Panel 2: Where now for Europe? Identity discourses and politics in times of crises.

The second panel focused on the topic “Identity discourses and politics in times of crises” with the following three speakers: Kenan Malik, Writer, Lecturer and Broadcaster (UK), Loukas Tsoukalis, Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (Greece), Ulrike Guérot, The European Democracy Lab, European School of Governance (Germany).

Populism in Europe

“The rise of populism in Europe is easily noticeable, but what lies underneath it?” Kenan Malik asked at the beginning of his statement. The rise of populism in Europe is on the one hand caused by the extensive use of the technocratic politics and on the other hand by the change of social democratic and conservative parties. Many citizens think that their voices haven’t been heard and are thereby getting the impression that the politicians representing them are corrupt. The question in what kind of society we want to live becomes more and more important.

"Political policies" try to react to the fragmented society by classifying groups into categories, like cultural and religious. However, the “multicultural policies” tend to forget the diversity of each group.

Furthermore, Kenan Malik referred to the development of populism in the last years. Populist is not confined to minorities but accepted in general society too, expressed in parties who represent populist ideas. The economic crisis “boosted” populist parties, as they make the system and the reaction of the traditional parties responsible for the current situation.

How the crises changed European identity

Loukas Tsoukalis from Greece presented the topic of the European identity regarding various crises over the last years, starting with the political crisis of the institutions and the economic crisis, which came across from the USA and expanded to a financial crisis in the European Union. The good news are that Europe is more or less united, the Eurozone is huge and there is no collapse of the European Union. However there are bad news as well: The EU is weaker than before, the European model is not an ideal for other countries any more (like China or the US) and the divisions in Europe run very deep – between the North and the South and between the Euro-area and other regions. Stereotypes rise and scapegoats are easily appointed, as shown by the relationship between Germany and Greece. It's a dangerous situation, the inequalities are growing and therefore populism is getting stronger.

A general analysis of the crisis is important

Ulrike Guérot focused on different discourses within this topic and she presented different reasons. At first there are “pre-revolutional” developments in Europe, second there are many separatist movements (as in Catalonia), third there is a “national response discourse” because some countries react to current political events, such as the idea of a "Grexit". In Germany the question of leadership dominated the discourse. In Eastern European countries it was more like “not in our House”. Furthermore there is also a polarization between the political left and right. Lastly, Guérot talked about the “cosmopolitan discourse” in which the children of poststructuralism create new societal forms of participation, such as liquid democracy and other participation oriented models.

Picking up a question from the plenum about education about the European Union, she pointed out that it is very important to enable the people to think in a critical way. It is not sufficient to only understand the institutional framework of the European Union.

Conference Day: 

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