Roundtable in 2015: European Populism

International Roundtable at Das Progressive Zentrum on December 16, 2015

The Polish and French elections at the end of 2015 were especially topical and worrying reminders of the current rise of right-wing populist parties all over Europe. To debate this urgent European problem, Das Progressive Zentrum, with support of the German Federal Ministry of Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, organised an international roundtable, which took place on December 16, 2015 in Berlin.

Although right-wing populism is far from being a new phenomenon, recent results suggest it has developed a new strength and a rising influence on European politics. Studies claim that the increasing political disaffection of citizens is one important factor leading to this development. A sustainable and successful strategy against right-wing populism therefore needs an exchange on an international level to identify effective approaches and instruments. To foster this exchange, Das Progressive Zentrum organised an international roundtable on the issue of „Right-wing Populism and Political Disaffection in Europe”. Our aim was to bring together experts from academia, politics and civil society, assembling young, aspiring and more senior European stakeholders to engage in exclusive and fruitful discussions.

Tobias Dürr, chairman of Das Progressive Zentrum, gave a concise introductory speech on the dangers of the rise of populism, before the well-known writers Robert Misik, Werner A. Perger, and René Cuperus continued with a profound overview of the current situation in Europe and the strategies necessary to counter populism.

In order to have a comparative view, experts from six European countries made short contributions on the current situation and strategies against right-wing populism in their respective national contexts, focussing on strategies to counter populism from the perspective of the media, political parties and civil society.

The case studies began with Daniel Hegedűs on Hungary, followed by Ben Stanley on the situation in Poland. Right-wing populists are in government in both countries, and are a firm part of the political establishment. Emilia Zankina explained that the situation is similar in Bulgaria, where the strongest party in the government, GERB, is made up of right-wing populists. In contrast, in Greece, the right-wing populists in ANEL are only junior partners in the government with SYRIZA. Manos Papazoglou spoke on the strategic reasons why SYRIZA formed a coalition with ANEL. The discussion continued with Håkan Bengtsson on the rise of the Sverigedemokraterna in Sweden, and Claudia Chwalisz gave a British perspective on democratic innovations as a reaction to right-wing populism. The discussion was moderated by Ursula Bazant.

Following the presentation of the case-studies,  Susann Rüthrich MP gave a dinner speech on right-wing populism in Germany.

One result of the many discussions was that although the specific issues vary depending on the national context, the general challenge is the same. To counter right-wing populism effectively, we therefore need an increased exchange on a European level.

You can download the roundtable programme here.