European populists want to have their cake and eat it too. Instead of destroying the EU, radical right parties want to transform it from the inside. With European Parliament elections coming up, liberals need a new strategy if they want to preserve the European project, say Carnegie analysts Heather Grabbe and Stefan Lehne.
Even if the populist vision of Europe is incoherent and self-contradictory, populists’ role in the EU is growing and could disrupt future integration significantly. Liberals need to face this challenge and expose the populist fallacies if they are to win back the voters who are disappointed by establishment politics and looking for new solutions to economic insecurity and social change, they contend:
Liberals of all stripes should focus their 2019 election campaigns on building the case for a values-based Europe on the basis of its track record in delivering benefits for citizens. Instead of continuing the false dichotomy of pro- and anti-EU, they need to talk much more about what kind of Europe people want to live in. Liberals need to make the case for cooperation, solidarity, and common rules and values as part of an organic whole that underpins a prosperous and open society.
The article is part of the European Reformists project, a joint initiative of the Open Society European Policy Institute and Carnegie Europe.