside gap: the growing divergence in lifestyles, socio-economic challenges and political attitudes couldn’t be more obvious. While taking into account the interests of city dwellers, the EPP political family would neglect the countryside at its own peril: France’s Yellow Vests are a case in point.
- Middle class: the ‘squeezed middle’ – in terms of work-life-balance, education, gender equality, income/taxation etc., has been a favoured topic of many member parties in recent years. This should be maintained as a trademark.
- Christian Europe: some member parties strongly favour this as a priority while others believe in a more eclectic message, focusing on a broader array of values, civic rights and an inclusive approach to other religions. It will be a challenge to create consensus on this.
- Digital: the future of the internet, especially the balance between corporate-driven innovation, privacy, freedom and fighting abuse, is another issue that warrants more attention from the EPP.
- Electoral coalitions: several successes (in Poland, for example) have shown that in specific contexts, such as small countries or constituencies with single or few seats, creating joint electoral lists with other political parties may be the only chance for the EPP parties to maintain or expand their strength.
- Communication: a constant challenge for centre right parties, especially when faced with populists and Greens. This goes far beyond the right use of social media, and extends to using less bureaucratic language in general, and be more open to entertainment as a factor in politics. Being less boring and yet maintaining the EPP’s political salience is the challenge here.
- Outreach to the young generation: in several member states (this time not only in the Northwest), the centre right is now risking to lose young voters on a scale last seen in Western Europe in the 1970s. This refers to policy issues (climate change, digital, education) but above all to styles of communication, transparency etc. as well as including more young candidates on electoral lists.
- Personalities: without charismatic leaders appealing to large numbers of voters, the EPP has no future. That’s a so-called no-brainer. And yet, a direct succession from one charismatic leader to the next is the exception rather than the rule. Recruitment of leaders and smooth leadership transitions are areas for the EPP to work on.
After #EP2019: first points for a centre-right roadmap
14 Jun 2019
Even in polite conversation, the subject of gender equality and women’s rights generally evokes an emotive response that often veers into wider subjective judgements about identity, values and society. Ironically – and there are countless ironies when considering these issues – these discussions generally get mired in fruitless arguments about the end result of gender inequality (such as the gender pay gap) rather than seeking to tackle the underlying causes (education, childcare and work-life balance to name but a few).
There are three primary misunderstandings which are contributing to the vacuous nature of much contemporary political debate on gender issues. First, and perhaps the most common misconception, is to think that gender equality only concerns women. The fact is that gender equality is often viewed – by both men and society – as a feminist issue only. This is why it is crucial to explain that gender equality concerns us all.
Recent Martens Centre research illustrates the importance of gender equality in a growing European economy. The paper identifies four strategic policy actions to help tackle the structural rigidities that facilitate gender inequalities. These are:
- the promotion of better work-life balance
- embedding equality in national tax systems
- tackling gender stereotypes through education
- understanding the benefits of long term investments for long term gains in terms of equality policies
The paper also clarifies that it should be the EU’s responsibility to focus on setting the overall strategic objectives that need to be attained, but the implementation of specific gender policies should be tailored towards the institutional, economic and cultural framework of each country and should be implemented at national level, in line with the principle of subsidiarity.
Second, it is important that men take an active part in this debate and are not viewed as the “enemy” by proponents of gender equality principles. The emotive reaction of those experiencing inequalities often seeks to frame the issue as a clash of genders: “us” versus “them”. But actually, the move towards greater equality needs men and women working together and sharing the same goals.
Equality should not be seen as a victory for women over men’s “predominance”. It should be seen as a crucial achievement of a society that is more reflective of the daily challenges facing tens of millions of European families.
The third misconception is that gender equality issues are a prerogative of the Left and as a result centre and centre-right political forces should avoid seeking to replicate or support this “progressive” agenda. Yet, such a view places perceived political imperatives before combatting issues impacting most severely upon traditional centre-right voters, namely hard-working Middle-Class families.
Centre and centre-right political forces can and should mark their distance from the leftist, radical approach by promoting a set of concrete, achievable policies aimed at reducing inequalities for the benefit of our economies and societies.
To name a few examples: designing a tax system and maternity-paternity measures that encourage both spouses to work, securing access to affordable and good-quality childcare, promoting projects and initiatives in schools aimed at fighting gender stereotypes and, last but not least, enforcing the prevention and sanctions against any discriminations, misconducts and abuses in the workplace and in any other environments.
It should be remembered that gender equality issues go beyond the partisan/ideological discourse and concerns every political actor which is supposed to give precise answers to people’s needs and demands.
Gender equality is one of the core principles of the EU. This is set forth in, for example, Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union. Gender equality is, at its core, concerned with developing a society which rejects discrimination based on gender, without denying or undermining the importance of traditional customs or rules.
The European Peoples Party (EPP) is a party based on core Christian-Democratic values of solidarity, respect of human dignity, equality and justice. The challenge, therefore, is not so much to embrace gender equality issues, but rather to transform our political rhetoric into political action. Action that will have a beneficial and lasting impact, not just upon women, but for Middle Class families throughout Europe and for our societies at large.Margherita Movarelli Eoin Drea Centre-Right Jobs Macroeconomics Social Policy Society
Tackling gender equality – one misunderstanding at a time
19 Feb 2019
Federico Ottavio Reho Centre-Right
Liberal overreach: did liberalism go too far?
Europe out Loud - Multimedia
21 Dec 2018
Federico Ottavio Reho Centre-Right
The conservative human rights revolution | A chat with Marco Duranti
Europe out Loud - Multimedia
23 Nov 2018
I say Europe, you say…?
Peace. Prosperity. Opportunity.
Commission Vice President Katainen’s question to you was: “What do you think are the three most important themes for the future development of the European Union?”
We need stronger action to protect the rule of law. There are fundamental values in our treaties that some Member States often find convenient to ignore.
Second, we need to focus more on trade and job creation. I strongly believe that if we further open up our markets we can finally eliminate the problem of poverty we have in Europe and provide better opportunities for the more vulnerable classes of our society.
Third, migration is the challenge of our generation. Mid-term goals which show solidarity with Member States which are facing migrant influxes are needed. In the long run it is essential that we, the EPP Government, attempt to aid the countries from which migrants are fleeing to help them get back on their feet – to show people there can be life without fear.
As one of the most active MEPs on social media and EPP Coordinator for Justice and Civil Liberties, what is your take on the Cambridge Analytica scandal and its ramifications on EU citizens? Have you thought about leaving Facebook yourself?
For our generation, data is the new gold. I think that the recent revelations have been shocking! What we have to understand is that social media is used by unscrupulous politicians and people who try to sell propaganda as facts.
I still believe that Facebook is a good tool; it is useful for me personally to reach a large number of people, both in my constituency and across Europe. The EU’s regulatory response to privacy concerns was the introduction of GDPR and privacy shield but some loopholes remain that must be worked on, and it is our responsibility to make sure that potential abuses are stopped.
Everyone who follows your work knows that you are quite outspoken when it comes to defending freedom of speech, particularly in light of the murders of journalists in Malta and Slovakia in the last six months. What should the EU do to comprehensively ensure that these travesties do not happen again?
The assassinations of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Jan Kuciak must be seen as a watershed moment in the development of Europe. What we have realised after these assassinations is that we still do not have enough tools to ensure that the protection of journalists in Finland is the same as it is in my country, or Slovakia etc.
At the same time, we don’t have the right mechanism at European level to ensure that the corrupt, the criminal and the complicit bear the political responsibility for their actions, whether directly or indirectly. We are currently pushing for the introduction of mechanisms that will remedy these issues. If we don’t do that, those who orchestrated and carried out these murders will win and we cannot allow that to happen.
Bearing in mind that you are a Vice-Chair person of the Petitions Committee in the European Parliament, one has to ask which was the most interesting petition/initiative you came across during the last 5 years?
I truly believe that this committee is the answer to the disconnect that many citizens feel, in being too far away from the EU and its institutions. We have people coming to us and saying: “look, you in Europe are not doing enough” or “I feel like my rights as a European citizen have been breached, what can you do?” These queries range across a wide variety of issues- the quality of drinking water in a small town in a member state, discriminatory or denial of pension rights and services in other member states.
Perhaps one of the most interesting cases was a man who was not allowed to take his pet dog on a plane to Ireland by a particular carrier. The excuse the carrier used was that it was an issue with national agricultural policy. This man came to us and we provided him with facts which demonstrated that this was not true.
As a mother of four, what is your favourite cartoon show that you enjoy watching with your children?
With the younger ones, classics always work, like Tom and Jerry. With the older ones, Lego Batman and Japanese cartoons. Obviously, I try to limit the amount of screen time, but I also want to ensure that they are not exposed to too much violent imagery.
Which is the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career?
Perhaps the one that the EU and President Juncker can help us address parking issues in our country. I had to say that this is something that Juncker cannot do, although he can do a lot and he has done a lot for us.
You have been politically active since a very young age and as you were Secretary General of European Democratic Students: would you advise your kids to join the world of politics one day and how you do believe that the EU could motivate youngsters to get more involved?
Well as you can see my son is now shaking his head very vigorously. In my case, I think I joined politics because my parents taught me it is useless to complain unless you try to change something. There are too many “arm chair critics” in our society. The people need to be the ones to advocate the changes we want.
This means you should be active, not necessarily on a European level, but also on a local level or a national level. It is a pity that the younger generations don’t remember the battle Malta had to fight to actually join the EU, as we are proud Europeans. We can’t take our membership for granted and we must have enough young voices to be able to push the most important European issues forward.
Which song do you like to carpool karaoke to and with which colleague from the Parliament would you like to have a duet?
(Laughs) He is not going to like this but it would have to be Esteban González Pons, who is my direct superior as Chair of the Legal and Home Affairs working group in the EPP, and also Vice-Chair of the Group. I think it would have to be a Spanish ballad and it would definitely go viral but for all the wrong reasons.
How do you think the EU could help to put an end to the uncertainty on Post-Brexit citizens’ rights?
It has been a red line for the European Parliament that the rights of EU citizens currently residing in the UK, but also for UK citizens currently residing in the EU, must have water tight guarantees of their status, post-Brexit. We cannot allow a second “Windrush” situation, whereby you have people who have been legally residing in the UK or member states for decades, finding themselves in an unstable situation with non-secure status.
I reiterate this also as a member of a Commonwealth country: we are looking for watertight guarantees for all EU citizens, in the UK post-Brexit. Without such guarantees, we will not green light any Brexit agreement!
Choose one of the following: Ftira or baguette?
EPP Congress in Malta or EPP Congress in Helsinki?
Malta, just don’t tell my husband!
Bruges or Brussels?
Brussels definitely (although I loved living in Bruges)
Which EPP colleague would you suggest for the next interview? What would be your question for her or him?
I would like to nominate Manfred Weber, the Chairman of the EPP Group in the European Parliament. My question to him: “What do you think is the one issue challenging every single EU Member State and individual EPP parties in each member state?”Centre-Right European People's Party Leadership
I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Roberta Metsola
I Say Europe
08 May 2018
Many of the outcomes of the March 4 Italian parliamentary elections were highly predictable and, indeed, correctly foreseen. However, the extent to which this vote marked a radical request for change and is a turning point in Italian politics comes – if not as a surprise – as a confrontation with reality. It is now time to make sense of this new reality and try to analyse what is happening in Italy. Here are three points from which to start the analysis.
1. Almost 55% of Italians voted for populist, anti-establishment and euro-sceptic forces
Does this mean that Italian people are radicalising? Hopefully not. Surely, there is a certain degree of anger in the air, but extremism remains a marginal, yet dangerous phenomenon. Actually, many of those who expressed a “protest vote” in this election belong to the so-called “moderate electorate”.
Middle-class households, entrepreneurs, but also factory workers, unemployed people of different ages and social status and young people deprived of opportunities in a country which, unfortunately, seems to have increasingly less to offer. Put simply, these are ordinary people. They feel betrayed and are disappointed in the parties which they traditionally voted for and are hoping to see their conditions improve.
The Five Star Movement, the League and Brothers of Italy (a smaller far-right party belonging to the centre-right coalition) travelled across the country in recent months and years. They met with people and they made them feel heard. They showed empathy to their problems and offered simple (if not unfeasible) solutions.
In the South of Italy, the Five Star Movement presented a platform that prioritised addressing the regions high levels of poverty, unemployment, and corruption. They promised more jobs, a tough approach to corruption and privileges, as well as to introduce a universal basic income that gave everybody the means to conduct a decent life.
They met with people and they made them feel heard. They showed empathy to their problems and offered simple (if not unfeasible) solutions.
In the most productive regions of Italy, especially the North, entrepreneurs are frustrated by bureaucratic burdens and an unsustainable level of taxation. Here, the League proposed a flat tax of 15% in conjunction with a commitment to abolish many of the existing burdensome administrative constraints.
Nationwide, for many years Italy has struggled with issues surrounding migration and security, and the perception of a lack of support from the European Union has resulted in increases in euro-scepticism and anti-European sentiment. There is also an increasingly widespread belief that, all in all, Italian people are not better off within the European Union, which is being criticised for imposing too many constraints without sufficient benefits and solidarity in return.
Under these conditions, it is quite understandable how much the nationalistic recipes of populist parties and their promises to take back control over the country’s policies resonated amongst the ordinary people. Are all of the above promises deliverable? Probably not. However, they included what many Italians needed to hear.
In the most productive regions, especially the North, entrepreneurs are frustrated by bureaucratic burdens and an unsustainable level of taxation.
Hope for radical change and concern for the present and future conditions mobilized a large majority of the 73% of the electorate that voted. On the one hand, the Five Star Movement alone got more than 32% of the votes, becoming the largest political force in Italy.
Another reason for their success was the reassuring tones of its 31-year-old leader Luigi Di Maio. He managed to convince the relative majority of Italian voters to trust the M5S, in spite of emerging scandals surrounding its members and its multiple failures in holding concrete administrative responsibilities (such as the messy situation in Rome).
On the other hand, the League of Matteo Salvini reached around 18%, evolving from a regional movement – the former “Northern” League – to a national party. Brothers of Italy scored around 4%. The three parties – in particular the M5S and the League – represent different types of populism, which makes Italy an interesting case.
2. Unsurprisingly, the big success of populist movements was coupled with the worst results ever of the two mainstream parties
Within the centre-right – which came out of the elections as the winning coalition with around 37% of the vote – the League was larger than Berlusconi’s party for the first time, and Salvini is now laying claim to the leadership of the coalition. Such a result would make it more difficult for the moderate elements of the centre-right to avoid far-right shifts in its internal balances. This is especially true on subjects like migration, security and commitment to the European Union and the Eurozone.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Matteo Renzi’s Democratic Party fell from the 40% achieved in the 2014 European Elections to less than 20%. A massive failure which is worse than anybody (including Renzi himself) could have ever imagined and which is coherent with the general trend that many centre-left, social-democrat parties are currently experiencing across Europe and beyond.
What is the future of mainstream parties in general? Italy is not alone in dealing with this dilemma.
3. Besides the rise of populism and the crisis of traditional parties, the current Italian electoral law delivered a hung Parliament with no clear solutions
Indeed, at present neither the M5S nor the centre-right coalition have the majority required for forming a stable government (estimated to 40%). With so much political fragmentation, it was clear from the beginning that such a system would have not helped in delivering a clear outcome.
What’s next? Nobody knows. According to the Italian Constitution, the situation is now in the hands of the President of the Republic, Sergio Mattarella, who will meet with all the parties and see if there is a viable solution or if new elections must be called. Among many uncertainties, the only certainty is that both the Five Star Movement – as the winning party – and the League – as the major shareholder in the winning centre-right coalition – will play an important role in what is expected to be a long process of negotiations.
Indeed, Italian voters sent a very clear message that Mattarella will have to take into consideration in the exercise of his constitutional powers. Given the absence of a clear winner and majority, it is possible that the President of the Republic, before taking any decision, decides to wait at least until the election of the Presidents of the two Chambers – scheduled on March 23 – and see if there is clear evidence of a possible stable majority in the Parliament.
Everything will depend on the availability of the main players to make compromises and on their ability to put together a wider majority.
The whole process will probably take some time. In this sense, Italy is facing political challenges that other European democracies have also been facing. It is too early to make more precise predictions and, at this stage, any speculations on possible scenarios could easily prove wrong. Everything will depend on the availability of the main players to make compromises and on their ability to put together a wider majority.
Both the M5S and the League seem open to dialogue: yet, they remain firm in their positions and they cannot take the risk of betraying their respective electorate by consenting to any “inciucio” (deal done under the table, particularly with rivals). The margin of manoeuvre is very narrow. European and international partners are watching Italian developments carefully.
Italy could come up with a solution which keeps populist initiatives under rational control. On the other hand, a deeper focus on national interest and a changed attitude towards external partners could also emerge. Is this the beginning of Italy’s “Third Republic”? It seems that the transition has begun.Margherita Movarelli Centre-Right Elections EU Member States Euroscepticism Populism
Three points to make sense of the Italian elections outcome
07 Mar 2018
Populism is haunting liberal democracies. Not poverty, unemployment, stagnant productivity, climate change, migration, Russia, China, but populism seems to be the what the mainstream political parties are mobilizing against. Fighting what we can’t even define is a mistake. However, the mainstream parties (MSP) are losing ground to new competitors. We should dismiss the shallow reasons like the economy and migration and address the deeper ones, both emotionally and rationally.
What is populism is unclear
There are three features attributed to populism: first, populism creates two antagonistic camps, typically people vs. elites. But two camps are also us vs. them, rich vs. poor, makers vs. takers, locals vs. foreigners.
Second, populism addresses problems emotionally and suggests there exist simple solutions. These solutions may even work on the short term, but not on the long term. Populisms speaks to emotions and addresses instincts.
Thirdly, if in power, populists would prefer efficiency over checks and balances, would be anti-pluralistic, create the personality cult and suppress views other than their own. They would be antidemocratic so as to prevent free and fair elections and suppress a free and pluralistic media.
Across all three features it is hard to draw a sharp line between populists and non-populists. Politics is about defining differences, short-termism is the recognized malaise of politics in general and, in the context of fighting fake news, the pluralistic media space is under attack by the anti-populists as well.
A sharp identification of populism is hard and, as Krastev wrote, in the end it is self-declared anti-populists that define who is populist and who is not.
The different meanings of populism
Despite its vague definition, the term is used a lot, because it effectively shames political opponents.
To the left, populism means fascism-light. The problem is that some try to push the idea that centre-right is a kind of populism-light. It would be dangerous to abandon centre-right values to avoid such accusations.
To the right, populists are the bad guys that have rude antidemocratic answers to problems the centre-right actually acknowledges.
To the technocrats, populists are those who can talk to people and rally voters that they can’t.
Mainstream parties are in trouble for other reasons
Some are deeper trends and some are superficial triggers. The latter are (1) Economic crisis and stagnation for the working and middle class. (2) Migration and other security issues. These two destroyed the output legitimacy of existing parties. And (3) due to general security and prosperity there are few incentives to vote rationally.
In my opinion, the real, deeper reasons for the decline of MSP and the rise of the so-called populists are the following:
First, the “nanny state” keeps promising free lunches. The scene for populism was set up, unfortunately, by exaggerated social policies. Pitting 99% vs. 1% was not called populism but social justice.
Promising to tax the few of the rich elite and give to the many who are needy is not considered populism either. Populists can out-promise the social democrats and no wonder the latter are hit the hardest by the rise of populism. The centre-right should recognise populism in socialist policies.
Second, the cultural crisis, globalization, creeping multiculturalism and a slow disappearance of family traditions: populists claim to be defenders of what conservatives used to defend. The centre-right should not give this topic up.
Third, the communication revolution, the internet and social media removed the traditional gatekeepers and quality checks from the information space: a grand coalition of “responsible” journalists and “rational” politicians used to keep “populist” ideas at bay. Not anymore.
Fourth, increasingly technocratic governing: there is a divide between the reason of the elites and the instincts of ordinary people. Hayek warned about an “intolerant and fierce rationalism” which is now pitting the liberal world order against instincts such as religion and patriotism. Politics is increasingly apolitical and technocratic. On the other hand, the “populist” parties excel at playing people’s instincts.
Fifth, increasingly technocratic MSPs: advancing to the top are not only people who inspire, who can rally voters, but increasingly people who are good at petty office battles, effective networking, elbowing and lacking people skills.
How to fight “populism”
Populists are very good at finding what people see as a problem. The centre-right needs to acknowledge that. The centre-right can be just as authentic and emotional in the demonstration that it cares about these issues and can be more trustworthy, reliable and rational with the solutions. This way, the contradiction between the emotional and the rational could be resolved.
The centre-right should break the dangerous association of populism with rightism. It is a trap set by the left and the progressives to make the conservatives and the true liberals abandon their policies and not to be “like populists”.
There are no politically incorrect problems, there are just undemocratic solutions. It is not the identification of problems that makes one a “populist”. Our solutions should be democratic, based on the rule of law and human rights. But they should nevertheless tackle problems such as migration or populism.
The centre-right should not shy away from calling leftist policies populist. Leftism has populism at its core. Socialists are therefore losing more to populists than centre-right.
How not to fight “populism”
First, fighting populism should not be a priority. Most people do not care about populism, they care about jobs, healthcare, their standard of living. Second, the principle “no liberty for the enemies of liberty” is wrong.
Hoping that controlling speech on social media would curb “populism” is naïve. Finally, stick to subsidiarity: Jan-Werner Müller is wrong in suggesting that “it is a matter of urgency to think about the way in which supranational institutions such as the European Union should try to defend liberal democracy from populists”. This would only strengthen the “patriotic” movements against Brussels.
“Fighting populism” is an empty call-to-arms against the competition. Instead the centre-right should be addressing issues that people care about and populists made so obvious. By passionately listening and rationally looking for solutions, not compromising on democratic principles and conservative values.Žiga Turk Centre-Right Political Parties Populism
The war on populism is the wrong war
17 Jan 2018
Media headlines seem to have given much larger attention to the bailout programme in Greece than to those of most other countries. But Greece’s experience with economic adjustment is in many ways an outlier, complicated by the election of the radical-left government of Tsipras.
Cyprus offers the interesting example of an economy saved with the help of economic adjustment and responsible reforms. Cyprus under centre-right leadership seems to be a rags-to-riches story after being shut out of financial markets only six years ago.
During the 2000s Cyprus registered strong growth driven by buoyant domestic demand according to a European Commission report. On average, Cyprus’ real GDP grew at a rate of 2.75% between 2000 and 2010 compared to the 1.4% of the euro area for the same timeframe.
The country enjoyed high employment rates, low inflation rates and rising real disposable income. This led to real convergence with the stronger economies in the European Union. Apart from domestic demand, Cyprus’ accession to the European Union in 2004 and its joining the euro area in 2008 contributed to this growth by boosting investor confidence.
While Cyprus resembles other countries in the euro area most affected by the crisis, it represents a success story in crisis management.
However, this positive image was underpinned by economic vulnerabilities and imbalances due to the mismanagement of the public finances. Notably, Cyprus ran current account deficits averaging 6.9% of GDP for approximately one decade during EU accession and entry to the euro area. In order to finance its current account deficit, Cyprus relied on foreign direct investment, which provided little added value to the economy.
Furthermore, the public sector had grown extensively in the 2000s, taxpayer compliance was low, and total government expenditure as a share of GDP increased. Additionally, the banking sector was vulnerable because of inadequate prudential supervision and because of its openness toward Greece.
When the financial crisis and subsequent euro crisis hit, the Cypriot banking sector was severely impacted. Cyprus reached a 6.3% budget deficit and gross debt rose sharply to 85.8% of GDP and subsequently going over 100%. Cyprus was shut out of financial markets for 18 months starting in mid-2011.
In order to adjust its economy, Cyprus agreed a bailout programme and undertook comprehensive structural reforms under centre-right President Anastasiades. The implementation of the bailout programme of €10 billion (56% of Cypriot GDP) took place between 2013 and 2016.
It was one of the largest sovereign bailouts in history. The bailout programme targeted Cypriot banks and involved a severe austerity programme (cuts to public spending, tax increases, and privatisation of semi-government organisations).
The reform to the banking sector, which saw Cyprus’ second-largest bank shut down, was received negatively by the public as it involved losses to all stakeholders in the banking sector, especially bondholders and depositors.
The government in Cyprus was determined in its response to the crisis and Cypriots were stoic in their resolve to see the reforms through. Apart from minor unrest toward the beginning of 2013, there were little protests and no riots against the austerity programme.
While Cyprus resembles other countries in the euro area most affected by the crisis, it represents a success story in crisis management.
The performance of Cyprus is a clear example of the positive link between a bailout programme for a country in deep crisis and sustainable economic activity.
The country exited the bailout programme on track in 2016 due to ambitious and consistent implementation of necessary reforms by the centre-right government led by President Anastasiades.
Statistical data from Eurostat supports the positive contribution government policy since 2013 has made to the country’s recovery. Cyprus ranks among the top ten countries in the European Union on key financial indicators.
Data for the third quarter of 2017 shows a 0.9% increase in GDP over the previous quarter and a 3.9% increase over 2016. Employment has increased by 0.7% in the third quarter when compared to the second and by 3.5% when compared to 2016.
Equally, Cyprus registered the fifth largest year-on-year decrease in unemployment in the European Union, from 13.1% in 2016 to 11.0% in the third quarter of 2017.
Cyprus had the largest year-on-year drop in government debt to GDP ratio (7.4%) in the EU in the third quarter of 2017. According to a European Commission forecast, growth is expected to remain strong in 2018 and 2019 coupled with a strong labour market and modest inflation.
The economy of Cyprus has outperformed the government’s budgetary targets, and government debt is likely to fall below 100% of GDP in 2019.
The academic literature on public administration reform often emphasises the difficulty of agreeing to and implementing reforms as well as of deciding whether or not the intended reforms had the intended outcome.
In this respect, the performance of Cyprus is a clear example of the positive link between a bailout programme for a country in deep crisis and sustainable economic activity. Notably, it is a victory for the centre-right, which has once more shown its ability to deliver results in highly challenging circumstances.
Even so, the Cypriot economy should not rest on its laurels even if it has registered a significant improvement. A forecast by Oxford Economics warns that reform is still necessary as the ‘legacy of the 2012-2013 crisis can still be seen in the banking sector’.
Further work on restructuring non-performing loans and improving public finances is required in order for the positive forecasts to become a reality. Rags-to-riches stories are popular, but so are riches-to-rags.Andrei Moraru Centre-Right Crisis Economy EU Member States Macroeconomics
Cyprus: from rags to riches?
01 Jan 2018
The 23rd Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change took place between November 6th and November 17th 2017 in Bonn (Germany). While it is certainly worth applauding the international climate regime’s unprecedented diplomatic achievements, its actual accomplishments are subject to controversy.
The promises countries have made to combat climate change, if successfully and fully implemented, would still fall short of the aim of the Paris Agreement. Furthermore, this represents a significant ‘if’, because some states—for example the US—have expressed their desire to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and also because successfully implementing public policy is tricky. Moreover, nation-states are under-delivering on the issue of climate finance.
Thus, with the international climate regime in difficulty, the narrative has been shifting in recent years to the role of sub-national and non-state actors. This state of affairs represents an opportunity for centre-right and like-minded political organisations in the European Union to define a policy on environmental protection, of which climate change is a sub-set, which has the potential to be both more independent and more effective than the ‘progressive’ agenda. Such an approach is based on two key characteristics: local governance and free markets.
First, centre-right thinking underlines the strong motivation local communities have in tackling environmental protection (and climate change). Centre-right and conservative thinking argues, in the tradition of Edmund Burke and the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, that society is a partnership between the living, the unborn and the dead.
It believes in civil association rather than in state intervention, and considers that the most important thing humans can do is to settle down, make a home, and pass it on to their children. As stewards of the planet, individual communities aggregated at local, regional, national, and, for some, transnational level react instinctively to preserve the environment which they have inherited and which they are to pass on to their children.
As opposed to other strands of right-wing thinking, centre-right perspectives differentiate between rational self-interest and irrational excess accumulation by stressing the intrinsic values of harmony and responsibility, which are immaterial and unquantifiable. Feelings of affection towards the ‘home’ are a much more powerful motivator for environmental protection than the ‘mission’ to save the planet, which is both far-removed and too long-term.
Second, the instrument to facilitate the natural expression of this feeling of ‘home’ is the free market, which, like local communities, has a self-correcting character. The role of the state is to ensure that free markets function in a non-discriminatory fashion based on the rule-of-law. The problem with environmental protection, in a centre-right perspective, is that polluters externalise their costs.
Under the auspices of the rule-of-law and governmental policies which make the polluter pay, individuals acting of their own free will can mobilise against big business and greed, which is a form of irrational excess. By contrast, interventionist governments may actually even facilitate the externalisation of costs, mainly to distant places with which individuals have no connection or indeed pass it onto future generations.
The approach to environmental protection and climate change should therefore give much more attention to local governance and free markets. One should examine environmental protections in the EU from a perspective of decentralisation and increased autonomy based on the principle of subsidiarity for local governance (e.g. local energy communities, free associations between cities and regions).
Furthermore, centre-right policy-makers should differentiate themselves from the left but also other right-wing thinking by stressing the fact that market-based mechanisms and non-quantifiable values-based goods go hand-in-hand. The feeling of ‘home’ represents the key motivator, not the personal balance sheet—although there is no reason why this incentive should not be explored.
In this regard, reviving the debate on the carbon tax as complementary to the current cap-and-trade system, while politically problematic, would be an appropriate conservative response to market externalities. Efforts at international governance should not be discounted but emphasis should be put on local actors, towards which the narrative seems to be shifting.
Environmental protection and climate change are real challenges our generation has to face. I have tried to outline how the centre-right in the European Union can differentiate itself from other political thinking on this issue.
It is important that individuals on the centre-right use what seems to me as international developments which speak in their favour as an opportunity to solve the problem of environmental protection through their own perspective, i.e. bottom-up, through resilient markets, rather than top-down through government intervention.Andrei Moraru Centre-Right Environment Values
What about a centre-right approach to environmental protection?
18 Dec 2017
It has been a challenging year for the European Union. The hangover from Brexit, election fever in a number of European countries, terrorist attacks in European capitals, the perennial existentialist question of quo vadis Europe, and now the Catalan crisis.
After Macron’s victory in France, liberal democratic Europe breathed a sigh of relief. The outcome of the French presidential election and Merkel’s much anticipated victory would restore confidence in liberal democracy, and put the European project back on track. And to a large extent this has happened. It has not been a clean sheet, however.
Germany did not manage to escape the predicament of other European countries: the weakening of traditional democratic parties and the surge of nationalist populism and extremism. The western liberal order has survived for now but the party pillars of the political system have been weakened.
Those that are left behind by change, frustrated and alienated, direct their anger towards mainstream politics.
The centre-left, centre-right divide, for many decades, offered European societies a set of different ideological creeds, policy options, and solutions, within the framework of free market-based liberal democracy. Now, we are witnessing the erosion of this post WWII European political divide.
Structural changes such as globalization, the fiscal conformity in preparation for the monetary union, and the monetary union itself created a policy of convergence between parties. The main victims of this fusion were the centre left parties that travelled most of the political distance towards the centre.
The adoption of centre-right elements in economic policies and structural reforms gave them electoral victories in the short run but in the long run was a prologue of their demise. Mainly because it severed the ties with their party base and their traditional electorate. The financial crisis and the backlash against globalization further eroded the political centre.
Exacerbated economic inequalities, blamed on globalization and automation, have altered societal stratification, creating new haves and have-nots. New waves of immigration have created a demographic and cultural panic. Technological advances created a new divide in society between technologically literate and illiterate, and a new kind of technological unemployment.
Open societies does not mean lawless societies and certainly not borderless states.
Those that are left behind by change, frustrated and alienated, direct their anger towards mainstream politics. The centre-left parties may have become something of an endangered species, but the centre-right parties have come under pressure as well.
The disdain of politics as usual and political correctness has empowered populist leaders and parties from both ends of the political spectrum. From Beppe Grillo, Tsipras, Podemos, and Die Linke, to Trump, Farage, Le Pen, and Orban, all have run against status quo politics. They have tried to manipulate the anger and disappointment in government, the establishment, corruption and nepotism, stagnating salaries, and rising unemployment.
A new dividing line is being formed: on one side are the traditional political formations, and on the other side is an abrasive, anticonformist populism. A populist surge that is based on economic protectionism, an assertive nationalism, xenophobia, anti-immigration and anti-globalization policies.
The populists have also capitalised on the return of identity politics. When threatened, people tend to resort to fundamental values intrinsic to their identity. Germany managed, in the decades following WWII, to place the debate on identity within the European context. Now, AfD, breaking old taboos, brings back the debate to the national level, exploiting the uneasiness of part of the society from the presence of a million refugees on German soil.
The return of identity politics is interconnected with euroskepticism. The incomplete European project is at a critical juncture. The populist demagogues make a case against Europe as being unable to provide policy responses to the challenges of immigration, border security, homeland security, or economic inequalities.
They are questioning, in essence, the wisdom of transferring authority and sovereignty from the nation states to Brussels. The antiglobalization of the populist left feeds euroskepticsm, while the extreme right of AFD and Le Pen resort to xenophobia, protectionism, and nationalist extremism.
We can be patriotic without being nationalistic, we can defend freedom and human rights as well as law and order with equal conviction.
The new political landscape is a minefield for centre-right parties. Populism, extremism and especially right-wing extremism and nationalism have appealed to voters by distorting our ideological agenda. In an effort to repatriate those voters, centre-right parties might be tempted to veer to the right and trail extremism as it sets the agenda. That would be a political folly.
Before repatriating our voters we should repatriate our ideological agenda, reclaim it and project it forcefully. Centre-right parties have to stay the course, defend liberal values, respond to the challenges based on our own ideological arsenal. We can be patriotic without being nationalistic, we can defend freedom and human rights as well as law and order with equal conviction.
Open societies does not mean lawless societies and certainly not borderless states. We can defend the market economy while addressing inequalities. We can address the inequalities resulting from globalization and automation without becoming protectionist and isolated.
Compromising our values and principles will only present us with short term political gains, if it does. It will hurt, however, our fortunes in the long run, as the socialists have discovered.Constantine Arvanitopoulos Centre-Right Elections EU Member States Leadership Political Parties
Centre-right parties: sailing in stormy seas
18 Oct 2017
I say Europe, you say…?
In our last interview, Eva Maydell’s question to you was: what is your vision for Europe in 2040?
In 2040 the European Union will be more integrated in some areas, such as defence and security. Europe will be stronger as a trading block, and its role in the world political scene will also be strengthened because of increased unity. We have improved considerably our internal market, so that it generates more prosperity and jobs. There has been a significant convergence between the Member States in terms of social justice and fairness – mostly because of the measures the Member States have taken themselves, but also because of what the EU has done.
Do you think now is the time to push for an EU defence co-operation? Why?
Yes, it is the right time to further develop EU defence cooperation, because no country can on its own afford to invest sufficiently in security and defence. It makes sense to pool resources together. Also, more efficient use of existing resources can strengthen security in Europe. Furthermore, there is a whole range of new threats, such as terrorism and cyberattacks, which need more European cooperation.
Is there any Finish foods which you love but find it is impossible to get anywhere else?
The autumn season ahead is sure to be a busy one, what will you be mainly focused on?
I will be focused on 2 things: the EU defence policy and the trade agenda.
What was the last movie you saw?
It was a children’s movie, Inside Out.
What is your biggest Brexit worry?
That there is no solution.
You have now been 3 years as Vice-President of the Commission – what do you enjoy most about the job?
I enjoy the most the feeling that I can work for a more integrated and unified Europe. The feeling when I can see that concrete measures open up new opportunities for people and companies throughout Europe.
What do you think is the single greatest benefit of being a citizen of the EU?
The whole Europe, it’s all 28 Member States are as free and as achievable for everyone as one’s home country.
If you could share a meal with one celebrity you haven’t met yet, who would you pick?
How is the #investEU plan working? Can you give us a couple of examples?
The European Fund for Strategic Investments (EFSI) functions well. Already over 460 000 European SMEs can get financing through EFSI. The Investment Project Portal is up and running to match investors with project promoters, so that projects can find financers. We have lowered capital charges of insurance companies so that they can invest easier in infrastructure.
Are you keeping up with any TV series at the moment?
House of Cards.
Do you like to cook? Are there any signature Katainen dishes?
I love cooking. My signature dishes are wild game food and warm-smoked salmon.
What do you remember most fondly about your Erasmus experience and why would you recommend young students to go on an Erasmus today?
Erasmus changed my life completely. It gave me a view from living in a multicultural environment, surrounded by fellow students from various countries. It also strengthened my self-confidence and gave me a feeling that Europe is open for me.
Which EPP colleague would you suggest for our next interview? What would be your question for her or him?
I would like to suggest MEP Roberta Metsola. My question to her is: what are your 3 key themes for the future development of the EU?Centre-Right Economy European People's Party European Union Leadership
I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Jyrki Katainen
I Say Europe
18 Oct 2017
There is not only a clash among civilisations. There is a clash within the West: between the elites and the people, between globalists and the nationalists, between universalists and localists. It has its roots in two different kinds of enlightenments – the Continental and the British. The center-right should embrace the British enlightenment and put trust in the reason of the people not in the reason of one man. Building the future institutions of Europe should be based on people’s sense of European identity which needs to be developed in advance of any major changes to European political structures.
Two competing narratives have been framing the debate after the end of the Cold War and the fall of communism. The first was “the end of history” as argued by Francis Fukuyama. The second was that of “the clash of civilisations” by Samuel P. Huntington.
The end of history has been proven wrong in the international context. The clashes, particularly between the Eastern Orthodox and Western Civilization returned in Yugoslavia, Ukraine and Georgia.
The clash between Islam and all other civilisations is leaving bloodstains not only at the external borders of the Islamic civilization but also within countries where Islam is a minority: in the US, Spain, UK, Belgium, France, Germany we are witnessing a series of terrorist attacks.
Until recently, however, it would seem that the history ended at least within the Western Civilisation. That the societal model framed by human rights, rule of law and liberal democracy won and that it is only a matter of time, will and (sometimes military intervention) that it would spread to the rest of the world. Well, with the surge of the so-called populism, it appears that the history did not even end within the West.
The clash within
There is a clash within the Western civilisation between the elites and the people, between the globalists and the nationalists, between multiculturalists and monoculturalists. More elaborated framings of the clash include anywheres vs. somewheres, false individualism vs. true individualism, French vs. British enlightenment and left vs. right moral foundations.
Actually, the clash is between the Western Civilisation and an emerging universal, global civilization that is uncomfortable with the very notion of the existence of the West and the Western Civilisation, its philosophical and religious roots.
A new civilisation is emerging within the West that is breaking from Western tradition and its transcendent base. It is aspiring to be global, present on the whole Gaia, not limited by geography, race or the traditions of its source civilisation.
It is based on universalism, multiculturalism, environmentalism and borrows shallow philosophical and religious snapshots from all around the world.
Haidt would have claimed it is attractive to people with weak “group cohesion” moral foundations of authority, loyalty and sanctity. It considers itself cosmopolitan, modern, progressive and enlightened while its opponents are portrayed as rural, backward and conservative.
What side for the conservative-liberal?
What should be the position of a conservative-liberal in this clash? Particularly the work of Hayek and Himmelfarb offers a solid foundation – Hayek for those leaning towards a classical liberal side and Himmelfarb for the conservatives. The left will instead read Descartes, Rousseau, Marx and Marcuse.
In his essay on individualism, Hayek writes about two kinds of individualism, the false and the true one. The false individualism – one could also call it a vulgar individualism – puts trust in an individual human mind, in individual reason that is powerful enough to come up with superior ideas on how society should be organised than the average plebeians can.
True individualism, on the other hand, argues that the sum of the reason of all people is larger than that of any individual or group. That the results achieved by a society of free reasonable individuals can produce results that are beyond the understanding of any single individual. Much like the invisible hand of the market is more efficient in allocating resources, the “invisible hand of morality” is more efficient in organizing the society than the “engineers of society”.
Which some politicians and some dictators would like to be. Hayek advises that the formal rules that explicitly define the functioning of a society should not do much more but to encode the principles that have established themselves through the spontaneous collaborative processes.
This approach goes against the championing of human reason that is supposed to be the main result of the enlightenment. Himmelfarb takes Hayek’s point to its historical root.
The vulgar individualism has its roots in the French enlightenment that indeed praised human reason and rejected faith, superstition and customs as an argument in societal problem solving. In the French enlightenment, pure reason was put in conflict against the church and faith.
It has this idea that human reason can engineer society, redefine relations in the society, even replace a seven-day week with ten-day week, because it is easier to scientifically compute time that way. The idea that brilliant reason that create better societies has provided the philosophical basis for the French revolution and all totalitarian regimes of the 20th century.
Interestingly, no such regimes ever appeared in societies that were shaped not by the French but by the British enlightenment. Which, by the way, did not position reason against faith.
On the contrary, it complemented reason with social virtues, or in the words of Adam Smith, moral sentiments, that bind people together. Virtue in dealing with other people and humility about the power of individual reason to plan or engineer society lead to respect of tradition and feelings.
Unfortunately, with a bit more self-interested US and Britain in exit, the EU is losing advocacy of that kind of enlightenment. Europe is left with the French trust in human reason and the German efficiency to implement the brilliant ideas it will come up with.
Hayek and Himmelfarb tell essentially the same story: that the vanity of human reason is dangerous when an individual or an elite wants to redesign or reshape institutions that have been evolving for centuries as a result of spontaneous collaboration among people. People did use their reason but also their morals to create and give meaning to institutions such as private property, work, marriage, and nation state.
Changing, dismantling or replacing them too quickly – perhaps based on a thin albeit democratic majority instead of broad acceptance – had tragic consequences in the past. It is the role of the conservatives to prevent that.
Less tragic but nevertheless negative was also sticking to ways that times have surpassed. The most important words in the recent Merkel speeches are “we Europeans”.
These two words need to be repeated and repeated for decades. When they sink in, when European identity is established and present in the Europeans, the European Union will be able to get elements of a nation state that go beyond the common market and common border protection.
European conservatives should be pushing in that direction – not by pushing the institutional innovation but instead the European identity. In this way and ever closer union will be a result of spontaneous collaboration among Europeans and not a project of a political elite.
Conservatives cannot be louder than the “progressives” asking for more Europe. But we can be more reasonable and more realistic.
 Goodhart D. (2017). The Road to Somewhere: The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics, C Hurst & Co.
 Hayek F.A. (1948) Individualism and Economic Order, University of Chicago Press.
 Himmelfarb G. (2017) The road to modernity, Vintage Books.
 Haidt, J. (2012). The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion. Vintage.
 Ibid.Žiga Turk Centre-Right European Union Values
The clash within our civilisation
11 Sep 2017
I say Europe, you say…?
Achieving Europe. Europe of Success. Europe of the Youth.
Ramón Luis Valcárcel’s question to you was: how do you think the EU could better contribute to equipping our youngsters with the digital skills needed to thrive in the digital economy?
There are two significant areas where additional effort is urgently needed. Firstly, improving teaching quality and equipping educators with the instruments and skills they require is key to offering an effective 21st century learning environment and promoting digital literacy. The way governments and communities recruit, prepare, support and retain teachers has a direct impact on the kind of training young people receive and how prepared they are for the demands of the modern labour market.
Secondly, the traditional, tired 20th century education model with its standardised assessment tests, memorising and regurgitating facts, and subject knowledge disconnected from real-life context, is no longer enough. The learning experience of the future should be based around student empowerment, building key competencies, fostering an open and flexible learning environment and ensuring actual business and life opportunities are being presented and taken advantage of.
If you could have dinner with ANY European leader right now, who would it be and what would you ask them?
Digitalising the EU is one your passions in parliament, what obstacles remain to achieving a European digital single market?
The Digital Single Market Strategy is about transforming European society as a whole and making sure it can face the future with confidence. It is true that both technology and our daily lives are often changing at a much faster pace than policymakers can keep up with. However, we have been very quick in legislating on the Regulation for Portability of Online Content, which is a clear victory for consumers.
We have also worked on a report on digitising European industry, intended to lay the groundwork for a new Europe of technology, innovation and a skilled workforce. What lies ahead still are the e-Privacy regulation, the Directive on Digital Content Contracts and the Single Market Information Tool regulation, among others. It is our responsibility to resolve the remaining obstacles to a fully-functioning Digital Single Market and make sure that any legislation is as future-proof as possible.
If you were not an MEP right now, what do you think you would be doing instead?
A combination of two things, probably: helping communities get access to quality education and skills, in whatever capacity, and something more creative on the side – art or interior design, perhaps?
As we continue to grow and innovate the European data economy, do you think it is possible to strike a balance between digital innovation and protecting a citizen’s right to privacy online?
In my work I have always sought to strike a balance, so I don’t consider reconciling concerns around online privacy and the data economy to be impossible. Online privacy is of huge importance, of course, but it is also important to communicate what it actually means and how users can protect themselves. Many people, for instance, do not like the so called “cookie banner” and believe that all cookies out there are ‘bad’ or at least intrusive. This stems from a lack of understanding of what they are actually for.
Digital literacy is one of the main characteristics of a thriving modern society, and the process of raising awareness of our digital footprint and personal data should be led by businesses and NGOs as much as by the European Institutions. As we are trying to move forward, talking to citizens and businesses is a priority – we need to think carefully before introducing any legislation that could change the user experience of the internet as a whole.
Summertime is upon us, so please share with us your favourite holiday destination?
The Mediterranean blue mixed with Bulgarian natural green.
Bulgaria takes over the Presidency of the Council of Europe in 2018, what are the key priorities and challenges for Bulgaria during this 6-month tenure?
It has been proven that successful presidencies are based on effective administrative execution and extensive coordination with the other two members of the trio, as well as with the European Commission. In this regard the key priorities of the Bulgarian Presidency, due to be officially announced in the coming weeks, include security and migration, the debate on the Future of Europe with a particular focus on the Cohesion policy after 2020, and the future of the Western Balkans. Recent political developments in FYROM and Montenegro have pushed the region back to the top of the EU agenda, and being in immediate proximity, the Bulgarian government intends to bring up the topic and advocate for a decisive but forward-looking EU policy on the subject.
For a European perspective, what do you see as the key takeaways from the recent French presidential election?
Undoubtedly the loudest, clearest message from the recent Presidential and the first round of the Parliamentary elections in France is that people chose Europe. Their individual preferences for left- or right-wing domestic policies notwithstanding, the French did not fall in the trap of anti-EU populism. Another emerging trend in Europe, solidified by the French elections, is the rise of a new generation of young and dynamic pro-European politicians.
What albums and artists are on your phone right now?
I’m currently on a relaxation kick – a lot of Ludovico Einaudi, as well as a very old traditional Bulgarian folk song called ‘Yovano Yovanke’, performed by renowned cello player Ian Maksin.
As a young politician, how do you think we can better engage young people in the electoral process both domestically and at a European level?
Let’s seek to engage the bright and best young people of Europe not only through party ideologies but through issue-based projects. Young people today are much more practical and a lot less traditional. They dream, create and commit themselves to concrete initiatives, sometimes regardless of their political orientation. When we want to get the young passionate about Europe we have to tell the story of Europe and engages with both – their hearts and minds. They need to feel European in order to achieve for Europe.
Brussels or Strasbourg?
Strasbourg is a beautiful city. I particularly admire its architecture, friendly people and young character. But I’m also a practical person and when it comes to functionality I believe the European Parliament could function better only from Brussels.
The West Wing or House of Cards?
House of Cards. Haven’t watched the West Wing.
Which EPP colleague would you suggest for our next interview? What would be your question for her or him?
Vice President of the European Commission Jyrki Katainen. I would like to ask him: what is your vision for Europe in 2040?Centre-Right European People's Party Leadership Youth
I say Europe, you say…? Interview with MEP Eva Maydell (Paunova)
I Say Europe
22 Jul 2017
Mr. Emmanuel Macron is the new president of the French republic, and was formally enthroned in the Élysée Palace last Sunday. He succeeded François Hollande, a decent ‘president without qualities’ who reminded one of a musilian character from the crumbling Habsburg Empire, as opposed to anything resembling French grandeur.
The new President, although only thirty-nine years old, seems to have an intense sense of the dignity of his function, framed since 1958 by Charles de Gaulle as a monocratic power in almost mystical connection with the French nation. He decided to celebrate his victory in a highly symbolic lieu of the French capital: the pyramid of the Louvre.
This marks a discontinuity with the traditional settings of France’s political celebrations: for the Left, Place de la Bastille, where the 1789 revolution started; for the Right, Place de la Concorde, where an ocean of de Gaulle’s supporters converged after marching on the Champs-Elysées in protest against the leftist uprising of May 1968.
The Louvre’s pyramid is a symbol of modernity built under socialist President François Mitterrand. But the Louvre Palace is an eternal witness to the glory of the old monarchs of France, who used it as one of their residences up until the construction of Versailles by the Sun King. The place, neither Left nor Right, modern and traditional at once, is perhaps a perfect symbol of Macron’s most striking characteristics: his fundamental political ambiguity and the mystery within which his real personal and political self is constantly wrapped.
No doubt part of this ambiguity and mystery is a consequence of Macron’s limited exposure to the limelight. A private person far from the public’s attention until August 2014, the young public official and banker was only then catapulted by his mentor François Hollande into the post of Economy Minister, from which his spectacular ascension to the Presidency started. However, more profound reasons concur to forming this impression.
First, Macron’s intellectual identity is solid and ambiguous at once. A man of great intellectual gifts according to most observers, Macron trained as an economist, started his career as ‘Inspecteur des Finances’ in France’s powerful public administration and worked several years as a banker.
However, his first genuine loves were literature and philosophy: a passion for theatre seems to have brought him together with his wife, and he once assisted the renowned philosopher Paul Ricœur in preparing one of his publications. His interest in the humanities seems thoughtful and sincere, so that he is a technocrat and a humanist at once.
Contrary to Valery Giscard d’Estaing, to whom he is often compared, Macron is a humanist turned technocrat, not a technocrat turned humanist. This brings him closer to François Mitterrand, a man with a taste for erudition and a profound grasp of the subtle nuances of human psychology. From this perspective, Macron could not be further from his two immediate predecessors: Hollande, a grey product of France’s technocratic establishment, and Sarkozy, a son of the pop culture of the 1960s and 1970s.
Second, Macron’s politics is ambiguous, and this goes much beyond the alleged vagueness of his presidential platform. Macron is the second European politician who consciously bet on a transformation of western political systems that would substitute the cleavage reformist/conservative in place of the old left/right cleavage, deemed to have outlived its usefulness in an economically global world and politically integrated Europe.
The first was not Matteo Renzi, a foreign leader to whom Macron is also compared – much to the latter’s chagrin I would imagine – but former Italian Prime Minister and would-be political leader Mario Monti. While Renzi has consistently depicted himself as a centre-left leader, Monti’s bet in 2012 was to split both the centre-right and the centre-left between their reformist, economically liberal and pro-European components on the one hand, and their economically conservative and Eurosceptic elements on the other hand.
The first would be reorganised as a strong political centre under his leadership, and carry forward a programme of national reforms and European unification, while the latter would be condemned to lasting marginality in opposition. Macron is surely a more charismatic and gifted leader than Monti, but his vision ‘beyond Left and Right’ is essentially the same.
Third and most importantly, Macron’s political goals are ambiguous. To be more precise, his political goals are only partly stated because some of them cannot be openly stated. What can be least stated is that the archenemy of Macron is not the Front National, but the republican Right. This has nothing to do with Macron’s personal distance from the positions and the leaders of the republican Right – in fact, on many policy areas, most notably the economy, his ideas are closer to the republican Right than to the Left.
It is the logic of his political bet that requires the republican Right to split and crumble, with a more centrist wing swallowed by his movement ‘La République En Marche’, and a more hard-core wing potentially attracted by a newly rebranded Front National or condemned to irrelevance. If the republican Right succeeds and prospers, Macron will lose the political bet of his life. This is why he appointed a centre-right Prime Minister this week, in the hope of encouraging the forces of decomposition among centre-right conservatives.
It is true that Macron pledged to reabsorb support for the Front National during his five-year term. But his actions have subtly and, I suspect, consciously legitimised the far-right as his main opposition. Contrary to Chirac in 2002, he accepted to debate with Marine Le Pen, implicitly recognising the legitimacy of her project.
He even addressed to her a ‘republican salute’ in his acceptance speech. In fact, Macron cannot accomplish the transformation of the French political system he is seeking without absorbing the republican Right and legitimising the Front National as his main right-wing opposition, and he is certainly aware of it. The cold-blooded precision with which he executed his plans so far, while hiding some of their real implications, signals that he shares not only Mitterrand’s erudition, but also his Machiavellian genius.
This article was originally published in New Europe
Picture source: kenvtv.comFederico Ottavio Reho Centre-Right EU Member States
Federico Ottavio Reho
The mysterious Monsieur Macron
15 May 2017
I say Europe, you say…?
In our last interview, MEP David Mc Allister’s question to you was: “Where do you see the European Union in 20 years?”
With citizens who have a strong European identity and who are defending our values both inside and outside of the Union.
What was the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career?
In the early 90s, the British Royal Family was not very popular and in Britain there was a rumor that the EU had a plan to abolish their Kingdom. My answer was that the British can only do it themselves. In the end, I am happy that the Royal Family is still accepted.
What advice did you give your sons when they started doing politics?
I didn’t give them any advice, they didn’t ask for it, they just did it.
Recently you presented your book United for the Better: My European Way in Brussels. What do you miss most about living there?
I had a very good time in the European Parliament and I am very thankful for that but I don’t miss Brussels.
What is your favourite Konrad Adenauer quote?
‘The situation is serious but not hopeless’.
Being at the forefront of advocating for the big-bang enlargement, what do you think are the prospects for a new enlargement?
We need to do it very carefully because we need the backing of the people of the European Union.
Who is your favourite movie character of all time and why?
Miss Marple, because I like crime stories where you can also enjoy and laugh.
What is your favourite moment from European history, depicted in the House of European History?
The description of the change from communism to liberty in 1989-90.
How do you think the present moment we are living in will be depicted in the House?
As a moment of challenge which we have successfully overcome.
What was the most awkward moment you experienced as President of the European Parliament?
It was the signing of the Charter of Human Rights, in the EP in Strasbourg on 12 December 2007. The anti-European members created a chaos in the Parliament and the King of Jordan, Abdullah II waited to make his speech.
What about most amusing moment?
It could be when Dalai Lama addressed me as a ‘comrade’. I said to him: ‘Your holiness, I prefer you call me a friend’ to which he replied ‘my friend’.
German or Belgian beer?
Working in Academia or in Politics?
Politics with intelligence and emotion.
Historical or crime novels?
Crime novels with historical background.
Which EPP colleague would you suggest for our next interview? What would be your question for her or him?
I would like to ask Ramon Luis Valcárcel Siso the following question: how do you see the relations between the regions in Spain and the Spanish state in the framework of the EU?Centre-Right EU Member States European Union Leadership
I say Europe, you say…? Interview with Hans-Gert Pöttering
I Say Europe
15 Feb 2017
I say Europe, you say…?
What was your first job?
Serving in the German Army (Bundeswehr) for two years.
Which was the most interesting myth about the EU you needed to bust in your career?
Being a coffee drinker myself, I was amused to read in a British newspaper that Brussels was trying to restrict the drinking habits of the United Kingdom’s coffee lovers. Of course, this was not the case.
The article referred to a study undertaken by the European Food Safety Authority, which assessed the different levels of caffeine intake. It concluded that a regular caffeine consumption up to 400mg per day is not worrisome for non-pregnant adults. The European Union never proposed to regulate how much coffee people drink.
How do you see transatlantic relations after 20 January 2017? As Chair of the US Delegation, is there still a perspective for TTIP, and, if not, what is the alternative?
The outcome of the US presidential elections was not what we expected but as with all democratic decisions, we have to respect it and work with it. Good transatlantic relations are crucial for us and we will continue to work on strengthening our partnership. At the moment, we are facing many uncertainties.
The new Trump administration is still being formed and we will have to wait for a clear political agenda. Even before the US election, the TTIP negotiations had already been tough. Considering the President-elect’s take on trade, a comprehensive free trade agreement between the EU and the US seems rather remote.
Soft or Hard Brexit?
Prime Minister May’s strategy resembles a “hard Brexit” of rigid border and customs controls to reduce migration and a British withdrawal from the jurisdiction of the ECJ. The European Union’s position is clear: the British objective of restricting the freedom of labour while maintaining full access to the Single Market tries to “square the circle”. Full access to the European market without applying the fundamental freedoms is not possible.
We noticed you have your website in 6 different languages – how much is the EU level communication important for you?
The variety of languages, cultures and traditions is what makes the European Union unique. By now, my website is available in eight different languages to reach as many EU citizens as possible. We should never get tired of explaining the EU to the people. This is why I regularly inform about my work on Facebook, Twitter and my website. By subscribing to my newsletter, you can also receive monthly updates directly in your e-mail inbox.
As a former president of CDU’s Junge Union how do you feel about lack of youth participation and overall interest in politics and what needs to be done to change the negative trend?
When I was district chairman of the Junge Union, I enjoyed the positive energy of our group. Politics affects us all in our everyday lives and it is the youth of today that will change tomorrow. I encourage young people to get involved. Programmes like Erasmus or the newly launched Interrail campaign by Manfred Weber are good initiatives to engage young Europeans.
But there is certainly more that needs to be done. Education is key: How much do children and young adults learn about the EU at school? Often not enough. Therefore, I believe that the history of the European Union and the values it is founded on should be given more space on the curriculum.
Choose one of the following: moules frites or waffles?
Law or Politics?
Politics based on the rule of law.
German or British humor?
British humor in Germany.
Which EPP colleague would you suggest for the next interview? What would be your question for her or him?
For your next interview, I would like to suggest the former President of the European Parliament, Dr. Hans-Gert Pöttering. He initiated the idea of a “House of European History”, which is expected to open in 2017. The question I would like to ask him would be: “Where do you see the European Union in 20 years?”
“I say Europe, you say…?” is a series of candid interviews with centre right movers and shakers of the European project. From legislative work to food preferences, from weekday causes to weekend hobbies, we show you the human face of EU politics and its main protagonists.Centre-Right EU Member States European Union Leadership
I say Europe, you say…? Interview with MEP David McAllister
I Say Europe
17 Jan 2017
Britain’s decision to leave the European Union and Donald Trump’s election to President of the United States are events of historical proportion. In important ways, they challenge assumptions long taken for granted by both sides of the political spectrum. We publish below various contributions on the lessons the European People’s Party should draw from these political developments.
Contributors are broadly connected to the European centre-right and offer a wide range of opinions on the topic under discussion. Some believe that an identitarian agitation is sweeping across the West, and that the centre-right should reclaim identity politics from anti-establishment movements and reconcile it with European integration, after having neglected it for too long. Others reject this analysis, downplay identitarian factors or see the return of identity politics as a purely populist phenomenon that should be opposed by all means.
A Europe of values and results
Director, CEDER Study Centre
The recent developments in the UK and the US are reflections of discontent of large parts of the population with what is going on in their daily lives and their feelings about the future, which led to mistrust in traditional politics and in current leaders. The Brexit referendum is for many people the proof of a failing European Union, while the US presidential elections give rise to fears about the traditional multilateral approach and the strength of our transatlantic relations.
We believe that the EPP must emphasise the importance of delivering tangible results on all levels of government; results that improve the lives of citizens and which take into account the concerns of all EU citizens. For the EPP this will require strong leadership, vision and more unified action and opinions. Deepening and strengthening the European Union is also necessary, on the basis of our common values, such as democracy, human rights, the rule of law, solidarity and tolerance.
The confidence and involvement of citizens will be of utmost importance to restore the ‘European Dream’. The dialogue between citizens and the European institutions therefore needs to be strengthened. That is why we believe the work of Luc Van den Brande as Special Adviser to EC Commission President Juncker to further strengthen the dialogue with the EU citizens is so important.
Stay firm and united
Member of the European Parliament
Now it is serious. These are the times that the European Union once was founded to meet. To secure freedom, democracy and peace in Europe. To provide stability in a fragile world. To develop a dynamic economy for prosperity and social cohesion. This is not anymore about ideological speeches but brutal reality.
It is a new world. More risky. More instable. It is the free world that is under threat and it is the world order from the years after the Second World War that is being challenged. The crises of today are not the crisis of the European Union, but it is these kinds of crises the EU was created to deal with. To give stability to Europe and give stability to the free world.
This challenge might be the most difficult we have ever faced. It is more challenging than reforming agricultural policy, establishing the internal market or launching the service directive. It is even more challenging than fighting bureaucracy.
The solution is simple but difficult. We must stand together, side by side. Reform our markets and deepen the internal market. Achieve an Energy union and a Capital Markets Union. Take the lead in the digitalisation of global economies. Stay firm to Russia and clarify that all parts of the Union are the European Union, be it Narva in Estonia or all the ancient capitals of Europe once behind the Iron Curtain.
Control our borders in order to ensure that the processing of asylum procedures is worthy of civilised societies. We must strengthen our military defence capabilities in order to be able to make use of our soft powers and proceed with the enlargement when countries are prepared. Reform Europe rather than create new divisions in the EU by ever new ideas of institutional changes.
Wanted: personalities with attitude and image
Deputy Director for Political Consulting, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung
Nobody had seen it coming. But within hours of the US presidential elections, many people apparently understood perfectly what had happened. Donald Trump’s election was heralding the start of a ‘global era of populism’, newspapers said.
Taking a more analytical view, it is clear that there are significant differences between the US and Europe. Electoral and party systems, the media and election campaigning, personalities and the topics dominating the debate in the US do not allow any clear conclusions to be drawn for future developments in Europe. And populist parties, which have been gaining ground in Europe for some time, also differ considerably from each other.
However, there appear to be similarities in some of the underlying conditions that have facilitated the strengthening of populist mobilisation. The anxiety of the middle classes about losing status in the course of the processes of social change has increased noticeably in affluent Western societies. Differentiation in lifestyles and individualisation combined with high levels of immigration are causing feelings of one’s culture being under threat and fears of a collective loss of identity.
There is evidently an added factor at play in that the aging section of the affluent society in particular perceives change as an imposition. People develop a defiant stance of rejection in the face of pressures to adapt to the consequences of the global economy. ‘Make America great again’ and ‘Take back control’ are populist responses to this frame of mind, which exert great attraction through the illusion of being able to return to a simpler, more predictable and manageable world.
Instead of shaping the future constructively, this is about recreating an imaginary past that never existed in the first place.
Brexit and Trump clearly illustrate that what we need are personalities with attitude and a good image, who look forward to shaping the future in a positive frame of mind and can develop ‘dynamics of hope’ rather than ‘dynamics of fear’ (Jean Monnet). Trump was only strong because of Clinton’s weakness.
Cultural pessimism, doomsday scenarios and scaremongering have no place in Christian democratic politics. When looking around Europe, one can easily identify the leading populists. On the side of those who want to manage change with a confident outlook, Angela Merkel now stands almost alone.
We need to move beyond political correctness
Professor of History of Philosophy, Università degli Studi del Molise, Italy
From the recent US Presidential election and from Brexit we can learn some useful lessons. First, coalitions between the mainstream centre-right and centre-left do not work. The attempt to put together all ‘responsible’ people who belong to the mainstream intellectual culture of social-democratic values and globalised economic liberalism fails because it excludes the majority of the people. This coalition is doomed because it appears as an elitist project against which everyone else rebels and wins.
Second, we learned that we need a real left-right dialectic in order to fight the so-called ‘populism’. An Italian example will clarify what I mean. In the recent municipal elections, the Five Stars Movement won in Rome and Turin where, at the second round, the race was between their candidate and the mainstream candidate. However, in Milan, where the centre-right and centre-left parties presented two different and credible candidates, the Five Stars Movement did not even qualify for the second round.
Third, we need to reflect about populism. In order to rebuild a successful centre-right one should look at the needs expressed by those who are voting for the so-called ‘populists’ and offer clear centre-right solutions that are distinctly opposed to the centre-left perspective. On Europe, for example, the idea of a ‘slim federalism’ that is strong on security and foreign policy but weak on internal economic regulation (real subsidiarity) should be adopted, together with a recognition of the Christian roots of Western values.
Finally, we should stop talking about populism as if it was an undifferentiated phenomenon. Although he gathered grassroots support from people who did not feel represented by US mainstream politics, Trump is a conservative. He won regular primaries of the GOP defeating 16 candidates. He then won the presidential election with sixty million votes and he has a strong political agenda. One might like or dislike his political platform, but make no mistake, he is not the same as Marine Le Pen or Beppe Grillo.
It’s about communication, too!
Deputy Director, Civic Institute, Poland
Both the Brexit referendum and the US presidential election have demonstrated to what extent large parts of society disapprove of the political, economic and social status quo. One conclusion seems relevant to every liberal democracy: rapidly changing patterns in communication. The total dominance of online media – with the particular importance of social media – is coming.
Only a few years ago many believed that social media would strengthen democracy by allowing people to have a say and freely share information. This year proved that they were wrong. To a large extent, social media have become a source of misinformation, not information. Instead of strengthening public debate, they poisoned it with lies and inflammatory language. Instead of being the harbour of free speech, online-based platforms became the amplifiers of hate.
During the US presidential election, for the first time in history, fake news outpaced real news in terms of public engagement. More voters were exposed to lies than to the truth. Millions of voters were given a false picture of events. It would be foolish to think that this did not influence their voting decisions. In the last century, when new, revolutionary media appeared – the radio and later the TV – democracies decided to regulate them.
Democratic oversight and independent regulatory bodies were established. Laws were enacted to protect the impartiality and truthfulness of the broadcast. Like the printed press, the radio and the TV broadcasters were legally responsible for the content they aired. In case of online-based social media, no such regulations exist. We urgently need to think how to fill this void.
Dr. Žiga Turk,
Professor, University of Ljubljana
The message from the success of Brexit, Trump and some so-called populist movements in Europe is that identity matters. Identity matters, as particularly the US elections demonstrated, not only the minority identities of Afro-Americans, Hispanics, Gays, feminists, etc. Majority identity matters.
The scientific explanation comes from Moral Foundations Theory. It claims that people – voters included – often decide intuitively and not necessarily rationally. We base our intuitive decisions on six different moral foundations: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. The progressives are generally associated with the first three of the six foundations. Conservatives, in addition, are associated with the foundations of loyalty, authority and sanctity as well.
In his campaign Trump successfully addressed the loyalty to America and the need for authority in American leadership. Meanwhile, his running mate Mike Pence covered the issue of sanctity of American Christians.
This is perfectly illustrated in a post-electoral tweet of Mr. Trump, addressed to protesters rioting against him: ‘Imagine what our country could accomplish if we started working together as one people under one God saluting one flag.’ To those of us immersed in political correctness this sounds almost like ‘ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer’. But Trump’s message is just a warning of what happens if the centrist democratic politicians fail to base their policies firmly on the entire spectrum of people’s moral foundations.
The values of the liberal world order are not only democracy, freedom, respect of law and respect of people regardless of their origin, the colour of their skin, their religion, gender, sexual orientation or their political beliefs. Our common values also include loyalty to our culture, love for our homeland and respect of our traditions and religions.
It is the unique task of conservatives in general and the EPP in particular to bring those values back into the liberal world order in a positive and constructive way. The socialists and the liberals will not accomplish this because they lack intuitive understanding of it. If the EPP does not do it, someone else will. And then it will not be benign.
This balance of values is a unique contribution for preserving the world as we know it, a contribution that only the EPP can and therefore should make.WMCES Editor Brexit Centre-Right Elections EU Member States EU-US Values
Brexit and Trump: lessons for the centre-right
30 Nov 2016
This article analyses the causes of the loss of support suffered by Podemos in the elections held on 26 June 2016. In these elections, the party, led by Pablo Iglesias, ran for office in coalition with the United Left.
The article describes the way the election developed for Podemos, analyses the shaping of its populist rhetoric in line with a radical left-wing view, discusses the social and political conditions that favoured its rise, and finally, notes that the disappearance of these conditions jeopardises its chances of success in the future.
Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Javier Zarzalejos Centre-Right Elections EU Member States Political Parties Populism
Populism in Spain: an analysis of Podemos
08 Nov 2016
This article sheds light on one of Europe’s successful right-wing populist parties, the Norwegian Progress Party. Since 2013 the party has been in a coalition with the Conservative Party.
The history, ideology and position of the party in the Norwegian political system are factors that explain how a centre–right party and a populist one have been able to form a viable coalition.
Over time the Progress Party has become increasingly well integrated into the political system. The fact that no cordon sanitaire or total boycott policy was implemented against it may explain why the party developed a more moderate and pragmatic approach than most other right-wing populist parties.
In turn, this made it possible for the Conservative Party to offer to form a coalition with the Progress Party and placed the centre–right in the strategic position of cooperating with parties both in the centre and to the right.
Read the full article in the December 2016 issue of the European View, the Martens Centre policy journal.Johan Thomas Bjerkem Centre-Right Political Parties Populism
Johan Thomas Bjerkem
The Norwegian Progress Party: an established populist party
03 Nov 2016
The idea that the left/right paradigm in politics is outdated has been around for so long that it’s amazing how often we still think in left right terms. Maybe old habits die hard. Or maybe there has always been more to the old paradigm that what the commentariat made us believe.
But according to a growing chorus of pundits in 2016, now is the time to seriously let go. The paradigm du jour is open vs. closed, global vs. territorial or, as the Economist puts it, drawbridge-downers (read Merkel, Macron and Soros) vs. drawbridge-uppers (such as Trump, Putin, Le Pen, Orbán and the UK Leave campaign). I admit that this thesis has a lot going for itself: after all, the rise of identity politics (us vs. them) and the return of nationalism are among the driving forces in the success of populists.
That would indeed speak for an entirely new paradigm. But wait: there is also a crisis-driven resentment against the market economy and international trade (traditionally, a leftist idea). Moreover, the echo chamber effect of social media reinforces any kind of polarisation, no matter whether the paradigms are old or new.
Hence, from the perspective of Europe’s biggest political family, the European People’s Party, there are three things wrong with making ‘open vs. closed’ the decisive paradigm of our days.
First of all, open/closed corroborates the populist narrative of an establishment that, no matter whether it calls itself liberal, socialist, green, Christian democratic or conservative, is united in despising the ‘little people’ and that will always act in the interests of a global elite. Now, it is simply not in the interest of big tent, catch-all political families to let this narrative become dominant: if we permit the populists to act as the party of the people vs. the elites, we risk losing.
Secondly, quite frankly, big political families such as the EPP (but also the Socialists) in their current composition neatly straddle the divide between drawbridge-uppers and drawbridge-downers. Both Angela Merkel and Horst Seehofer, her fierce critic in refugee matters (and the only one among the parties represented in the Bundestag) belong to the EPP family.
Their positions are not mutually exclusive in every respect. On the role of borders in the 20th century, the German Chancellor has already shifted her position since September 2015.
If we want to keep the overall Schengen system, we need to improve the protection of its external borders.
And from an EPP mainstream perspective, there is nothing wrong with wanting to control borders. Believing that the nation state is far from being finished is not automatically anti-globalist. But claiming that in this crisis we have a ‘rendezvous with globalisation’ essentially implies that there is nothing we can do about the masses of people trying to cross our borders, economic migrants included.
But if we want to maintain the liberal world order, we had better acknowledge the importance of identity politics. If we want to integrate a large number of people from one of the most violent and backward regions of the world, we need to be more straightforward about defending our values.
If we want to keep the overall Schengen system, we need to improve the protection of its external borders, and allow for more long term exceptions on the inner borders. To put it brutally: If we don’t do this, people will eventually elect someone who does it instead (but probably less smartly). How about some of the ‘wir schaffen das’ spirit here?
Finally, there are still substantial differences between the centre right and the Socialists as well as the Centre Right and the Greens. Left vs. right has not lost all significance! How open is ‘open’, if the ‘no border’ Greens proudly claim they have killed TTIP? How open is ‘open’ if freedom is supposed to be ensured by ever new gender quota and diversity rules?
So there are good reasons for maintaining that left/right has kept a lot of relevance, especially in an economic crisis which still pits ‘printing money’ against some degree of fiscal prudence.
So what does modern European punditry recommend, in order to fight the new battles? ‘Stronger rhetoric, bolder policies and smarter tactics’, says the Economist. That is think tank newspeak at its best. Of course, making a strong case for openness – maintaining Schengen, strengthening trade – is necessary.
But at the same time, identity politics should not under all circumstances be defined as something alien to centre right thinking. In the migration movements of today, culture matters, and we shall ignore it at our peril.
How open is ‘open’, if the ‘no border’ Greens proudly claim they have killed TTIP?
Punditry’s final punch line is the reference to demographics: young people tend to think more openly, as last witnessed in the Brexit referendum. So supposedly, it’s just a question of time until the final victory of ‘open’. That would be more credible if we could be sure that ‘generation Erasmus’ still thinks along those lines 10 and 20 years from now.
But alas, we may not be so fortunate. If the ‘progressive’ spirit of 1968 had lived on in the same form as half a century ago, conservatism would have never had the comeback it had in the 1980s.
So open vs. closed may be a useful paradigm for analyzing recent debates. But it is neither a realignment of political forces across the world, nor a useful tool to shape the strategies of Europe’s centre right.Roland Freudenstein Centre-Right Globalisation Immigration Political Parties Values
Is open/closed the new left/right? Paradigm shift and Europe’s centre right
13 Sep 2016
A remarkable degree of consensus has emerged in the “Brussels Bubble” regarding the recent Commission decision against Ireland’s alleged tax (or rather non-tax) agreements with Apple. The issues of tax fairness and equality – as highlighted in recent years by Wikileaks and the subsequent Panama Papers – have strengthened the hand of the EU in seeking to ensure that all multi-national companies do not benefit unduly from gaps in international tax laws. This is a policy supported by the vast majority of European citizens.
However, the ferocity of the response from Dublin regarding the recent Commission decision highlights that there is another side to this debate which must be considered. For a small member state such as Ireland (perhaps the most open economy in Europe) the Commission decision is symptomatic of an EU bureaucracy that is steadily encroaching on areas of national competence.
The use of state-aid policy to retrospectively challenge national taxation policies is not how the EU usually does business. Nor (as recent revelations from Irish policymakers highlight) can the Commission decision be divorced from the reality of Brussels decade’s long campaign to force Ireland to increase its business taxes.
From Dublin, the recent decision highlights the increasing ability of larger member states (generally high tax, high social spending economies) to impose their priorities on smaller, more flexible economies. There are many reasons why Ireland was able to return to growth so successfully after the 2010-13 bailout.
Having an economy characterised by inflexible labour laws; an investment climate restricted by high business taxes and poor labour mobility are not among them. Yet, these are exactly the characteristics of some of the member states now seeking to impose higher taxes in Ireland.
There is a much wider context to be considered regarding the Apple decision. In particular, three key points are relevant:
- Everybody – in the EU and Ireland – believes that companies, both large and small, should pay a fair rate of taxation. What is required is a global solution that includes the problematic issue of reforming the US tax code. Taxing global companies is not like selling cookies at the weekend market. Global consensus is required for meaningful global action. Through its recent actions the Commission have undermined the valuable work being undertaken by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) through its Action Plan on base erosion and profit shifting.
- Taxation, including corporate taxation, remains a national competence in the EU. However, the concept of harmonising corporate tax rates has been an objective of the Commission (and some member states) since the 1960s. Whereas smaller member states focus on flexibility, larger states tend to focus on scale as a competitive advantage. The feeling in Ireland is that by cleverly merging the issue of tax fairness/evasion with that of corporate tax harmonisation (through initially proposing a relatively harmless consolidated tax base) the Commission is attempting to finally achieve its long term objective. Let’s be honest, the Commission’s case is not about how much tax Apple pays, it’s part of a longer term political game concerning which (larger) government gets a bigger share of the cash.
- The centralising tendencies of the Commission (and some larger member states) spell economic disaster for many of the EU’s geographically peripheral members. The continental economic model of very high taxation (both personal and business) is not a model that is desirable for more Anglo-Saxon influenced economies like Ireland and the Baltic states. Italy, Germany and France all choose to have headline corporation tax rates of 29%-33%. In Ireland the long established rate is 12.5% and the average for the Baltics is under 17%. Corporate tax competition at a national level is vital for a healthy EU economy. The use of state aid rules to retrospectively over-ride national vetoes will reduce investment in the EU (especially in more open, peripheral economies lacking large capital bases) and reduce the attractiveness of the EU as global investment location. Perhaps Commission officials should talk to Airbus and Volkswagen to find out about the importance of state level incentives in Alabama and Tennessee respectively.
So what solutions can the centre-right in Ireland offer to these wider issues?
- First, we should restate our commitment to real tax fairness. That is in redesigning the global tax system to ensure that all companies pay what is due. We should underline our commitment to global efforts in this regard.
- Second, the concept of national competence over taxation policy should be restated and we should support the concept of corporate tax competition as being vital to the healthy development of a balanced European economy. In a current environment characterised by rising populism and Euroscepticism are future moves to establishing more fiscal integration really desirable (and politically achievable)?
- Third, we need to take a leading role in combatting the rise of protectionism and anti-American feeling across the EU. Although it is sometimes hard to remember given the prevalence of such feelings in Europe, the US is Europe’s most important economic and security partner.
It is easy for those of us in the “Brussels Bubble” to support making big companies pay their fair share of taxes and to accuse Ireland of illegal behaviour. But, to do so misses the much bigger picture.Eoin Drea Business Centre-Right EU Member States
The European Commission, Apple and Ireland: the view from the Emerald Isle
07 Sep 2016
Most analyses of the Brexit vote agree that immigration played a major role in the outcome of the referendum. What is interesting is that, next to extra-European immigration, the British debate was equally (if not more) preoccupied with intra-EU mobility – EU citizens coming to the UK to live and work.
What can mainstream politicians in Europe learn from the British debate and the ways mobility is instrumentalised by Eurosceptics?
Populist parties have already tried to politicise intra-EU mobility in Italy and the Netherlands, and are expected to do so more pronouncedly in France and Austria.
In these (and other) old member-states, mainstream parties – especially of the centre-right – seem tempted to address free movement as a problem in need of reform. Brexit seems to send the message that this is necessary, lest populists take advantage of popular frustrations.
I believe that the lesson from the UK referendum is exactly the opposite. By accepting the politicisation of free movement, mainstream parties play upon the populists’ strategy to merge their two staple issues, immigration and Europe, and present exit from the EU as a solution to immigration.
The rise and fall of David Cameron should be a cautionary tale about tampering with intra-EU mobility, even if addressing external immigration is something centre-right parties should do.
The story begins with David Cameron’s pre-electoral promise in 2010 to reduce net immigration to the UK to the ‘tens of thousands’, a promise that came back to haunt him. Given that almost half of that net immigration is made up of EU citizens, it was inevitable that EU free movement would acquire political importance.
In the years between Cameron’s entry to power and the calling of the referendum, UKIP and Eurosceptic Tories raised the issue of benefits for EU migrants. In 2015 traditional fears with external immigration became entangled with the EU due to the refugee crisis. The Eurosceptic press reproduced ad nauseam images from Calais and explicitly linked them with EU membership.
In response to the social benefits controversy, Cameron made free movement a key aspect of his renegotiation package with the EU in 2013. In the 2015 parliamentary election campaign his implicit promise was that the threat of the referendum would extract concessions from the EU to curtail immigration from the EU. Ultimately Cameron secured mild changes in his deal with the EU that were predictably decried by the Eurosceptic right as too weak to dissuade free movement.
A few months before the renegotiation deal, Cameron had pledged to accept 20000 Syrian refugees, thus intensifying popular concerns that EU membership meant deeper entanglement of the UK in Europe’s refugee woes.
If it is true that Cameron decided to accept Syrian refugees in order to placate Angela Merkel and other Europeans to get a better deal on UK membership, it becomes obvious what kind of mess he had dug himself in with regards to mobility.
In this context, the potential for Eurosceptics to mutualise hostility towards the EU and fear of immigration in the referendum campaign was infinite. Tory Leavers claimed that with European migration reduced the UK could attract more people from the Commonwealth.
Brexiteers of the right and of the left exploited the frustrations of working class people, including many of ethnic background, by promising that reduced immigration from Europe would lighten the burden on public services.
And the populist right could for the first time sound practical when speaking about immigration. The solution was obvious and handy: leave the EU.
What does this mean for the rest of Europe? In the UK, an already difficult situation became impossible when mainstream politicians accepted that EU free movement is a subset of immigration and the sociocultural concerns usually associated with it.
The message to mainstream, and especially centre-right, politicians elsewhere in Europe is that, even if free movement does pose some practical problems, tampering with it offers very few immediate gains and many long-term risks.
For parties that campaign in favour of European integration, nitpicking on the EU legal edifice undermines their credibility. Accepting that ‘something must be done’ about free movement allows populists to present exit from the EU as a magic bullet that can solve immigration.
Calling for reform of free movement politicises and securitises internal borders, while what the EU should be aiming for is strengthening internal unity by building a more secure external border.
Pro-EU parties must delegitimise and neutralise any effort by populists to politicise intra-EU mobility and free movement. Free movement and extra-EU immigration must be presented as two very different things.
Mainstream parties must respond to popular concerns about immigration and security by stressing the need to defend and safeguard the external European border. Strengthening internal borders is inconsistent with effective management of extra-EU immigration because the latter can be effectively handled only if European states cooperate with each other.
The EU is currently perceived as too porous externally and this strengthens the instinct to retrench behind stronger national borders. But solidarity and identity in political systems is created only when there is closure externally and openness internally.
Pro-EU politicians must focus on making the EU external border safer. This is no easy task, but trying to score political points by talking about free movement as ‘immigration’ and by renationalising internal borders is naïve and dangerous.Angelos Chryssogelos Brexit Centre-Right EU Member States Euroscepticism Immigration
Confusing immigration and free movement: lessons from the Brexit case
26 Jul 2016
On 27 June 2016, the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies Honorary Board held its first meeting.
In the aftermath of the UK Referendum on the EU, the members of the board agreed that now is the time for not less, not more, but a smarter Europe. It has become evident that the EU institutionalism process has not been a satisfactory response for European citizens in furthering European integration.
The meeting was focused on current developments in Europe, on how to (re)shape the EU, not only in today’s context of post-Brexit, but also on how to address the EU’s challenges of migration, terrorism, security and populism.
The Martens Centre newly formed Honorary Board aims to reinforce the expertise background of the organisation, not only for the purpose of enhancing the think tank’s expert profile, but also in order to boost its intellectual capacity, enabling our experts to address the EU’s current and future challenges.
The members of the board are all former prime ministers and former Heads of EU institutions belonging to the EPP family, with a successful track record of country and institutional reforms.
The meeting was attended by Jacques Santer, Herman van Rompuy, Jan Peter Balkenende, John Bruton, Jan Krysztof Bielecki, Andrius Kubilius, Antonio Samaras, Lawrence Gonzi, as well as by president of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies and former Prime Minister of Slovakia, Mikuláš Dzurinda.
Other board members who could not be present for the first meeting include Jose Maria Aznar, Wolfgang Schussel, Pedro Passos Coelho and Carl Bildt.Centre-Right Leadership
Former Prime Ministers pledge to smarter Europe
29 Jun 2016
In recent years mainstream political parties on both the right and the left have been confronted with new challenges. For the centre-right, recent electoral results in Slovakia and, to a much lesser extent, Germany have been disappointing. The centre-right is also facing difficulties in other countries, such as Poland and Italy.
Populists gain popularity, claiming to be capable of cleaning up the Augean stables of political establishment, unashamedly exploiting difficulties that currently haunt Europe and presenting themselves as brave taboo-breakers and genuine defenders of the public interest. Although demagoguery is nothing new– neither is periodic public disappointment in incumbent leaderships – still the question remains: why are mainstream parties struggling so much today?
The world is obviously changing, as are public attitudes and the political landscape. First, the decline of traditional political ideologies has created volatile public opinions and electorates, ultimately fragmenting the ‘core electorate’ of loyal supporters on which traditional parties had always relied. Today on any public policy issue a multitude of opinions often unrelated to official party positions can be heard.
People vote less and less on ideological grounds and rather tend to position themselves based on how they expect specific policies will affect them. Another consequence of the decline of traditional ideologies is a tendency towards increasing fragmentation of our political systems. As a result, mainstream parties have often become broad coalitions representing widely diverging viewpoints on issues such as immigration or foreign policy. This makes them easy targets for populist attacks.
Second, the last decades have witnessed spectacular transformations in communication. The internet fostered a more individualist approach to communication and hugely increased the amount of information available to anyone, thus testing people’s ability to select and judge. A fragmentation and possibly even a polarisation of perspectives seem to have resulted, as the many cases of people who radicalised online in complete solitude show. Social networks have compounded these trends, giving voice to a disorganised wealth of opinions largely devoid of any consistent and comprehensive world-view or value systems.
Third, globalisation brought about revolutionary economic and social changes. We know that in the long run free trade makes us all more prosperous and productive. However, in the short run some people are hurt by this process, some industries are dislocated and inequality may be increased, thus fostering the kind of angry reactions we are seeing in the US and many European countries. Populism breeds in this environment of growing frustration and polarisation.
Tackling such distortions of our democratic systems is obviously impossible without reforming mainstream parties. It is high time for such parties to realise that in order to remain relevant they should adapt to new realities, be open to reform and embrace political innovation. We should also discourage demagogic tendencies within our own ranks. Mainstream parties should not play populist cards and take up radical positions hoping to catch a few additional votes. While political entities should pay heed to public mood and concerns, there need to be certain red lines here, as opportunistic shifting toward radicalism and xenophobia will only demonstrate a lack of moral principles.
Centre-right parties should recognise and take into account the increasing role of emerging political factors such as social movements, non-party politics, and policy-based ad hoc political aggregations. It is also time to consider new types of party membership and political engagement, including for those who feel victimised by the processes of globalisation. Parties in question should use smarter, more flexible and diverse approaches in offering objective information, clear-cut political vision, and effective educational strategies as counters to demagogy and populism.
They should develop new ways of strategic communication focused on simplification of political language and concepts, employing up-to-date technological means, evidence-based planning, and context-determined approaches. This in turn requires educating both the leadership of parties and their members, as well as modernising and democratising intra-party governance, decision-making, and information flows.
Timing often means everything in politics. If party decision-makers wait for too long before taking the necessary steps, demagoguery will proliferate and the European project will suffer. Fundamental party reform may be the only adequate response towards such existential threats. If these threats are not duly acknowledged and countered, basic European values may be at grave risk.Teona Lavrelashvili Centre-Right Elections Globalisation Political Parties Populism
Between a rock and a hard place: challenges ahead for centre-right parties
20 Apr 2016
Socialists of all colours would have us believe that government interventions and regulations are the only way to tame the animal spirits of capitalism and give it a human face. As so often with socialist mantras, the very opposite is true: only a ‘conservative economy’ can be truly humane. But what exactly is a conservative economy? First, I define as conservative an economy with minimal government intervention, organised according to the principles of competition and individual freedom and responsibility. Second, I define as conservative an economy that is embedded in a society with solid conservative morals and a wealth of spontaneously developed and organically grown institutions.
The first element was crucial in unleashing the forces of human ambition and creativity that produced what economic historian Deirdre McCloskey called the ‘Great Enrichment’ of the last two centuries. The second element is crucial in order to maintain a sense of moral restraint and community belonging, which channel these wild creative forces to the pursuit of high and worthy purposes, something the rigorous enforcement of free market principles alone cannot ensure. In the inspired words of Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism: ‘society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.’
Precisely: the progressive agenda has always been about weakening ‘the controlling power within’ (the strict moral discipline of the classical and Christian tradition) in order to strengthen ‘the controlling power without’ (government controls and regulations), with a clear loss of human freedom, diversity and spontaneity; the conservative agenda has been – and should still be – about reviving ‘the controlling power within’ in order to minimise ‘the controlling power without’, thus protecting a societal model that is both more free, more humane and better connected to the great history of Europe’s civilisation.
In my understanding, this is one of the central themes in the thinking of German economist Wilhelm Röpke, a man who certainly deserves an honourable place in the intellectual pantheon of the European centre-right. Now fallen into almost complete oblivion, except in some ordoliberal circles of his native country, Röpke was once a respected and influential personality. He is rightly regarded as one of the intellectual fathers of the ‘Social Market economy’ and considered as the intellectual mentor of Ludwig Erhard, the man who, as Minister of Economics and then federal Chancellor, engineered the extraordinary rebirth of West Germany’s economy in the 1950s and 60s, and to whom Röpke was a trusted advisor.
Precisely fifty-five years ago, Röpke published a book entitled A Humane Economy, in which he set out to reflect upon ‘the social framework of the free market’ (a free PDF version of the book is available here). The book never became a bestseller and was too focused on the ills of its author’s age to be considered a classic. However, to the extent that the ills of its author’s age are also the ills of our age, there is a great deal we can learn from it. Here are some of the lessons I retained, although I do not claim that Röpke would have necessarily illustrated them the way I do:
- In spite of its amazing power of innovation, the market is a conservative institution with precise limits. It is ‘conservative’ because it is, to borrow the expression of Adam Ferguson and Friedrich Hayek, ‘the product of human action but not of human design’. In other words, it is an organically grown institution resulting from the free and spontaneous interaction of human beings. Nobody has either planned it or can control it, and yet its results are infinitely better than anything the smartest planners could engineer because it gives free course to human cooperation and ingenuity. At the same time, Röpke explains, what makes life worthy is ‘the whole unpurchaseable world beyond the market and turnover figures, the world of dignity, beauty, poetry, grace, chivalry, love, and friendship, the world of community, variety of life, freedom, and fullness of personality’. There is no guarantee that free markets will promote the pursuit of these values, in fact they may even discourage it unless they are underpinned by healthy moral foundations.
- The European welfare state is one of the major instruments of the progressive plan to weaken ‘the controlling power within’ and strengthen ‘the controlling power without’. As Röpke explains in details, ‘a whole world divides a state which occasionally rescues some unfortunate individual from destitution from another state where a sizable part of private income is constantly sucked into the pumping engine of the welfare state and diverted by it, with considerable friction losses’. In the second scenario (our scenario), the welfare state becomes a bureaucratic machine that weakens individual and family responsibilities, distorts economic incentives, increases economic dependency and tends towards self-aggrandizement and the self-preservation of people who have a stake in it.
- An integrated European order that is both free and humane must be built on federalism and on what Röpke calls ‘decentrism’, not on centralisation and progressive planning. Calling himself a ‘European patriot’, this German intellectual who was in love with Switzerland – where he lived and taught for a long time – seems to have had in mind the Swiss model of the immediate post-WWII period when he spoke about Europe. According to him, the continent had to consolidate, recover its self-confidence, revive its political and military power and regain its due place in world politics, but it could only do so by strictly adhering to decentralisation, revitalising local communities and embracing competitive federalism: ‘decentrism is of the essence of the spirit of Europe. To try to organize Europe centrally, to subject the Continent to a bureaucracy of economic planning, and to weld it into a block would be nothing less than a betrayal of Europe and the European patrimony’. We are not very far from the European federalism I recently defended as the best vision for the pro-European right of the 21st century.
Wilhelm Röpke was all at once a Christian humanist imbued with the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, a conservative in the best central and Northern European tradition and a free market economist. He harmoniously combined in his own thinking different intellectual traditions which are now politically represented within the European People’s Party. His work deserves to be rediscovered and pondered.Federico Ottavio Reho Centre-Right Christian Democracy Economy Values
Federico Ottavio Reho
Economy with a human face: some thoughts on Wilhelm Röpke’s ‘A Humane Economy’
10 Nov 2015
The gurus of the economic left are at it again: in ‘a plea for economic sanity and humanity’, a group of progressive economists led by Joseph Stiglitz and Thomas Piketty published yet another letter to condemn the austerity allegedly practiced on Greece. The initiative follows an earlier plea published in January against ‘the dogmatic insistence on debt repayment in full regardless of the social and political consequences’.
The distinguished signatories insist that ‘to condemn austerity does not entail being anti-reform’, and that ‘austerity’ actually undermines Syriza’s key reforms, namely its efforts to overcome tax evasion and corruption: ‘Austerity’, they explain, ‘restricts the space for change to make public administration accountable and socially efficient’. This is surely a scientifically and politically respectable perspective. But let me make some points from a different one.
First of all, let me contest the appropriateness of the term ‘austerity’ for what we have witnessed in the last years in the periphery of Europe. One would think that a person is austere when she is thrifty and saves part of her income, namely she spends less than she earns. Under this common sense definition, austerity is a virtue (yes, a virtue!) virtually unknown to all European governments. They all spend way more than they receive in revenues, and most of them have been consistently doing so for decades!
The fact that public opinions can seriously regard the attempt to curb overblown fiscal deficits and to slow down an accumulation of public debt unprecedented in the history of modern economics as ‘austerity’ is a clear sign of the dismal progressive spell which we’ve all been living under since WWII.
Second of all, the claims of the anti-austerity crowd are even more dubious when we move from Europe in general to Greece in particular. The idea that EU-inspired adjustment programmes forced Greece to adopt an otherwise unnecessary ‘austerity’ policy is a gross misrepresentation of what actually happened. Nobody said it better than CEPS Director Daniel Gros in a commentary last February:
‘it is disingenuous to claim that the troika forced Greece into excessive austerity. Had Greece not received financial support in 2010, it would have had to cut its fiscal deficit from more than 10% of GDP to zero immediately. By financing continued deficits until 2013, the troika actually enabled Greece to delay austerity’.
Exactly, from more than 10% of GDP to zero IMMEDIATELY. As explained in this post by IMF Chief Economist Olivier Blanchard, what is being consistently rejected by the Syriza government now is a primary budget surplus target of 1% in 2015, not exactly the ‘fiscal waterboarding’ one may expect when reading the recurrent progressive pleas for forbearance and debt relief.
Third of all, I would argue – together with many conservative economists – that the much decried austerity is nothing less than an instrument of economic liberation. Contrary to the fallacy constantly spread by progressives, austerity is not primarily about cutting, but about transferring. Specifically, it is about transferring control over productive resources from bureaucrats to individuals and companies.
Austerity does not simply mean balancing the budget by doing ‘whatever it takes’. It means balancing the budget as part of an overall reduction of public expenditure that allows people to keep more of their income and to freely decide how to spend it, instead of having government bureaucrats decide on their behalf.In other words, true austerity returns to people what rightly belongs to them and was unduly appropriated by the state in the last century of progressive drunkenness. It enlarges the scope of individual freedom and choice in our society.
Furthermore, far from restricting ‘the space for change to make public administration accountable and socially efficient’, austerity forces public administrations to limit their notorious wastes, to optimise their utilisation of scarce resources and to become more efficient.
In conclusion, the most legitimate criticism against austerity in Europe is probably that it has not really happened. Although the emphasis of ‘the institutions’, as they are now amusingly called, on balanced budgets was sound, the need for a radical restructuring of the social model that has generated Europe’s over-indebtedness was never recognised.
As we know, spending on education and health consumes 10-15% of the national income of developed countries, while replacement incomes and other transfer payments account for another 15-20%. Compared to the resources that could be freed by reorganising the provision of these services along more competitive lines, the savings imposed by the most draconian European programmes of adjustment are just cosmetics.
As long as the need for a profound paradigm change is not understood in Europe, progressives will keep attacking conservatives for imaginary misdeeds, conservatives will take the blame for policies they have never dreamt of, and common citizens will continue to suffer under the oppressive weight of a wasteful and bureaucratic social model.Federico Ottavio Reho Centre-Right Economy Growth Macroeconomics Political Parties
Federico Ottavio Reho
Austerity never happened
17 Jun 2015
The Centre for European Studies (CES), the official think tank and political foundation of the European People’s Party (EPP), has been renamed in honour of its late President, Wilfried Martens. The Centre will now be called the ‘Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies’.
In conjunction with the name change, the Centre also changed its logo and can now be found online at www.martenscentre.eu.
During his presidency, Wilfried Martens was deeply committed to, and engaged in, the Centre’s activities. His lifelong motto ‘Thinking Europe’ has guided the Centre since its inception in 2007. ‘Wilfried Martens was the key driver in the development of the CES – now Martens Centre,’ said Tomi Huhtanen, director of the Centre. ‘The objectives of the Centre and the values it represents are inspired directly by him.’
During the EPP Congress plenary session on Thursday, the Centre’s current President and former Prime Minister of Slovakia, Mikuláš Dzurinda, praised Wilfried Martens for his life’s work: ‘The European Union is today a stronger project thanks to his contribution and the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies will continue this work. […] the legacy lives on.’Centre-Right Christian Democracy Leadership Values
Centre for European Studies renamed in honour of its founder Wilfried Martens
10 Mar 2014
The upcoming year will be a very significant year. Important events will be remembered during the course of it; the huge enlargement of both the EU and NATO which occurred 10 years ago; the shot in Sarajevo 100 years ago which triggered the First World War and the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe which occurred 25 years ago.
These anniversaries are undoubtedly a powerful incentive to ensure that not only political leaders but also people outside of politics contemplate the future of our continent and the world. For political leaders the aforementioned anniversaries are inspiration to responsibly shape the future architecture of the once again reunified Europe.
So it is home, a cosy abode for all countries, nationalities and ethnic groups — an inclusive home for all its inhabitants. The specified milestones in the history of our countries, of Europe and of the world, will be marked at the same time while the EU is working intensively on new rules for mutual coexistence in the common European house. The new rules have in part been forced to be implemented due to the economic and financial crisis, and also as an effort to succeed in intensifying global competition.
We need new rules and effective tools so we can overcome the consequences of the financial and economic crisis with minimal cost to our citizens. And also to help us avoid the repeating the same errors and mistakes that led to the crisis into the future.
It will not be easy to fine tune an orchestra of 28 players, of which many are convinced that they are the virtuoso. But many of us feel that change is necessary, that further development cannot be stopped. Personally, I believe there are still a number of areas suitable for deeper integration.
However, there are also areas in which power should be left in the hands of member states. I think we need more effective European cooperation, but also efficient internal competition that will stimulate the development of a united Europe. It is not just the issue of the consistent application of the principle of subsidiarity, but also artfully creating tools that could and should inspire leaders at national level to form effective economic and social models according to local, regional, historical, cultural, and geographical conditions. Obviously, in strict compliance with the agreed rules. In my experience and in my view: cooperation, competition and solidarity should dominate in the EU.
We all feel that these new rules at the European level are needed. For example, in the banking sector. The banking sector should be more durable, less vulnerable, but also sufficiently conducive for business development. It should be more effective, for example in helping small and medium-sized enterprises. We should not even prevent stricter scrutiny of compliance with the agreed rules.
Personally, I support the legal enforceability of compliance with these rules. Equally I consider structural reforms at the national level, in other words in the individual member states to be as important. The world is changing and changing fast. Previous sources of employment are no longer as strong as in the past, meaning Europe has to begin to look at new areas for growth and employment, like in renewable energies and in the science sector for example.
With innovation and creativity, new opportunities can be born for EU citizens. So I think, in Europe, it is not only more discipline and accountability that we need, but more creativity and the courage to make the required changes. Only then can we stop the threat of unemployment, particularly among the young. Only then can our economy create the conditions for the creation of new jobs, which I consider the largest challenge in the New Year to a common Europe.
I consider a great challenge in 2014 to be how to manage migration and its implications. The EU and its member states will continue to intensively apply itself to the areas and regions from which refugees come (it will continue to be Africa, particularly the north, but it will also be Syria and other Middle East countries, it will also be regions and countries and military conflicts).
To help solve problems in the regions where they arise is by far the best solution even though it is not an easy prevention migration. I think, however, that there is also an urgent need to adopt new rules in this area. So that, for example, the institutes of political asylum is not misused for economic objectives and that the accepted migrants integrate effectively with the citizens of the countries that accept them. At the same time, we must ensure a convergence of our asylum systems and a proper application of existing rules by the member states. Finally, Europe needs a much better system to regulate labour immigration, to ensure that it does not lose out in global competition for the bright minds that can bring dynamism and new ideas to our societies.
Today it often seems that the project of multiculturalism in Europe is failing. This is also true because instead of making use of individual opportunities, immigrants are sometimes promoting their interests collectively. Some groups of immigrants set themselves apart. Instead of contribution to the common good, we sometimes witness abuses to the social system of the country. Europe should continue to show migrants its kind face. However, it should also show the necessary courage and determination against those who would want to abuse this kindness. In order to prevent problems with integration, European political parties should make a strong effort to bring immigrants into the political and public life. Otherwise, we are risking even deeper problems with integration.
Undeniably great, maybe even the dominant challenge to the free world, and also for our European community, is the challenge of security and the duty to prevent attacks like the one of September 11.Likewise, atrocities such as the attack on marathon runners and spectators in Boston, and most recently the residents of Volgograd. I want to highlight just three essential key factors of our European security:
• First, is the transatlantic alliance. A steadfast alliance of the EU and the US; effective cooperation in the NATO environment is and must remain a fundamental element of our European security as well as global stability;
• The second major element I consider to be, is the creation and development of European defence capabilities which will strengthen the partnership element of the European transatlantic alliance and will be complementary to the existing capacities and capabilities of NATO;
• Finally I consider as necessary the modernisation of our armies at national level and the cooperation of national armies at a regional level, which should be dominated by the principle of sharing and pooling, as well as smart defence.
Prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall the then US President George Bush senior stated his dream, his vision, to make Europe whole and free. Much of that vision has come true. It is amazing how Europe has changed in 25 years. But the work is not yet completed, not in the Western Balkans, or in the countries of the Eastern Partnership.
I believe that this year will continue to see the success story of Serbia, as well as the normalisation of its relations with Pristhina. That Macedonia and Greece will manage to unravel the Gordian Knot and further progress will be recorded in Kosovo and Albania and that Bosnia and Herzegovina will also see improvements. Montenegro is already on the right track. 2014 is a year of opportunities for these countries and the challenge for the EU is to develop wise, active and responsible policies to contribute to the realisation of these opportunities.
The big challenge for us all is the movement that is taking place on our eastern borders, especially in Ukraine. The EU should take an interest in the positive and in particular the sustainable development of Ukraine. It should not however compromise on its principles and criteria. Only then can the citizens of this country properly orientate themselves. Because, ultimately, only Ukrainian citizens can decide on their future.
The same as we decided our future ourselves, we, Slovaks, but also Poles, Czechs, Hungarians and the other countries of the former communist bloc 25 years ago.
I believe that this year we will also collectively protect and promote human rights not only in our countries, in those countries that aspire to EU membership, but everywhere in the world. The EU will be consistent and principled with any country in the world. That we will develop strategic partnerships also with countries where human rights are t limited, but that we shall be courageous and consistent in the protection of human rights in these countries.
We enter the New Year as a rule always with hope, with optimism, with positive expectations. It is good and natural. However, one should admit that we live in troubled times. The previous levels of prosperity are over but yet some people are expecting someone to come along to sign a cheque to get ourselves out from these troubled times. For some time it seemed that the answer to the challenges of the 21st century would be globalisation.
Technological development and significant social movements in all corners of the world have indeed led to rapid globalisation. Of growing concern and anxiety for people in today’s world is the frequent feeling that there will be ever less space in it for them.
People feel that they are becoming ever more lost in the labyrinth of communication highways and gigantic corporations. That they are losing their identity, their roots, and their traditions. Young people especially nowadays find it hard to find a job and fell confident about their future.
The number of people who place the blame for their own problems on politics is dangerously increasing. Many blame the so-called standard political parties. In my country – and I think it is not an exception – it is fashionable to vote for extremism. Elections are becoming manifestations of revolt, not choice. Militants, extremists and populists are winning recognition. The challenge of the EU is to offer answers to such trends, to such developments. The answer to the current difficulties cannot be extremism or chaos, as suggested in some circles. The answer cannot be collectivism as suggested by many, even by reasonable people.
We are rich in experience of collectivism in Central Europe: we all had the same, but the same was very little. The answer is the protection and promotion of individual freedom, individual rights, but also of the individual responsibility of every person.
The answer is politics that allows for individual opportunity, individual assertion of oneself, individual dignity. In other words, politics that puts a focus on quality education, on science, research and innovation. Politics that prefers and honours a healthy lifestyle, but also a real solidarity for those who are able to aid those whose handicaps prevent or limit them from creating these values.
I think an important and serious test for all responsible European leaders ahead will be the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament. To join in the efforts of combating populism and shining a light on their rhetoric, regardless of whether it comes from the left or right. The ways to respond to the challenges of today are various but must be offered in the values of our Western world which are also universal values.
These values should be unconditionally returned to, and these values are to be held onto. As did Konrad Adenauer, Alcide de Gasperi, Robert Schuman, and Helmut Khol for example.
If we stick to these traditional universal values, we can find the right answers to the challenges of not only the present, but also to those we will face further down the road.
[Speech given at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung Annual Reception ‘European Challenges 2014’, 22 January 2014]Mikuláš Dzurinda Centre-Right Economy Leadership Transatlantic Values
Challenges for 2014
24 Jan 2014
The latest session of the Working Group Economic and Social Policies of the European People’s Party that took part on 4 December 2013 discussed the issues of reforms and economic growth. The book by the CES and its member foundations, “From Reform to Growth: Managing the Economic Crisis in Europe” served as a background to the discussion and provided arguments for the debate.
The book analyses government responses to the current economic crisis, covering nineteen European countries, and based on this, offers recommendations to policymakers at national, regional and European level. The book argues that lasting economic growth should be restarted by a combination of fiscal consolidation measures and structural reforms, which include creating flexible labour markets, functioning pension systems and efficient public institutions.
The discussion at the working group focused on the varying experiences that different European countries have had with managing their economies during the crisis. Countries from all corners of Europe have made significant attempts to reform and thus increase the competitiveness of their economies; others have a long journey ahead of them. There is a lot of scope to learn from one another and the participants mentioned inspiring examples. At the same time, it was stressed that economic formulas cannot replace a policy focus on people’s personal development and welfare.
The European People’s Party operates several working groups in which experts and representatives of member parties take part. The agenda of the Working Group Economic and Social Policies is to debate economic policy challenges and strategies.
The book has been officially launched earlier this year during the fourth annual Economic Ideas Forum, which was held in Helsinki during 6-7 June 2013 and gathered high level European and national policy-makers together with economy experts. Several other launching events took place in other EU capitals, including Brussels, Berlin (organised by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation) and Tallinn (in cooperation with the Pro Patria Institute).Centre-Right Economy EU Member States Growth Macroeconomics
CES study on economic crisis discussed at Working Group of the European People’s Party
05 Dec 2013
Mikuláš Dzurinda, former prime minister of Slovakia, has today been elected President of the Centre for European Studies (CES), the political foundation and official think tank of the European People’s Party (EPP).
Reacting to his election as president, Mikuláš Dzurinda said: ‘The late President Martens was committed to the work of the CES and I intend to build on the continuity and creativity of his great work to develop an even stronger and more prominent CES in the future.’
EPP President Joseph Daul warmly congratulated Mikuláš Dzurinda on his election as president of the CES, ‘I know him to be a person of integrity and clear principles and he is the right person to take this responsibilty in such a crucial time for the CES and the EU.’
Mikuláš Dzurinda was prime minister of Slovakia from 1998 to 2006 and is credited in enabling Slovakia begin the process of joining the EU and NATO following the implementation of far-reaching reforms prior to the country’s admission in 2004 . Previously, Dzurinda has been Minister of Transportation and more recently was Minister for Foreign Affairs from July 2010 to April 2012.
Dzurinda is a founding member of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union – Democratic Party (SDKÚ-DS) and was chairman of the party from 2000 to 2012. He was elected to the Slovak Parliament following elections in 2012 and is currently a member of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Relations.Centre-Right European People's Party Leadership
Mikuláš Dzurinda elected new CES President
03 Dec 2013
With respect for common rules and values, solidarity but also strong national responsibility, and the EU functioning in a way the citizens can support it and feel it as their own, Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen highlighted.
PRESS RELEASE, 6th June 2013 Helsinki
Today in Helsinki, the Prime Minister of Finland, Jyrki Katainen, opened the 4th Economic Ideas Forum (EIF) organised by the Centre for European Studies (CES) with the title “From Reform to Growth: A Roadmap for Europe”, by emphasising the need to keep Europe united. “Europe cannot afford divisions between Member States. Leadership is about unity, not about divisions.” PM Katainen stressed that leaders have to be responsible. In his speech he pointed out the need for a profound debate about Europe’s future, “we should not allow dogmatic voices to dominate it”. He reminded the audience of both populists, who attempt to blame the EU without offering solutions, and of those who demand the immediate creation of a United States of Europe. Instead, he advocated a modern, pro-European pragmatism that includes both ‘more Europe’ and more national responsibility. “We need more Europe, but fair Europe”, with respect for common rules and values, solidarity but also strong national responsibility, and the EU functioning in a way the citizens can support it and feel it as their own. PM Katainen said it’s time Europe regained its self-confidence: we need to highlight what has worked, reminding the international audience of that the euro has been successfully stabilised and the eurozone kept intact. “In Greece, the talk is now of “Greekovery“ instead of Grexit”. He also mentioned the importance of strengthening the Economic and Monetary Union, for instance by establishing the banking union, reminding, however, that more needs to be done. According to the Prime Minister, unemployment remains the biggest challenge, especially with the youth. Measures are also needed to improve financing for small and medium-sized companies and to make Europe strong enough to meet global competition. “We have to also protect our continent from protectionism”, he added. Prime Minister Katainen lauded the Economic Ideas Forum for providing a good opportunity for leaders to exchange views without time constraints. On Friday 7th June the EIF will welcome discussants such as Enda Kenny, Taoiseach of Ireland, Antonis Samaras, Prime Minister of Greece,Valdis Dombrovskis, Prime Minister of Latvia, Olli Rehn, Vice-President of the European Commission, and Michel Barnier, European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, among others.Business Centre-Right Crisis Economy Jobs
We need a united and fair Europe
06 Jun 2013
The peaceful dissolution of the Czechoslovak federation in January 1993 has been the precondition for the excellent cooperation between Czechia and Slovakia as two independent countries today. This was an agreement among the speakers at the conference ‘Separate, Yet Together’, which I attended on 17 April 2013 in Prague. The conference was the first event that the CES had with our Czech member foundation, the European Academy for Democracy and also the first with one of our Slovak member foundations, the Anton Tunega Foundation. These foundations are affiliated with their respective Czech and Slovak Christian Democratic parties, the Christian Democratic Union (KDU-ČSL; CZ) and Christian Democratic Movement (KDH; SL), and this was the first ever CES event with both the EAD and the NAT.
The conference was very good on content. It included first-hand accounts of some direct participants of the Czech-Slovak constitutional negotiations in the years 1990-1992. For example, the then Czech Prime Minister (1990-1992), Petr Pithart, recounted examples of volatile behaviour of then Slovak leader, Vladimír Mečiar (who later went to install a somewhat authoritarian regime in independent Slovakia). Many Slovaks and Czechs still mourn the common state and regret the split of Czechoslovakia.
Nevertheless, as some participants at the conference put it, had the Czechs and Slovaks stayed together in one state, the relations would not be as friendly as they are, as representations of the respective nations would be engaged in a prolonged struggle over policy competences and the shape of the federal constitution.
The speakers, among them historians, discussed also the causes of the Czech-Slovak split. Among them were uncompromising attitudes and disregard for the issue of Slovak autonomy by some Czech politicians; cultural and historical differences; an absence of constitutional mechanisms to resolve disputes, and arguments over economic policy that culminated after the fall of the communist regime in 1989. I was surprised to hear the results of opinion polls on Czech-Slovak relations, which were conducted as early as 1947.
The politicians present stated that the EU offers a good institutional framework for Czech-Slovak cooperation. Ján Figeľ, the chairman of KDH explained the importance of the EU for Slovakia: Without the EU, Slovakia would have economic and legal problems. Pavel Bělobrádek, the chairman of KDU-ČSL, stated that we need ‘second wave of European integration’ to overcome nationalist passions that are re-emerging in the EU as a result of the European economic crisis. Expressions of solidarity among the EU nations are required more than ever. Jan Surotchak of the International Republican Institute mentioned that the resistance of the Slovak non-profit sector against the authoritarian rule of Vladimír Mečiar up to 1998 serves as a source of inspiration for standing up to authoritarian rulers worldwide.
I was very interested to listen to Petr Pithart, who again proved that he is not only an able politician but also incisive thinker and historian. He spoke about problems with identity that the Czechs now experience. Historically, they were always part of a large state entity. However, after the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, they have become, for the first time in history, ‘alone’ in their state, without a significant presence of other ethnic groups. They are weary of the world beyond the Czech borders and are ‘getting on each other’s nerves.’
The conference was also an opportunity for the Slovak and Czech Christian Democratic parties to meet. The currently more successful Slovak Christian Democrats were, in fact, repaying a visit of the Czech party to Bratislava a year ago. The chairmen of the two parties expressed their readiness to continue working together in promoting the common values.Vít Novotný Centre-Right Christian Democracy Democracy EU Member States
Separate, yet Together: Reflecting on Czech-Slovak Relations
13 May 2013
In November 2012, CES welcomed its 26th member foundation as part of its expanding network of like-minded organisations in EU member countries. The Institute of Democratic Politics (Demokratinès Politikos institutas) from Lithuania was founded in 1999 by a group of Conservative and Christian Democratic politicians, analysts, essayists, and scholars. From the outset, its principal concerns have been the strengthening of the centre-right ideology and public defense of conservative values in Lithuania. The Institute’s aim is to accelerate the political and civic maturity of the Lithuanian society and to promote democracy and development in the European neighbourhood, seeking to contribute to security and stability in the region. CES’s newest member foundation is already involved in organising national and international conferences, seminars, round table discussions, as well as conducting research and producing publications. The Institute’s long-standing cooperation partners include the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Robert Schuman Foundation and its International Republican Institute, all of which are also CES partners.
The CES and the Institute of Democratic Politics are already exploring ideas for collaboration and common activities for 2013. Every year, the Centre organises more than 100 common projects with its member foundations and like-minded third party organisations in all EU’s member states, including research, events and publications.Baltic Centre-Right Education EU Member States Party Structures
CES Welcomes 26th Member Foundation
09 Nov 2012
2021 has certainly been another testing time for all of us, as we went through additional waves of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continued to have an incredible impact on our social and professional lives. At the same time, it was yet again a very eventful year at the European as well as the global level, with several ups and downs during this unusual time.Centre-Right EU Member States European Union Leadership
Activity Report 2021
31 Mar 2022
Brexit is still viewed in Europe as part of the populist revolt that swept much of the world in the last decade; a decade symbolised most clearly by Donald Trump’s victory in the US, months after the EU referendum in the UK. But while Trump’s (preliminary) defeat and the relatively orderly departure of the UK have allayed fears that English-speaking democracies could become hotbeds of right-populist destabilisation of the European project, a new crop of leftist identity politics in Britain poses a more insidious danger for the legitimacy and standing of the EU.Brexit Centre-Right Populism
Why Brexit Britain is a Threat to the EU From the Left, not the Right
11 Jan 2022
Europe is never complete. That is a hugely inspiring idea, particularly for a young generation of Europeans. Previous generations have endowed Europe with a rich heritage of traditions, cultures, diversity, and pluralism. And because of the endless diversity that characterises Europe, the European project is always a work in progress. No one will ever be able to ‘call it a day’ and declare Europe as a finished phenomenon.
The energy generated by this duality of rich history and challenging perspective has given rise to this book. As young Christian Democrats in the Netherlands, we found it most inspiring to engage with our contemporaries in political positions in the EPP family1 — to allow them to have their say and to enter into a dialogue with them. This collection, encompassing dialogue and vision, is the result of this engagement, which in a time of Covid-19 took the form of digital meetings and discussions. The structure of the book shows — we do hope — how fascinating and substantive the conversations were. The book is neither a literal account nor a summary and digest of each individual interview, but rather a composition of content from these multinational and multicultural dialogues on themes relevant to European Christian Democrats and members of the EPP.Centre-Right Future of Europe Youth
Seeing Europe anew: Young politicians and the future of Europe
15 Dec 2021
The European Union (EU) and its member states have recently faced a wide range of fundamental challenges. If the EU does not want to take a back seat in world affairs, it will have to strengthen its role as a global player. Other than renewing the full operations of the single market (and its long-expected completion), we need to focus on the EU’s global role. More than half of EU citizens want the EU to assume a strong role in the international arena, especially in providing security from external threats, the fight for democracy and human rights protection. This publication addresses the challenges related to the EU’s potential global power and assumes several points of view. The authors of this publication analyse some of the pressing problems of contemporary European society and politics. They also present specific recommendations to take advantage of the situation, to reduce the negative effects and maximise the rewards.Centre-Right Foreign Policy Society
Emerging Paradigms in the Shifting Foreign and Domestic Environments: The Czech Centre-Right’s Solutions to the Political Challenges of 2022
30 Nov 2021
Europe and the centre right simply can’t afford to get this recovery wrong. The challenge is to develop a policy approach which balances the unprecedented economic circumstances arising from the pandemic with the societal demand for more inclusive growth. Only in blending these challenges into a “Middle Way’ can the centre right hope to lead the economy recovery.
This Policy Brief proposes four steps. (1) The unlocking of consumer spending and business investment to drive an initial economic expansion aided by tapering pandemic supports. Growth must become the immediate tool for tackling (and capping) pandemic related debt. (2) A back to basics set of priorities facilitating employment creation, affordable housing and the provision of essential public services. A ‘back to basics’ approach is necessary as it is the only way to deliver the payoffs needed to maintain support across a broad swathe of the middle classes. (3) A renewed commitment to reducing public debt and controlling inflation. Prolonged high inflation erodes purchasing power, particularly for those on fixed incomes or with savings. The optimal strategy for debt reduction is to keep debt levels steady initially, but then focus on slowly reducing it over time. Repairing public finances remains a marathon, not a sprint. (4) The centre right must play the long-term game because institutional reform (at both EU and national level) is about generational change, not soundbites. The European Recovery Fund is a long-term investment tool for achieving structural change, not a short-term mechanism for fiscal expansion. Europe’s fiscal rules also require a more easily understood framework. The ownership of these redesigned rules should rest with member states through a more decentralised Eurozone.Centre-Right Economy Macroeconomics Middle Class
Getting Back to Basics: Four Centre Right Steps to Economic Recovery
20 May 2021
For the Martens Centre, 2020 was not only about adapting to a new way of working and interacting during the pandemic. It was about mapping the developments of the year and striving to come up with concrete solutions on how to face the key political issues and to prevent new ones. This Activity Report will prove that we valuably contributed to these endeavours, especially when it comes to sustainable environmental policy, economic and social systems, managing the pandemic, and defending our citizens and the Western Community.Centre-Right EU Member States European Union Leadership
Activity Report 2020
13 Apr 2021
The social and economic role of cities, regardless of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to remain crucial for global development. However, the importance of cities is not mirrored in the European centre–right political agenda. Over recent years, cities have become increasingly distant— in terms of their residents’ self-perception and voting patterns—from the rural parts of Western countries. In this context, cities are striving for more tangible powers, improved rights of self-governance and new development support tools, which would allow them to better address the challenges they face.
The European People’s Party (EPP), the leading political family in the EU, should acknowledge the importance of cities and the fact that city-based electorates share particular political expectations. The recent string of elections in various European countries has shown that EPP-affiliated parties and candidates can only win in big cities when they adopt a more city-oriented political platform. The EPP cannot afford to lose urban voters; therefore, it should develop a ‘City Agenda’. Urban-related issues should be at the centre of the EPP’s political activity, as is the agricultural policy.
This agenda, drawing on the experience of EPP-affiliated mayors and members of the Committee of the Regions, should identify the challenges cities face and come up with ways to address them. Among the most pressing are climate change–related themes such as public transportation and urban planning, but also the ongoing housing crisis and, more broadly, rising social inequality. This paper suggests that the EPP could promote a new ‘EU Cities Fund’, a city-tailored, directly accessible fund that would add financial heft to the EU’s existing urban policy.Centre-Right Elections Leadership Political Parties
Retaking the Cities: A Plan for the Centre–Right
16 Nov 2020
As the debate on European sovereignty has gained traction in recent years, Europe’s centre-right should develop its own distinct vision of European sovereignty, one that reflects its own priorities and values.
This policy brief aims to develop a tentative theoretical and historical framework that can be used to work out what this conservative and Christian Democratic vision could look like. It argues that it is important for the centre-right to ensure that its vision stands apart from those of both the nationalist populists on its right and social-liberals on its left. Against populists the centre-right needs to show that conservatism and European integration can be compatible. As the historical overview in the paper shows, conservatives throughout history have supported processes of political and economic centralisation as long as these have taken place in piecemeal fashion and the resulting institutions have reproduced in their conduct and outlook the values conservatives stand for. Against the centralisers on the centre-left, who are currently monopolising the slogan ‘more Europe’, the centre-right must articulate more clearly how its own understanding of EU integration is a more pragmatic, effective and viable way forward. Contrary to progressives, who view European and international institutions as instruments of ideologically-driven social change, European conservatives see institutions as expressions and safeguards both of diversity inside the EU and of the distinctly European imprint on world politics externally.
The paper offers a first outline of how a conservative perspective on EU sovereignty could be applied to a range of policy areas, from foreign policy to economic governance to migration.Centre-Right EU Institutions EU Member States Future of Europe Integration
Towards a Sovereign Europe – A Centre-Right Approach
09 Jul 2020
There is no doubt that 2019 was an eventful year which brought us many opportunities, but it was also one filled with challenges and changes. Not only did it deliver the new European Parliament, but it also brought us the new Commission which will be in place for the next five years.Centre-Right EU Member States European Union Leadership
Activity Report 2019
06 Mar 2020
Times are changing yet again. Families are becoming smaller, populations are ageing, fertility is declining and mothers are tending to be older. There are also changes in the structure of work, including outsourcing, casual employment, self-employment and zero-hour contracts. This policy brief argues that childcare is essential to enabling women to participate in the workforce. It underwrites women’s essential contribution to the economy and promotes gender equality. In an increasingly busy world, it provides families with a greater range of choices. Quality childcare also has positive benefits for the well-being of young children.Centre-Right Education Social Policy Society
Putting Childcare at the Heart of the Social Market Economy
28 Oct 2019
2018 was a very special year for our organisation as we celebrated the first decade of our existence. We took our anniversary not just as an opportunity to celebrate, but also as a chance to reflect. It seemed crucial to us to set up objectives to counteract all political challenges for the decade ahead.Centre-Right EU Member States European Union Leadership
Activity Report 2018
04 Mar 2019
European socialists have held a de facto monopoly over the position of the EU’s foreign policy high representative ever since it was created almost two decades ago. When new people will be appointed to the EU’s senior leadership positions in autumn 2019, the centre-right should seek to deny the socialists from having an almost automatic right to determine the person who is appointed as the high representative by carefully vetting all candidates. The minimum goal should be to ensure that the next high representative’s views and believes are more aligned with the centre-right’s vision of europe in the world than they currently are.Centre-Right Foreign Policy Leadership Security
Time for a (more) centre-right EU foreign policy chief
16 Oct 2018
Compared to the 18 months preceding the 2014 elections, the mood music in Brussels could scarcely be more different. But while growth and employment are increasing, vast swathes of the established middle classes have lost faith in their ability to achieve a higher standard of living and to match the social mobility achieved by preceding generations. Increasingly topics such as globalisation, free trade, immigration and even stable political systems are viewed as tools of the “elite” designed to prevent progress for working and middle class families. Politically, this has manifested itself in a fracturing of the traditional party political system and the rise of a protectionist, combative populism.
To confront these challenges, this paper identifies five social and economic priorities that should form an important element of centre right policy formation. With the ultimate objective of rejuvenating an aspirational middle class in Europe, we argue that only by bridging the gap between the rhetoric of a digitally driven, flexible economy and the day to day realities confronting middle class families can the centre right hope to increase working and middle class support in the 2019 elections and beyond. Such an approach is based on the core social market economy principle of seeking to conciliate economic freedom with social security, while maintaining a high level of personal responsibility and subsidiarity.Centre-Right Economy Macroeconomics Middle Class Social Policy Society
The Middle Class: Priorities for the 2019 Elections and Beyond
02 Mar 2018
Just as it did seventy years ago, European integration today has four strategic objectives: peace, security, prosperity and identity. However, ‘mainstream Europeanism’—the current European consensus—seems increasingly incapable of providing the right vision for a successful continuation of the European project.
To meet the present challenges of European integration and secure unity across the continent, we should develop a new Europeanism that promotes stronger integration in defence, foreign policy and border control, while putting greater emphasis on decentralisation, national autonomy, economic reforms and cultural traditions.
This would put into practice the EU’s motto ‘Unity in diversity’ and give precise content to the ideal of an EU that is ‘big on big things and small on small things’.Centre-Right EU Institutions European Union Euroscepticism Future of Europe Integration
For a New Europeanism
Future of Europe
06 Jun 2017
While conservatives frequently offer trenchant criticisms of the European Union (EU), they are short on constructive suggestions about how the European project should be reformed. The tradition of international federalism, which exists in free-market thought, can be a source of such a reform agenda.
Understood properly, a federalization of the EU does not mean an unqualified transfer of powers to European institutions. Instead, federalism provides a framework through assigning authority to different levels of government.
In practice, that would mean strengthening the EU in a limited number of areas to provide essential Europe-wide services—foreign policy and defense, economic governance within the eurozone and the single market, and border protection and asylum policy—while repatriating a long list of powers back to member states.
A federalist approach thus offers substantial promise in addressing the EU’s central policy challenges and relieving the tensions brought about by the block’s protracted crises. Conservatives and classical liberals should embrace international federalism as a way to constrain the power and size of government. That could provide a new focal point for a reinvigoration of centre-right political platforms across Europe.
This publication was originally published on the American Enterprise Institute wesbsite.Centre-Right EU Institutions European Union Future of Europe Integration
The Case for a Federal Europe
01 May 2017
Following the financial meltdown of 2007–8 and during the ensuing ‘Great Recession’, a chorus of recriminations against the evils of capitalism was heard. To many who had always distrusted the liberal shift in economic policy initiated in the 1980s, the turmoil on the financial markets was the long-awaited confirmation of their fears. Unbridled capitalism, they concluded, was unstable and unfair. The deregulation in recent decades had put the finances of whole nations at the mercy of financiers’ greed and bankers’ profits.
Unethical behaviour was rampant in the banking industry. Therefore, tighter regulations were urgently needed to protect the public interest and rein in the forces of globalised capitalism. These convictions provided the moral high ground from which to advocate re-regulation, stimulus packages and ultra-loose monetary policy on both sides of the Atlantic.
This paper considers the case for ‘moralising capitalism’ from a centre–right perspective. After defining capitalism and briefly explaining how it works, it illustrates some of its moral achievements and casts some doubts on the responsibility of the capitalist system for the 2008 financial crisis. It then tries to sketch the contours of a specifically centre–right approach to moralising capitalism, also drawing on the rich insights offered by Wilhelm Röpke, one of the fathers of the Social Market Economy.Centre-Right Economy Ethics
Humane Capitalism: Towards a Centre-Right Approach
14 Apr 2016
In 2015 the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies once again showed itself to be a mature organisation with an established position on the European think tank scene.Centre-Right EU Member States EU-US
Activity Report 2015
01 Mar 2016
The European Union as a whole has seen the share of the elderly population rise progressively. Over 18% of the population is currently aged 65 years or over, a figure that has risen by 2% over the last ten years and is expected to increase to 28% by 2050. This trend holds across all of Europe. Confronted with demographic ageing, the question arises as to whether this changing structure of the population is also having an impact on politics and elections. Despite the increasing share of seniors in society, few if any studies have focused on seniors’ voting behaviour.
This paper aims to examine the voting behaviour of European senior citizens in the 2014 European Parliament (EP) elections. It is structured along three main questions. The first part will deal with the question of whether and how the increasing share of seniors in the overall population affects voter turnout in elections, considering age, generational effects and political knowledge and opinion as the main explanations.
The second part deals with the question of whether and how the increasing share of seniors in the overall population affects election results, considering political opinion and party loyalty as main explanations. The third and final part will assess the representation of seniors in the EP,
considering the share of senior Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and the inclusion of representation of seniors’ interests.
The paper finds that the seniors’ share in the population is increasing, and that they are also the most active voters. Additionally, they generally vote for centre–right parties that belong to the European People’s Party (EPP) family. Their decision to participate in the elections, however, seems to have been driven more by generational effects-that is, party loyalty and voting habits-than by active campaign mobilisation.Centre-Right Elections European People's Party
Seniors in the 2014 European Parliament Elections: Turnout, Voting Intentions and Representation
01 Jul 2015
The failure of multiculturalism has been declared by many. Yet few have come up with alternatives to how Europe’s ethnic and religious groups can co-exist in our liberal democracies. This InFocus argues that Europe can benefit from the genuine desire that many immigrants have, to identify with the constitutions of their new home countries while maintaining elements of their own culture.
European and national policymakers should elaborate on the existing concept of multiculturalism, and they could learn from the US and Canadian approaches to integration. Europe’s centre-right political parties have a particular role not only in opening politics to immigrants and their descendants but also in forging strong national and European allegiances that are compatible with group belonging.
The jihadist terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen in early 2015 starkly reminded us that not all is well with the integration of Muslims into European societies. Paradoxically, the public demonstrations in France that followed the attacks injected a degree of optimism into European public life. These moving and encouraging public displays demonstrated beyond doubt that France continues to be a country of liberty. The 3.7 million people who were on the streets also proved, in their support for tolerance and freedom of speech, that liberal democracy is not dead.
Nevertheless, if anyone still had doubts, European liberal democracy is facing a number of external and internal tests. Among them are dealing with group identities and with jihadist terrorism, as these identities’ extreme manifestation. Positively dealing with group belonging is a precondition to tackling the wider challenge, to create a sense of common purpose at the difficult times that Europe is experiencing.
IN FOCUS is a new series of commentaries in which the Martens Centre looks closely at current policy topics, dissects the available evidence and challenges prevailing opinions.Centre-Right Immigration Integration Society Values
Politics of Identity: What Next after Multiculturalism
26 May 2015
Official European Parliament data was used to analyse the changes in the number of seats. The data presented in this document reflects the changes in affiliation of national party groups since the elections of 22-25 May 2014. Some political parties under ‘Other’ may join the existing political groups as the final composition of the European Parliament is still taking shape. Individual political parties from some member states may not be properly assigned to the existing political groups due to a lack of accurate information at the present moment. The data in this document was extracted on 04 June 2014. Distribution of seats is visualised per political party and political group to make the comparison between 2009 and 2014 for all EU member states. European Parliament data was also used to analyse voter turnout.Centre-Right Elections EU Institutions EU Member States
Post-electoral Analysis: EP Elections 2014
05 Jun 2014
Looking back at an eventful 2013, the CES continues to expand its network of like-minded organisations that now includes 29 members, as well as its strategic partnerships with organisations (International Republican Institute, Hudson Institute). Our online reach has quadrupled from last year, while our experts face daily requests from policy-makers and international media to provide opinions and expertise on the latest European developments.Centre-Right Christian Democracy EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party
Activity Report 2013
30 Dec 2013
The global economic crisis that began in 2007 has posed huge challenges for European citizens and governments. The crisis has shown that the ﬁnancial sector has not been adequately regulated and supervised, that governments and individuals have overspent, and that European economies are suffering from structural problems. This book, a collaboration between the Centre for European Studies and its member foundations, assesses government responses to the crisis at the national, EU and regional levels, and also offers policy recommendations. Governments should work with one another and with EU institutions to improve bank supervision and regulatory mechanisms. They should undertake ﬁscal consolidation measures, bearing in mind that government deﬁcits and debt incur costs that burden future generations. Finally, they should undertake structural reforms such as creating ﬂexible labour markets, increasing the retirement age and shaping efﬁcient public institutions. Implementing such measures would bring about lasting economic growth, contribute to job creation and set Europe on the path to prosperity.
You can buy the book, including e-book versions, at:Centre-Right Crisis Economy EU Member States Growth
ibookstore.com (http://ces.tc/1eFKvDP) and
From Reform to Growth: Managing the Economic Crisis in Europe
31 May 2013
2012 was a pivotal year in European politics. The economic crisis reached a peak, but after four years of non-stop crisis management it would appear that the worst is behind us. While parts of Europe still face a long road to recovery, a consensus seems to have emerged on the necessity of the measures that have been taken and the positive effect they are having. Beyond our borders, the Arab revolutions and transitions to democracy in North Africa and the Middle East continue to be a foreign policy issue which requires constant and close attention.Centre-Right EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party European Union
Activity Report 2012
31 Jan 2013
In 1961, a group of five students founded the “International Christian-Democratic and Conservative Student Union”. In 2011 this organisation celebrated its 50th anniversary as “European Democrat Students”(EDS). For decades, EDS, the largest political student organisation was the starting point of many political careers and could be proud to be the oldest pan-European organisation of the centre-right. By 2011, it became the biggest organisation of young people in Europe, representing 1,600,000 students and young people. The authors recount not only the complete history of the EDS since its foundation, but also describe and interpret the various reasons for its existence. By reading this book, the deeper roots of European integration become visible, outshining daily European business and creating a European identity EDS has contributed so much to.Centre-Right Education European People's Party Values Youth
Students on the Right Way: European Democrat Students 1961-2011
01 May 2012
Centre-Right Christian Democracy EU Member States Political Parties Values
Canon of Dutch Christian Democracy
02 Apr 2012
2011 proved to be a year of change and uncertainty, a challenging time both for decision-makers and political analysts. In the European Union, austerity measures became a painful but nonetheless necessary step towards tackling the sovereign debt crises, while a wind of change blew across North Africa with new calls for freedom. At the Centre for European Studies we believe that visionaries can turn times of political upheaval and change into opportunities. This is why we have focused our activities and research efforts on the Arab Spring, particularly through our ‘Springeneration’ initiative, which is an innovative online tool designed to create a bridge with people in Arab countries who are experiencing profound political and social changes. Through its research and policy papers, the Centre for European Studies contributed significantly throughout 2011 by enriching the discussions taking place at the European level from a centre-right perspective. Research projects covered a variety of issues ranging from European economic governance to populist movements, among others. Working independently or in close collaboration with its member foundations, the Centre for European Studies organised more than 70 events throughout Europe in 2011. With the aim of contributing to the academic arena, two issues of the European View journal were published in 2011. These editions were devoted to protest culture and populist movements, on the one hand, and to the rise and fall of states in the international arena on the other hand. Committed to the values of the EPP political family, the Centre for European Studies will build on its successes of 2011 and will keep working hard by ‘thinking Europe’ in the years to come.Centre-Right EU Institutions EU Member States European People's Party European Union
Activity Report 2011
27 Feb 2012
The founding of the Youth of the European People’s Party (YEPP) in 1997 was a remarkable event. After decades of division among the Christian Democrat and Conservative youth in Europe, which were split between two organisations-the European Young Christian Democrats (EYCD) and the Democratic Youth Community of Europe (DEMYC)-the critical mass of organisations ﬁnally decided to unite the centre-right youth in Europe in one single organisation in the mid-1990s. From the very beginning YEPP was a success and has developed into the largest centre-right youth organisation in Europe, bringing together 57 organisations from 39 countries. YEPP has also become the sole youth organisation linked to the European People’s Party, and in this way it has clearly contributed to the strengthening of the EPP political family. This book on the history of YEPP is based on primary written and oral sources. Documents from the YEPP archives have been used, along with a number of interviews with former YEPP Presidents and a number of key ﬁgures in YEPP’s history that were conducted speciﬁcally for the purpose of this publication.Centre-Right European People's Party Party Structures Values Youth
United by one conviction: The history of the Youth of the European People’s Party
06 Feb 2012
The major crises of the 21st century, an age of geopolitical change and spreading turbo-Keynesianism, show us how quickly the democratic and free West can ostensibly lose ground. This is why society needs solid foundations more than ever before. In the recent past, “conservative” was often illustrated by the image of a person who is still skeptical about the Internet, who doesn’t know what “social networking” means and whose spouse fetches his slippers and prepares his meals: in short, someone who is fearful, suspicious and old-fashioned. A large part of the public associates conservatism with precisely these qualities. Hence the main purpose of this volume: to provide a fundamental overview of what conservatism means: conservatism as a compass in a increasingly complex world.Centre-Right Christian Democracy Party Structures Political Parties
The Many Faces of Conservatism: The Essence, History and Future of Conservative Thought
05 Dec 2011
Wilfried Martens has devoted his entire life to politics: as student leader, youth activist, President of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Prime Minister of Belgium, President of the European People’s Party and European statesman. In his autobiography Martens offers the inside story on running a complex country like Belgium, fighting for European integration and unification, and transforming the European People’s Party into a strong, united centre-right movement and leading European political family. Above all, this is book about the intricacies of European politics and its guiding ideas, values and principles.Centre-Right Christian Democracy European People's Party Leadership Values
Europa: Lluitar, Sobreviure
01 Dec 2011
Wilfried Martens has devoted his entire life to politics: as student leader, youth activist, President of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Prime Minister of Belgium, President of the European People’s Party and European statesman. In his autobiography, President Martens offers the inside story on running a complex country like Belgium, fighting for European integration and unification, and transforming the European People’s Party into a strong, united centre-right movement and leading European political family. Above all, this is a book about the intricacies of European politics and its guiding ideas, values and principlesCentre-Right Christian Democracy European People's Party Leadership Values
Europa : lupt şi înving
01 Sep 2011
The European People’s Party, the largest political party in Europe, has roots that run deep in history. Founded in 1976 as a Christian Democratic federation, the European People’s Party is now a strong centre-right movement and a leading European political family. It has member parties in almost all European countries, and it is very well represented in the institutions of the European Union.
This book tells the story of the European People’s Party: why it was founded, how it is currently organised and what its guiding ideas, values and principles are. It gives an up-to-date account of the party’s contribution to European integration, its work with its member parties and its central role in organising the centre-right in Europe. Above all, this book is for everyone who wants to know what a European-level political party looks like, how it is structured and how it acts.Centre-Right Christian Democracy European People's Party Integration Values
At Europe’s Service: The Origins and Evolution of the European People’s Party
04 Apr 2011
In the 2009 elections, the European centre-right emerged victorious, thus affirming its political domination in contemporary European politics. The aim of this book is not to provide an analysis of the factors that contributed to the EPP’s political prevalence. Instead, it is to help this large political family maintain its vigour of political thought and policy prescriptions. The book provides a forum for prominent centre-right thinkers to debate the major European problems of our times, with particular emphasis on the management of the financial crisis and the next institutional steps regarding the European integration project. It assembles the views of politicians, academics and think-tank fellows from different national backgrounds and dissimilar ideological perspectives (Christian Democrats, conservatives and neo-liberals) who unfold their vision for Europe’s future. Moreover, it reflects the origins of contemporary European centre-right parties in order to reaffirm the core values and main priorities that have historically informed their policies. Overall, the book attempts to both highlight and stimulate the centre-right contribution to the discussion of Europe’s main contemporary challenges.Centre-Right Christian Democracy Crisis European People's Party European Union
Reforming Europe: The Role of the Centre-Right
18 Dec 2009
Wilfried Martens has devoted his entire life to politics: as student leader, youth activist, President of the Flemish Christian Democrats, Prime Minister of Belgium, President of the European People’s Party and European statesman. In his autobiography, President Martens offers the inside story on running a complex country like Belgium, fighting for European integration and unification, and transforming the European People’s Party into a strong, united centre-right movement and leading European political family. Above all, this is a book about the intricacies of European politics and its guiding ideas, values and principles.Centre-Right Christian Democracy European People's Party Leadership Values
Europe: I Struggle, I Overcome
11 Nov 2008