Liaison Group Newsletter - January 2019

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Gilets jaunes: the mess of representative democracy?

Happy New Year to all of you and bon courage for a very challenging New Year. For the upcoming European elections some seem to have the idea of campaigning for continuity rather than change. Does everybody understand what changes within our societies when the political centre moves to the right and far right? And when we see contradictions between a general commitment to and appreciation for Europe and a question mark on democracy? Do they realise that the difference between market-compatible democracies and democracy-compatible markets is more than just a language issue?
It seems that some believe that we can have economic solutions without democracy. More than 80 years since we saw a similar turn away from “the system” and against elites, this is the message from people who are part of those “elites” and yet at the same time claim to be the popular alternative.
What can we say about those, like Emmanuel Macron, whom we praised because they were taking a stand against right-wing populists and nationalists? His "great" idea is to start a Grand débat national, grassroots consultations and civic dialogue when the “yellow jackets” are claiming to be the successors of those who stormed the Bastille in 1789. Attacks on national symbols like the Arc de Triomphe, calls for the rape of female journalists and attacks on the free and independent media are the flip side of the coin, and one we cannot accept. At the same time, politicians who want to move Europe forward and who want direct dialogue with the public have a major problem: by doing so they are calling into question the representativeness of intermediate bodies and thus representative democracy as a whole! Populists claim to represent THE people although there are more of us. Why is it so difficult to accept that citizens' organisations are also representative, and that they are not in competition with elected politicians? At a time when right-wing populists and fascists are promoting their “civic” movements, we urgently need to look at content and values! Europe is at stake, and not only in the European elections. Democracy is at stake, now and every day! Cave canem!

Conny Reuter
Co-Chair of the Liaison Group

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