Fighting populism is everybody's business

By the EESC's Diversity Europe Group

Economic progress and social stability are two excellent weapons to counter Euroscepticism, but they are not enough. At a conference held in cooperation with the Vorarlberg Chamber of Labour in Feldkirch, Austria, on 11 October 2018, the EESC's Diversity Europe Group looked at how and why populism has emerged in the EU and pointed to the key role civil society can play in fighting it.

The event brought together EESC members and Austrian representatives of civil society organisations to discuss the main outcomes of the study Societies outside Metropolises: the role of civil society organisations in facing populism, commissioned by the Diversity Europe Group from the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS). At the heart of the debate was the rise of populism in four countries and comparisons between two regions with different levels of economic development in each country:

  • Austria: Klagenfurt-Villach and Niederösterreich-Süd;
  • France: Drôme and Aisne;
  • Italy: Udine and Reggio di Calabria;
  • Poland: Płocki and Nowosądecki.

"The EU must not only speak to people but actively listen and engage in dialogue", said Arno Metzler, President of the Diversity Europe Group. "European civil society should help the Union to reach out to them. As members of the EESC, we have a double responsibility: we have to step up our activities linking the European and the national levels, and we have to work more closely together. Only by doing that can we help to reduce the misplaced fears that populists are so successfully manipulating", he concluded. (cl)