After Dutch elections a new chapter in European history it’s open and hopefully will mark a new road for reinforcing democracy. Nationalism has taken current crises as an opportunity to fulfill that empty space left by weak EU institutions, misleading leadership, lack of information and a limited engagement from citizens because of ineffective mechanisms of participatory democracy. Brexit it’s a direct consequence of these failures in “meeting” citizens with real EU goals and achievements. Instead, the EU has become a “bureaucratic monster” out of control transmitting the idea to citizens that there are out of the decision making process. To achieve an even closer union, citizens must feel involvement with the political system.
Until now the future seemed as alarming as solid: more nationalist movements in Europe. Nationalism “wrapped” in a package of isolationism, racism and xenophobia has arise as the solution for EU institutional failures. Actually quite successful with a Brexit that goes ahead without having an alternative model.
However, recent Dutch elections has shown that fear cannot lead the fate of Europe and anti-establishment doesn´t come from an extremist agenda but to a reshape (and in some cases literally erase) current leadership and institutions.
Brexit and eventually Frexit shows that there is a clear and determinate agenda to break with Europeanization and build codes around nationalism. That is the big obstacle for backing those positions, that are not building around alternative proposals based in the same values of prosperity and equality, but to further racism and xenophobia through nationalist positions by populist leaders.
There is a clear manipulation from far rights movements to make see the EU as the origin of all crises as well as a democratic failure on assuring rights. However, and first of all, crises are not within EU exclusively but impacted by global crises in addition to the own EU institutional and leadership crisis.
European democracy is not in crisis but it´s clearly under threat, in addition to a global devastating impact that is “helping” far right leaders to support their isolationist positions and anti-European views.
Part of the need to rethink Europe´s democracy is because of the natural evolution that all systems need to experiment. Which it has been working through several decades is it now showing clear inconsistencies and discontent among their citizens.
The only way to find a solution is going back to the own roots of democracy: the power of the people. Instead of furthering populist movements it´d be good to boost a framework in which citizens have more participation in the decision making process. European citizen initiative, open petitions or public consultations needs to be more accessible and promoted by the own EU institutions. A process in which there is decentralization from Brussels and a more flexible system in which citizens become the best accountable mechanism to measure EU performance.
Its paramount that the fate of the European Union relies in the hands of an Education system that goes beyond local interests. That is the key element for engaging citizenship and democratizes the Union (a strong difference from Brexit´s goals).
Globalization has become part of our institutional system and individual habits, as a direct consequence the concept of sovereignty could not be seen in the same way than before, it needs to be revised and updated. Sovereignty cannot be defended in the same terms than before, but through global values. Boost by a reliable and solid Education system that allows the development of individual freedom.
We´re living a historical moment in which nationalism it is confused with a defense of sovereignty, although there are two different, radical and in certain way contradictory concepts.
The homogenization of products and habits leads precisely to a new society at supranational level and with a unique focus in cultural aspects. Is a matter of time and political will from the EU institutions to have more top down strategies on direct democracy, therefore more active mobilization from citizens.
As nationalism is coming with a extraordinary raise of right-wing populism it´s also important to differentiate populist methods of doing politics from nationalist groups that arise in a historical momentum of financial crisis. When populism is manipulating public opinion it does not represent an ideology…. just groups with an unethical message.
In the end what this groups are trying to avoid is the boost of a European Culture despite a practical and legal framework. However in crises times joint action is paramount to become resilient by the strong role of political leaders. The result of Dutch elections shows clearly that our fate is in the hands of common sense that go beyond leaders but of a community of values under an ethical message and accountable decisions.
*Sculpture Lorenzo Quinn. “The hand of God”