Thursday

6th Oct 2022

Opinion

Rising to the challenge of 'European Angst'

Populism, extremism and euroscepticism are haunting Europe, creating a tense atmosphere in which fear, hate, anger and anxiety generate a climate of angst.

The current rise of radical parties such as AfD in Germany, Ukip in Great Britain and FN in France indicates a drastic change in European societies and politics – and the more momentum these populist movements gain, the more clueless the established political, cultural and legislative institutions seem to be.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

The prevalence of hate speech and violent acts threatening migrants and refugees, and hostile attitudes towards liberal values and modern, open societies are clear manifestations of this angst.

Xenophobia still looms large in the modern history of our continent, and it was never completely quashed in the process of an ever closer integration. A very recent expression of this phenomenon is the surprising outcome of the EU referendum in Great Britain, driven by a fear-based campaign.

Political leaders and the traditional political parties are seemingly failing to act on these issues haunting Europe. Following summit upon summit, from Bratislava to Ventotene, solutions seem to be in short supply. Pressing matters such as the redistribution of migrants fall by the wayside, brutally exposing the lack of solidarity in the EU.

This year has seen a tumult of challenges to strident liberal democratic states - popular protest against Ceta, TTIP and globalisation; the biting impact of global terrorism; and most recently an external shock in the form of the American elections. Liberal ideologies have hit a blockage, and responses to this unanticipated outmanoeuvring of the political left and centre by the (far-)right have been muddled.

A constructive discourse

A much talked about phenomenon of recent weeks has been the presence of “fake news” carried by social media sites, and the gullibility of the general public who apparently swallow these articles without question.

Extremism comes in many guises, but the rise of the far-right across our continent, and the at times impassive response to refugees, coupled with the growing presence of insular, nationalist voices, has led to a contagion of hostile sentiments in our daily lives.

On social media, in the press we read, and in the conversations we hear, we are fed a narrative of false dichotomies based on fear. The ease of posting commentary online has led to a culture in which my ignorance is given equal airtime to your hard fought for knowledge. Thus, a question arises: how do we counter these “post-fact” narratives and create a constructive, yet informative discourse in the media?

Who now of our political leaders, of our commentators and philosophers and laureates can stand above the fray, speak out and tackle these fears? Much has been written of chancellor Angela Merkel’s stand as the last bastion of a crumbling liberal elite, not only in Europe, but also in a global context. From who else or where else do we seek the strength to forge new paths, and build a new future that will deliver on shared goals of prosperity, diversity and peace?

New narratives needed

The European Angst conference will shed light on these questions in a unique way. It will leave the comfort zone of liberal consensus by inviting thinkers from across the spectrum of ideas, thus creating a space for passionate debate, for reflection and in-depth analysis. Going beyond the so-called Brussels bubble, the event seeks to take the discussion beyond our well-established comfort zone.

Among the participants are the writers and philosophers Slavoj Zizek, Didier Eribon and Nobel Prize winner Herta Mueller, as well as 42 students selected in an open pan-European call. The students will play an active role in the conference, and they will draft a manifesto on Europe’s future to be handed over to EU officials.

The European Angst conference will create a pan-European space where open discussions will negotiate how we can create better societies. We urgently need new narratives to create a better perspective for Europeaness and to get over the current angst that openly questions Europe’s future.

Alex Godson is the head of communication of the European Movement International

The European Movement International is a partner in the European Angst Conference, which is an initiative of the Goethe-Institut, organised in collaboration with 4 members of EUNIC, and BOZAR. The media partner for this event is EUobserver.

The European Angst Conference takes place in Brussels on Tuesday 6 December and Wednesday 7 December 2016.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Obama warns of Trump-type populism in Europe

The US will stick with Nato no matter who is in the White House, according to Barack Obama, but he warned that Trump-style populism was a danger in Europe.

Populists blame Juncker for 'same old' ideas

Mainstream parties defended Juncker's ideas on how to win back people's trust, but populists blamed the EU Comission chief for dishing up "more of the same".

Interview

'Don't push Turkey away', says writer Elif Shafak

Novelist and essayist Elif Shafak said that isolating Turkey would "play into the hands of populism" and that liberals everywhere should defend their values with "emotional intelligence".

The fossil-fuel agenda behind EU's carbon-capture plans

The fossil-fuel industry is using the carbon removal agenda to get yet more support for failed carbon capture, which is a key component of the pie-in-the-sky carbon removal technologies being promoted by the EU Commission.

Column

The Iranian regime's expiration date

This 'headscarf revolution' is about women's rights and human rights in general, plus police brutality. Moreover, it is a leaderless revolution that is not driven by a leader or a group, but erupted spontaneously.

Column

The Iranian regime's expiration date

This 'headscarf revolution' is about women's rights and human rights in general, plus police brutality. Moreover, it is a leaderless revolution that is not driven by a leader or a group, but erupted spontaneously.

News in Brief

  1. Sweden: Nord Stream probe points to 'gross sabotage'
  2. Orbán rails against Russia sanctions at Prague summit
  3. MEPs urge inquiry into Mahsa Amini killing and Iran sanctions
  4. Thousands of Hungarian students and teachers protest
  5. Swedish MEP cuts hair mid-speech to support Iran women
  6. Danish general election called for 1 November
  7. Slovenia legalises gay marriage, adoption
  8. Russia's stand-in EU ambassador reprimanded on Ukraine

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  2. The European Association for Storage of EnergyRegister for the Energy Storage Global Conference, held in Brussels on 11-13 Oct.
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos
  4. European Committee of the RegionsThe 20th edition of EURegionsWeek is ready to take off. Save your spot in Brussels.
  5. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”

Latest News

  1. What actually happened at the 'most complicated election in the world'?
  2. Europe lays aside quarrels to isolate Putin
  3. Spyware-hacked MEPs still seeking answers
  4. EU leaders discuss gas price cap — amid rationing fear
  5. Germany braces for criticism of national €200bn energy fund
  6. The fossil-fuel agenda behind EU's carbon-capture plans
  7. Four weeks to COP27 — key issues and challenges
  8. EU wants to see US list on Russia financing of politicians

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  3. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  6. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us