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Published on Jun 25, 2012
http://www.euronews.com/ Anger at the ballot box. It's unseated 11 European leaders since the financial crisis began. That's in part because mainstream parties on the right and left have lost so much ground to populist extremes. In France, the far right was the spoiler for Nicolas Sarkozy, driving him further to the right in the second round of his failed re-election bid. Greece has had trouble creating a new government because of polarisation, in a struggle over austerity measures imposed by the EU, with its membership in the Euro zone at stake. Serbia elected a nationalist eurosceptic president who refuses to recognise an independent Kosovo. Irish voters, however, did approve the EU's belt-tightening fiscal treaty by 60 percent, a relief to supporters who feared the worst. How can mainstream parties counter the populist tendencies that seduce so many voters today? Or is Europe headed for more divisive politics, at a time when consensus is desperately needed?
Chris Burns, euronews: Wired into this edition of The Network is, from Athens, Aristides Hatzis, Professor of Legal Theory at the University of Athens.
From Paris, Philippe Moreau-Defarges, Political Scientist at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI).
And from the European Parliament in Brussels, Marco Incerti, Research Fellow and Head of Communications at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).
Let's start with a question for all of you, starting with Aristides. How much of a threat do populist parties pose in Europe because of this voter anger? Are we headed for a divided, ungovernable Europe, and what could that mean for the euro, and Europe itself?
Aristides Hatzis: Actually, this is going to be a very dangerous path. I'm really afraid that this is the beginning of a slippery slope to authoritarianism, to protectionism and certainly to more economic inefficiency.
Chris Burns: Philippe, what is your opinion on that? Are we heading down a slippery slope?
Philippe Moreau-Defarges: Yes. Because the major issue in the European Union today is young people unemployment. If the European Union is unable to settle that issue - to find a way out - it's clear that many young people will vote for populist parties. It's why it's a real problem.
Chris Burns: Marco, it sounds pretty hopeless doesn't it? Or does it?
Marco Incerti: It does. It makes it very difficult to form governments at the national level at a time when governments and leadership are badly needed. But also this undermines the mutual confidence between member states and the citizens of those member states, which is one of the pillars on which European integration rests.
Chris Burns: And this comes at a really crucial moment when many say we need more European integration but so many voters are opting for these euro-sceptic parties. How to persuade voters of what needs to be done. Aristides.
Aristides Hatzis: People in Europe are in a state of shock for the reasons we mentioned, but also they are in a state - especially in Greece - a state of denial. There are two solutions for me. The first is the institutional one. You should have institutional structures that ensure democracy and also prosperity. But also we should emphasise, and we should give whatever we can to education, to better education.
Chris Burns: OK. Philippe, how concerned are you that populist parties will gain in other member states? Does this mean the EU is highly unlikely to get a new governing treaty, which it might need if it wants to tighten up on integrating its governing aspect?
Philippe Moreau-Defarges: Yes, you're right. It's very difficult. Probably today we need a new 'Churchill', you know somebody able to convince populations that we need this too today. What we can say, if the European Union is destroyed there is no future for Europe.
Chris Burns: Marco, how concerned are you that populist parties will gain in other countries within Europe, and how much is that threatening this process of trying to find a solution for the financial crisis?
Marco Incerti: I am very concerned. It doesn't have to do only with the financial crisis. You talk about immigration in Greece or France and that is a burning issue. I think it's also unfortunately a 'chicken-and-egg' problem, that is, one of the solutions would be to deliver more at the European level but to do that you need to take those bold institutional steps that the leaders have been unable to provide so far.