Let’s get to know Steering Comittee Elections candidates. Voting started on September 19th. We asked same two questions about electoral program and Liberals Democrats perspectives to each of them. Now it’ s up to Silvia Fernandes from Spain.
With the rise of populist movements in Europe, liberals and democrats are faced with a new challenge. What are the best weapons to deal with them?
The rise of populism is definitely one of (if not) the biggest challenges of European Democracy of the 21st Century. Terrorist threats, economic distress, increased rate of unemployment, refugee crisis… are all issues that encompass the rise of the populist movement across Europe, namely right-wing. Despite being an heterogeneous group, they find common ground on two pillars: europhobia and anti-mass immigration.
The problem has very unfortunately been reinforced when national parties have adjusted their own policies to the ludicrous demands of the far-right in an attempt to not lose voters to these populist parties. Neither this or leaving them completely out of the decision making process in national parliaments or the European Parliament, where they have representation, has proven to succeed. This is merely because populist parties draw strength from playing the victim card, the oppressed minority who feels its identity and nationality is being gradually eroded by the Union. However, being anti-European makes most of them not so participative in the EP’s decision making process, thus there is no need for establishing a ‘cordon sanitaire’ – since this would be adding fuel to the fire.
I believe that the Liberals and Democrats should develop the best articulated and strongest speech that will challenge the right wing while remaining true to our liberal and democratic values. Populist movements have exploited insecurity and resentment and constructed a false narrative to position themselves as an alternative to already established parties. There is a need to come back strong, now more than ever when fear and anger are predominant in some member states; we need to fight back for European integration, freedom, and human rights.
Liberals and democrats have not had the same political strength across Europe. Do you think, looking to the next EU Elections, we should work towards transnational lists?
It is my believe that citizens should be able to participate more directly in European politics. They should have the right to vote on their preferred candidate. Against what most of the right and populist parties have said, the creation of Transnational Lists would only strengthen EU democracy by bringing the EU closer to the citizens allowing for a more effective and tangible integration and consequently trust in the European institutions.
One of the main reasons to create Transnational Lists is that the current system fails to respect the principle of degressive proportionality established in the treaties. Therefore, it is not representative of the actual EU diversity portrayed by the 27 Member States. By establishing Transnational Lists, we would be allowing European political parties to act as genuine parties and focus on real European matters instead of national ones during European elections. Moreover, member states that currently are underrepresented such as Spain, France, Italy and the Netherlands would have a real proportionate number of seats in the European Parliament. An adequate reallocation of seats would ultimately give ALDE member parties more weight across Europe and in the European Parliament challenging the EPP and populist parties.
Having said that, I would not jump the gun and fight for them for the 2019 elections. Essentially because the complexity of the development of the Transnational Lists due to the disparities in requirements and legal challenges across the 27 member states is grand. Thus, I feel that the time for Transnational Lists is the 2024 elections. This would give us enough time to fashion an effective democratic and proportionate system. For better or for worse, Brexit has given us the opportunity to reform Europe towards a more democratic and open Union. Let’s make the most of it.