The election of Donald Trump as the next President of the United States has once again shaken the foundations of our liberal-democratic order. The results of November the eighth are another manifestation of a deep-seated sense of resentment towards a political elite perceived as isolated, distant and disconnected. Politically, this has translated into a growing popularity of far-right, anti-establishment parties and politicians that seem to offer the only alternative. Nevertheless, Trump’s election followed a legal and untainted democratic process and must be accepted as the result. We must ensure that instead of sinking into anger and disillusionment, we, world-wide, take this as the wake-up call that it is. Including in the European response to the shock result.
Populism and nativism are on the rise world-wide, and this phenomenon is at least as obvious in Europe as in the United States. In France, Marine Le Pen of the Front National is expected to make it to the second-round of the presidential run-off. In Germany, Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been making significant gains in even the most liberal local elections. Hungary and Poland have already turned to populist governments that challenge the rule-of-law and the status quo. Other countries in Europe as different as the Netherlands, Italy, Denmark and Sweden have also seen strong polling numbers for anti-globalisation, anti-immigration parties. Therefore, it is imperative, that in the wake of the two biggest challenges to the liberal agenda, Brexit and Donald Trump, the European Union adopts a united, reformist agenda.
In my opinion, the political aims of the Treaty of Lisbon, to make the European Union more accountable, and importantly, more connected to its dispersed and disaffected electorate, were the first step in a lengthy process of reconciling the demos with politics in Europe. However, efforts can’t end at this crucial movement. While tall ideas are clearly not viable, it is important to explore all directions that are offered to us and to listen to all ideas. Certain reform proposals for the European Union are definitely worth exploring. For me, these include the creation of European constituencies to increase the personal stake in European Parliament elections. Communication and transparency efforts must continue so that European citizens feel connected to their community and do not descend into isolationism and dangerous nationalism.
With the United States in its current position, the normative role of the European Union, its people, and its elites has never been more important. It is Europe’s duty, through its leaders, to stem the tide of nativist, racist and close-minded rhetoric that is slowly taking over politics. Europe must today stand, unfortunately but steadfastly, the bastion of liberal-democratic norms of openness, inclusiveness, respect and community. “Ever Closer Union” has never resonated more powerfully.
Nathan Rasquinet is a dual-degree MPA student in the second year, specializing in European Public Policy. He completed an undergraduate degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Warwick in the UK before heading off to Tokyo, Japan to start a Master’s in Public Policy. The son of expats, he grown up all over the world, from Brazil to Russia.
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