As if a tornado of EU skeptics and populists will wash Europe away and leave the whole continent in darkness and despair; that is how some EC representatives, politicians and their media depict the coalition of extreme right parties concluded last week in Vienna. What they – mainstream politicians – forgot to add is that they paved the way for extremists from both sides of the political spectrum.
How many members of the European Parliament voted against austerity measures breaking the backbone of social protection systems and support services? How many placed business (as usual) above wellbeing and quality of life of the citizens? How many civil servants tried to stop the race to the bottom model regarding working conditions and salaries when debating recovery, growth and innovation?
Who constructed a EU abstract, monolithic and far away from the people? How often did you, dear minister say ‘Brussels decided ’ while you should have said ‘we decided in Brussels’?
It might not be appropriate to use as a metaphor but like with the hurricane that destroyed the lives of so many in The Philippines, also here help is available but it is so hard to get it at the right place. And indeed prevention is better than cure.
As long as the institutions, including our so important European Parliament, drain during moments of crisis the benefits of the EU construction to the better off; as long as instead of dealing with the democratic deficit it is nourished; as long as authorities keep on using other layers of decision making to hide their own intentions the European Union will be questioned.
In this regard it is worrying that the British business world is so clear when expressing their interest in staying in the EU. It is a clear statement that the EU is about markets and profit making. Indeed Europe brought economic wealth but it also brought peace, more social cohesion, more equal opportunities and a stronger focus on Human Rights. Most of the EU member states work more on Human Rights and equality than they would do without the EU. Media and freedom of speech are better protected with a EU than without. These are the messages we should spread,if possible with the help of the administration, expensive consultants and officials. We have a good story to tell, mobilizing, refreshing even.
Actually the situation is quite clear. Why are extremists (right and left) against the EU institutions? For the simple reason they do not control them (yet). The antidote needed to prevent them taking over control is involving citizens in a structural way and communicating about added value beyond markets and fiscal consolidation.
Indeed, even better than developing plans on how to manage the damage caused by tornados or hurricanes is preventing the build up that leads to these catastrophes…but we might have to come back to this right after the climate summit in Warsaw.