On the 8th February 2016, European Alternatives / Talk Real hosted a special episode of their webshow. In this episode, appearing a day before the launch of the new pan-European movement, DiEM 25 [Democracy in Europe Movement 2025], an all star cast discussed problems with European democracy and the way forward.
Since 2007, it’s become commonplace to hear talk of a European crisis, however, since the end of 2013, one crisis has become two, then three, then four. Threats of a Brexit, critical events in Greece and Ukraine, the arrival of an influx of refugees and subsequent disagreements about how to respond to this movement of peoples have all led to talk of varied European crises. And, as austerity packets continue to cut and the spectre of another economic crash looms, democratic and liberal ideas have been put under pressure throughout the continent. In Hungary and in Poland, governments appear to be undermining the democratic process, the European Commission has come under pressure for its lack of transparency in TTIP negotiations and radical alternatives have been springing up across the political spectrum in opposition to what is perceived to be the failure of mainstream politics and political institutions. In particular, there has been a return to nationalist rhetoric, with national populists gaining across the continent and European unity increasingly showing strain on a range of different issues.
Yet, on Tuesday the 9th February, a new political alternative emerged which in many ways differs to those already in existence; both in eschewing traditional party political structures and in terms of its international format. In their manifesto DiEM 25 [Democracy in Europe Movement 2025] lay out their stall in this respect, when they announce: “We consider the model of national parties which form flimsy alliances at the level of the European Parliament to be obsolete. While the fight for democracy from below (at the local, regional or national levels) is necessary, it is nevertheless insufficient if it is conducted without an internationalist strategy towards a pan-European coalition for democratising Europe. European democrats must come together first, forge a common agenda, and then find ways of connecting it with local communities and at the regional and national level”.
An ambitious undertaking, starting off at an international level rather than building up from below, however, can the self-acclaimed new movement for European democracy, DiEM 25, persuade people to support them where many of their predecessors have tried and failed? Varoufakis himself has stated that success is far from certain, but perhaps it is precisely now in this time of crises that there is the groundswell of support for real change which has been lacking in the past.
While the recent need to resort to cross party co-operation to keep out the Front Nationale in France, the rise of Donald Trump in the US and the election of PiS in Poland show the growing appeal of nationalist populism, Labour’s election of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, the progression of Podemos in Spain and the current trajectory of Bernie Sanders in the US have nonetheless raised hopes amongst many on the left that progress can now be made. The director of European Alternatives, Lorenzo Marsili, himself evoked this sense of openness to change amongst many European progressives in his opening speech to the debate on the 8th February, when he stated that: “Today, we feel trapped between a rock and a hard place. Squeezed between a failing and undemocratic European Union and equally failing and undemocratic national states. But, beyond sterile arguments over the benefits of an independent nation-state or of a united Europe, we think that what we should really be talking about is how to organise to transform both”.
Is DiEM 25 the answer to these failings, the missing piece which can help us transform both our national and international institutions and develop a more effective, more inclusive democracy in Europe? A frank debate looked at the issues with European democracy and chances for change and you can watch the exchange in the following video of Talk Real’s build-up debate, streamed live from Berlin’s Volksbühne on the 8th February, below.
Marisa Matias – Portuguese MEP and 2016 Bloco de Esquerda Presidential Candidate
Valentina Orazzini – European Representative of the Italian trade union FIOM/CGIL
Sławomir Sierakowski – Sociologist, Political Commentator and a co-founder and leader of Krytyka Polityczna
Yanis Varoufakis – Economist and former Greek Finance Minister
Lorenzo Marsili – Director and Co-Founder of European Alternatives
European Alternatives is a transnational civil society organisation and citizen’s movement, promoting democracy, equality, and culture beyond the nation state.
They act in the belief that the most urgent political, cultural and social challenges of our time can no longer be understood or dealt with at the national level and that, at the same time, existing forms of technocratic global and European governance are neither democratic, just, nor fair. Thus, they state that new forms of transnational collectivity must be fostered to give citizens democratic control over their future.
They believe that the emergence of real democracy in Europe is not only about institutions, but also, and especially, about constructing effective transnational practices of participation, solidarity and cultural invention. And, they assert that the current inability of citizens and civil society to co-ordinate action across national borders leaves space for non-democratic forces to dictate our politics.
They stand for the principle of solidarity and see in both current political institutions and dominant economic models the causes of rampant inequality. In contrast to existing institutions, they seek the imaginative resources required to create new forms of transnational communities in culture and the arts.
You can find out more about European Alternatives on their own website: https://euroalter.com/
If you are already convinced by what you have seen and heard here, then you can head straight to their action page, where you can find out how to get involved yourself: http://action.euroalter.com/
About Talk Real:
Talk Real is the European Alternatives’ new internet-based talk show. Recordings for Talk Real are realised in co-operation with Piroetta productions and a wide network of activists and provide the platform for in depth discussion of radical perspectives. The show is directed by Berardo Carboni, a cinema director and one of the early occupiers of the Teatro Valle Occupato, and seeks to create an opening to a world, transformed by the tensions and energies that run through our societies. Talk Real is currently looking to build a wide alternative media network to participate in and to disseminate its programmes – current participants include openDemocracy, the Italian daily, Il Manifesto, the online activist magazine, ROAR, and the spotlight on eastern European activism, LeftEast.
You can view all of Talk Real’s broadcasts on their YouTube channel at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ9vnyjjj0cJ7Ij7cXVkdpw
The newly launched Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 states that Europe must democratise or risk disintegration.
Quoting the well-known aphorism attributed to Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing”, DiEM 25 calls upon democrats throughout the continent to act together to create a “a Europe of reason, liberty, tolerance and imagination, made possible by comprehensive transparency, real solidarity and authentic democracy”.
Recording from the launch of DiEM 25 on the 9th February 2016:
Visit DiEM 25’s own website to find out more about and to participate in the movement: http://diem25.org/