European Spring?

Saturday 20 October, 3.30pm until 5.00pm, Pit Theatre

Perry Anderson in his book The New Old World argued that the ‘contempt for elementary principles of democracy shown by the elites of the [European] Council and Commission… is reciprocated by the disdain of the masses for the Parliament that supposedly represents them, who ignore it in ever increasing numbers’. Many commentators today share his awareness of a divide between European politicians and their electorates. There has been a long-term trend of disengagement and apathy with respect to the EU: evidenced in a secular decline in electoral turnout. The recent emergence of new social movements – the Indignados, Occupy, the Pirate Party, to name a few – may represent a growing consciousness of the problem as well as a desire to address it. Is there a chance that the people could be about to forge a new European demos?

The huge numbers of unemployed (particularly among the young), the crippling levels of debt, fears of inflation, the spectre of beggar-thy-neighbour protectionism across Europe all cry out for a new politics, for new solutions, to match them. And not much in the way of alternatives has been on offer for years. But do these new movements and parties really represent an alternative? Much of their appeal seems to lie in a rejection of politics itself: maybe best expressed by the German Pirate Party’s demand for a ‘liquid politics’, a technological realisation of politics beyond left and right. This parallels the response of European leaders like Angela Merkel and Manuel Barroso, which has often seemed to lean towards a wish that the messy business of democracy would just go away or, at least, be suspended for a while so the crisis could be cleaned up by the experts.

Might there be something to fears that politics might be taking a new populist turn across Europe? Do populists actually offer a way out of the crisis, or are they lying to the electorate, only gaining votes from those with nothing to lose rather than those with something to gain? And what should we make of the ease in which elected governments have been swept aside in Italy and Greece to name but two? When a Polish foreign minister calls for German leadership to save Europe, should we be relaxed about its economic and political muscle today? When the language of force is back in use in European politics, is it so irresponsible to fear for our futures? What is the reality of European politics today? And what shape might it have tomorrow?

Speakers
Dr Thierry Baudet
teacher, Leiden Law School; former columnist, NRC Handelsblad; author, The Significance of Borders: why representative government and the rule of law require nation states

Brian Denny
convener, No2EU - Yes to Democracy

Matthias Heitmann
freelance journalist; contributor, NovoArgumente; columnist, Schweizer Monat

Karl-Erik Norrman
founder and secretary-general, European Cultural Parliament; former Swedish ambassador; author, The Gala Concert, Verdi/Wagner 200 years

Eszter Salgó
adjunct professor, international relations, American University of Rome

Dr Nikos Sotirakopoulos
lecturer in sociology, University of Loughborough; author, The Rise of Lifestyle Activism: From New Left to Occupy

Michał Sutowski
political scientist and columnist, Krytyka Polityczna, Poland

Chair:
Bruno Waterfield
Brussels correspondent, The Times; co-author, No Means No

Produced by
Angus Kennedy convenor, The Academy; author, Being Cultured: in defence of discrimination
Recommended readings
A scale model of European implosion

The budgetary austerity zealously applied by Madrid has revitalised demands for independence in Barcelona. Engaged in a fiscal and economic power struggle with the central government, Catalonia is threatening to disrupt the social and regional equilibrium that underlies Spanish democracy.

José Manuel Pureza, presseurop, 2 October 2012

The EU is an empire, and empires mean war

We are often told that the EU has brought peace to Europe. However, this view is not shared by historian Thierry Baudet who provocatively argues that a process in which nation states give up their sovereignty inevitably results in conflict. That is why he recommends dissolving the euro and restoring national borders.

Thierry Baudet, presseurop, 9 July 2012

The Significance of Borders

For almost three-quarters of a century, the countries of Western Europe have abandoned national sovereignty as an ideal. Nation states are being dismantled: by supranationalism from above, by multiculturalism from below.

Thierry Baudet, Brill, 1 June 2012

Pirate Party: giving politics a jolly roger

The cyber-rights obsessives are not a ‘fresh wind’ - they just show how much politics is screwed.

Matthias Heitmann, spiked, 15 May 2012

The New Old World

The New Old World looks at the history of the European Union, the core continental countries within it, and the issue of its further expansion into Asia. It opens with a consideration of the origins and outcomes of European integration since the Second World War, and how today's EU has been theorized across a range of contemporary disciplines

Perry Anderson, Verso, 1 August 2011

No politics please, we’re trying to protest!

A Greek student reports on how ideology has been expelled from the anti-government protests in Athens and elsewhere.

Nikos Sotirakopoulos, spiked, 15 June 2011

Jobbik: a party born of humiliation

The recent electoral success of Hungary’s right-wing parties rests on a deep ground swell of powerlessness and frustration.

Eszter Salgó, spiked, 29 April 2010

EU, Euro,

The peoples of Europe are being subjected to a scare campaign, which predicts doom and disaster should the Euro collapse. But, writes Brian Denny, the peoples have in any case never been promised anything but pie in the sky. Here he outlines a new pamphlet on the promises and lies of 'social Europe'.

Brian Denny, Communist Party

Session partners