Populism is a dirty word in EU capitals. It implies demagoguery, disrespect for constitutional arrangements, and shades of authoritarianism. The shadow of Europe’s long 20th century, when dictators justified their actions with appeals to the “will of the people”, still falls across the continent. Yet, in rejecting populism, has the EU fallen into the trap of appearing too distant and technocratic?
We had a comment from Craig arguing that the EU should “really embrace European identity, particularly concerning immigration”. In other words, if you want to beat the populists you have to become a populist.
Many would argue the EU is already embracing populism. Governments across the continent, for example, are keen to be seen to take a hard line on immigration. But will borrowing policies from so-called populist parties reassure people that public concerns are being taken seriously? Will it “neutralise extremism“? Or are politicians who embrace the populist agenda riding a tiger?
To get a response, we took Craig’s comment to some of the speakers at State of Europe 2017, the high level roundtable event in Brussels organised by our partner think tank, Friends of Europe. We put his question to Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister of Sweden. Here’s what he had to say:
Should the EU embrace a more populist agenda? Is the European project too distant and technocratic? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!