Past Event

How comprehensive is the EU political realignment?

Has the left-right divide become obsolete in EU politics?

Date: June 25, 2019, 8:30 am Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance

video & audio recordings

summary

Bruegel was excited to host this event where speakers and experts from a variety of fields discussed the evolving party alignments in the European Union. The results of the May 2019 European Parliament election have highlighted the rise of liberal-centrist, green and nativist parties, and a relative decline of the traditionally dominant centre-left and centre-right, against a backdrop of political mobilisation and higher turnout. As the political landscape of Europe continues to shift, its important to understand the ever-changing context in which EU politics occurs.

David Amiel, former policy adviser to President Emmanuel Macron, started the discussion with a presentation “Has the left-right divide become obsolete in EU politics?”. Amiel argued that the current collapse of traditional left-right parties has been happening before the crisis. The cause of this collapse is deep and structural. Traditional issues dividing the left/right are less relevant and intense. Right-wing parties do not intend to dismantle the welfare state and left parties accepted a globalized market economy. Right-wing parties adopted much of the individual rights issues such as gay marriage and women’s rights. Left-wing parties could no longer run on these issues and the issues that do fall into this dimension have become more niche. Both parties ignored new issues such as territorial inequalities, labour market polarization, multiculturalism, the environmental crisis, etc. Amiel also highlighted other causes such as excessive professionalization and technocratization of parties, within-party divisions, and naivete towards the globalization process. Amiel pointed out that a common creed that populist parties got right was “take back control”.

Amiel defined populism more as an attitude and less as an ideology, and as evidence points to studies from France that showed that psychological characteristics such as optimism was a good predictor of whether someone in the previous election voted for Macron or Le Pen — people being more optimistic being more likely to vote for Macron. To further this point, Amiel defined populism as an attitude and comprised of three key parts: An “us vs. them” mentality (the “them” can be immigrants, the elite, or some other group), violent attitude against the public institutions that enforce pluralism and democratic life, and questioning the establishment. Amiel stated that populism addressed the issues that main stream parties failed to address. Amiel sees individual rights like gay marriage and gender equality are very different from the immigration issue. In France the populist right does not make the individual rights a central issue but does make immigration a central issue. Amiel argued that for a strong welfare state and civic involvement individuals must have a sense of a commonality and believes that identity politics is not conducive to this goal of commonality. Identity politics will not lead the left-wing parties to political success. Economic issues are still the key.

Amiel’s advice to combat populism is to understand the root causes of populism, to not indulge in denial – do not pretend that populism is not a powerful force, acknowledge the legitimate concerns of populists, do not engage in moral denunciation, make a review of failures of the left and right parties, and provide alternative answers.

Silke Wettach, EU correspondent for WirtschaftsWoche, continued the discussion. Wettach asserted that the claim that the left and the right are dead is a very French perspective, and in Germany it is viewed that the traditional forces are going down. Wettach argued the question of do we want a strong state and how much redistribution do we want will not go away, and they have to be addressed by parties. Related to this, Wettech criticized the lack of attention Brussels pays to the question of redistribution. In terms of the rise of populism, Wettach pointed to fear of personal decline in income and insecurity as key components. On the rise of the green parties, Wettach argues their success was in part due to their tactic of a fairly empty canvass that people could project onto that canvass. Wettach rejected the idea that there is a peer effect where people see traditional parties eroding in the countries next door and this contributes to the erosion of traditional parties locally. On how to combat populism, Wettach advised that education, taking people’s fears seriously, and engagement are crucial.

Otilia Dhand, senior vice president of Teneo, provider her thoughts next. Dhand provided three reasons for why right-wing populism grew in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). The first reason was that many of the CEE countries joined the EU in 2004 and 2007, and when the crisis hit in 2008, they were negatively affected. The second reason was the austerity measures mandated by the EU. This act provided a target for local political parties to blame. The third reason is the cultural crisis caused by the immigration crisis. Dhand stated that CEE countries are very closed to immigrants and are often fairly racist. These three factors created compounded economic, social, and cultural insecurities that created an environment where simple solutions and strong leaders would be appealing. Dhand does think that in CEE countries peak populism has passed, and the sense of European liberal values being threatened is now forcing voters that were inactive for several years to return and vote. In order to stem the tide of populism Dhand suggests that the European Commission does not have a role to play, and at the country level give people power to understand what they actually wield in terms of active and passive voting.

Notes by Akira Soto

materials

Presentation by David Amiel

Schedule

Jun 25, 2019

08.30-09.00

Check-in and breakfast

09.00-10.10

Discussion

Chair: Nicolas Véron, Senior Fellow

David Amiel, Former Policy Adviser to President Emmanuel Macron

Otilia Dhand, Senior Vice President, Teneo

Silke Wettach, EU Correspondent, WirtschaftsWoche

10.10-10.30

Q&A

10.30

End

Speakers

David Amiel

Former Policy Adviser to President Emmanuel Macron

Otilia Dhand

Senior Vice President, Teneo

Nicolas Véron

Senior Fellow

Silke Wettach

EU Correspondent, WirtschaftsWoche

Location & Contact

Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels

Katja Knezevic

katja.knezevic@bruegel.org

Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

The Great Reversal-Causes and implications of the rising corporate concentration in the US

During this event, Thomas Philippon presented his thesis on market concentration and explained the reasons behind the rising corporate market power in the US.

Speakers: Thomas Philippon, Georgios Petropoulos and Reinhilde Veugelers Topic: Global Economics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: December 11, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Issues in productivity measurement

This Bruegel public event is organised in the framework of MICROPROD, a research project that aims to improve our understanding of productivity, its drivers and the way we measure it. Panellists and participants will take stock of the current challenges in productivity measurement, discuss the preliminary findings of the project and reflect on future research and policy priorities.

Speakers: Maria Demertzis, Filippo di Mauro, Alexandr Hobza, Peter Bøegh Nielsen and Lynda Sanderson Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: December 4, 2019
Read about event More on this topic

Past Event

Past Event

Better governance, better economies

This event will feature the presentation of the 2019 EBRD Transition report, which focuses on governance in the EBRD regions.

Speakers: Daniel Daianu, Beata Javorcik, Zsuzsanna Lonti and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Press Club Brussels Europe, Rue Froissart 95, 1000 Brussels Date: November 20, 2019
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Working Paper

The state of China-European Union economic relations

More can be done to capture the untapped trade and investment opportunities that exist between China and the EU. China’s size and dynamism, and its recent shift from an export-led to a domestic demand-led growth model, mean that these opportunities are likely to grow with time.

By: Uri Dadush, Marta Domínguez-Jiménez and Tianlang Gao Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: November 20, 2019
Read article More on this topic

Opinion

Politics, not policy will help Lagarde save the eurozone

Her success at helm of Europe’s central bank will depend on her ability to mend fences with hawkish policymakers.

By: Guntram B. Wolff and Rebecca Christie Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: November 4, 2019
Read article More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

How to Spend it

Can governments make their fiscal policy go further? And are they trusted enough to try? This week The Sound of Economics asks if the quality of public spending is as important as the quantity.

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Global Economics & Governance Date: October 23, 2019
Read article More on this topic

Blog Post

Talking about Europe: La Stampa 1940s-2010s

An on-going research project at Bruegel seeks to quantify and analyse printed media discourses about Europe over the decades since the end of the Second World War. In this third blogpost, we carry out the exercise on 9.9 million articles from an Italian daily newspaper, La Stampa. The trend increase in the frequency of European related articles, previously found looking at the French and German press, is confirmed in the case of Italy.

By: Enrico Bergamini, Emmanuel Mourlon-Druol, Francesco Papadia and Giuseppe Porcaro Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: October 22, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Podcast

Podcast

Brexit: a European Odyssey

Nicholas Barrett and Guntram Wolff talk to Kalypso Nicolaïdis, author of Exodus, Reckoning, Sacrifice: Three Meanings of Brexit. Together they discuss the mythology that binds Britain to continental Europe

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: October 11, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Opinion

Europe: en finir avec la politique en silos

Projetée dans un monde de rapport de force dont les principaux protagonistes ne séparent pas géopolitique et économie, l’UE va devoir conduire un changement de logiciel culturel, une mutation organisationnelle et un rééquipement opérationnel, explique l’économiste Jean Pisani-Ferry.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Date: October 8, 2019
Read article More on this topic More by this author

Blog Post

Thomas Piketty's New Book: Impressive Research, Problematic Solutions

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century blended history, statistics, and theory. Capital and Ideology his new magnum opus, is long enough (1,200 pages) to lump together several books: a quantitative history of inequality through time and space, from medieval Europe and ancient India to present-day societies; a largely noneconomic theory of social stratification; an investigation into the social roots of current populism; and a political manifesto for the European left.

By: Jean Pisani-Ferry Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: October 3, 2019
Read article More by this author

Blog Post

Why structural balances should be scrapped from EU fiscal rules

A prominent team from DG ECFIN of the European Commission challenged some of the criticisms of the EU’s methodology for estimating potential output and output gaps, as well as their role in the EU fiscal framework. In this post, I conclude that their responses to the criticisms they considered are questionable. More importantly, they overlook serious problems with the EU’s potential output methodology.

By: Zsolt Darvas Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Finance & Financial Regulation Date: October 1, 2019
Read article Download PDF More on this topic

Working Paper

EU trade policy amid the China-US clash: caught in the crossfire?

What risks face the EU with regard to China’s strategic aims in trade policy and how can the EU respond? The US effort to isolate China poses particular risks for Europe. How can the EU counter such efforts with the aim of forging its own distinct trade policy? How should the EU move forward with reform of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in light of differing demands and aims of trading blocs like China and the US?

By: Anabel González and Nicolas Véron Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: September 17, 2019
Load more posts