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The purpose of the meeting
“A spectre is haunting Europe”. This famous sentence by Karl Marx written at the eve of the 1848 revolution referred to Communism. Presently, another spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of right-wing populism: Right-wing parties and movements are winning elections in many EU Member States. In some countries, both East and West, extreme right-wing parties form part of coalition governments. The threat is real and is likely to last for a certain time.
What can Liberals do to counteract this threat?
We are faced with a rather complex situation. On the one hand, populist movements and parties share commonalities: All of them make use of a narrative of threat constructed around the distorted observation of issues such as migration, corrupt and/or incapable politicians or the estranged, hence ailing, European Brussels bureaucracy. On the other hand, populist movements tend to adapt their strategies to national sensibilities. Whilst some are openly antisemitic, some concentrate on anti-Islamism, while others mobilize generally against minorities. Some are traditionalists, others are modernists. In other words, right-wing populism is protean in character. This explains why right-wing parties are distributed across three different groups within the European Parliament.
Liberal answers against right-wing populism need therefore to be flexible – not denying existing problems, but forcefully showing liberal alternatives.
The development and implementation of a successful strategy must be conceptualized as a sustainable process. It may not be gained through single events alone. Following the first workshop in Visegrád, it was decided to continue the work on Liberal Futures as a structuring process against right-wing populism. The Vienna workshop, the second in a row, understands itself as an element for the development of such a strategy.