As a laboratory of ideas inspired by “cultural, religious and humanistic heritage of Europe” (Treaty of Lisbon, 2007), European Union is going through a crucial phase for its future, complicated by the political marginality of the Europeanist civic and political front and by phenomena of euro-scepticism that collect a large constituency and social consensus. Thriving land of populist and far-right parties, EU aversion has gathered a nationalist and sovereignist political vision, often marked by xenophoby, to tackle issues like migratory flows and socio-economic consequences of globalization.
A risk for the maintenance of national liberal-democratic systems – witnessed by illiberal restrictions to human rights defenders (Hungary) and the independence of judges (Poland) – as well as for citizens trust in EU political reactivity and democratic representation, few months before European Parliament elections (from 23 to 26 May).
“At the beginning of the 1990s, 84% of Italians, 89% of Greeks and even 63% of Britons saw the benefits of the EEC“, explains Luigi Zingales in an article on Il Sole 24 Ore, underlining that “the consensus towards Europe begins to decline in 1992, and then collapses on the occasion of the enlargement of Europe to the East and the eurozone crisis“. Moreover, the Italian economist claims that “the real enemies of Europe are not the populist movements, but the so-called Europeanists who occupy the rooms of European power“. What response has come from the numerous pro-European movements to Zingales provocation?
Starting afresh from a democratic project: DiEM 25
The heterogeneous galaxy of pro-European movements, heirs of the liberal and federalist tradition, has been able to combine secularization and multiculturalism, according to social inclusion and political pluralism, in a common European project. Founded in 2016 by the former Greek Finance Minister Janis Varoufakis, DiEM 25 is a pan-European movement which aims to achieve a “full and accomplished democracy […] in the European Union, which respects the national determination and share decision-making power“. Open government, ecological transition, European New Deal, are some of the objectives present in the Progressive Agenda for Europe, a programmatic document shared by about 60,000 members, in order to propose a “democratic EU Constitution” by 2025.
Europeanism as transnational participation
European movimentism stems from a political, academic and ten-year commitment: the European Federalist Movement (1943) by Altiero Spinelli, author of the Ventotene Manifesto (1944) is the inspirer of a federal Europe, originally supported by the pillars of peace and anti-fascism. The younger generations have reinterpreted European engagement, drawing inspiration from US activism and digital age participatory dynamics.
Under the Union of European Federalists, the transnational organization of the Young European Federalists (YEF) has been operating since 1972, the year of the first Congress in Luxembourg. As Juuso Järviniemi, member and editor-in-chief of the webzine of YEF (thenewfederalist.eu), explains, the movement is articulated “at European level, through the work of the political commissions to which members can participate, planning joint campaigns and lobbying actions in Brussels and organizing, in the national sections, seminars and events“. Recent initiatives include “the ‘Our Vision for Europe‘ campaign, whose aim is to obtain nationwide TV channels to broadcast debates for the upcoming European elections, as well as ‘WakeUP‘, a series of events organized by our local groups to Paris, in defense of freedom of the press in Eastern Europe and Edinburgh, against Brexit“. The complexity of European challenge must be measured by the particular political and economic interests of the member states and the distrust of many citizens towards social openness and cultural integration. Europeanism as efforts aimed at active participation may be one of the most effective responses to the current phase of democratic uncertainty.
Article published on eunews.it