A Dark Age for European Democracy?


In recent months, nationalists and populists on both sides of the Atlantic have challenged the values that have been at the heart of the transatlantic alliance of liberal democracies for decades, notes R. Daniel Kelemen, Jean Monnet Chair in European Union Politics at Rutgers University.

But the victory of Alexander Van der Bellen, a pro-European former leader of the Greens, in Austria’s presidential election, and increasing public support for the EU since the Brexit vote have offered some hope that Europe’s liberal democratic order can survive the crises it now faces, he writes for Foreign Affairs.

With Van der Bellen’s victory, the march of the anti-establishment candidates in Europe was, at least in Austria and at least temporarily, slowed, writes Jan Surotchak, Regional Director for Europe with the International Republican Institute, a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

But if Europe’s leaders want their union to survive this dark age for democracy, they must offer citizens a positive vision for the future of their collective project and redouble their commitment to it, Kelemen asserts:

Above all, they should work to revive Europe’s flagging economy, shifting away from their obsession with austerity to a focus on reviving growth. They should come to grips more effectively with the migration crisis, expanding on recent initiatives to secure Europe’s external borders while providing more support to those states that bear the greatest refugee burden. They should intensify defense cooperation to show citizens how European institutions can help protect them against common threats. And EU leaders must stand up to the Euroskeptic populists in their midst, defending the democratic values on which the union was built.


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