The Brief: The revolt of the citizens

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Brussels did its best to read the tea leaves today to figure out the fate of Theresa May and when the Brexit negotiations will actually start after an inconclusive election in the UK.

May did not win and the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did not lose (which is different of saying she lost and he won).

Voters rewarded the cheerful and grassroots campaign led by the once no-hoper left-wing candidate, and punished the predictable and personal campaign orchestrated by the “strong and stable” May.

The result was read as a new blow to the establishment, in the wake of the June Brexit vote, Donald Trump’s election and even the rise of Emmanuel Macron, which has shaken the political landscape in France.

But above all it was a victory for community-based efforts and a defeat for ‘top-down’ condescending lecturing.

As the economic crisis fuelled social unrest, voters turned to those who offered answers, albeit simple ones, to their concerns. Faced with increased populism across Europe, EU leaders pledged to start listening to their citizens more closely.

But Europe needs more than responsive politicians and half a dozen reflection papers to relaunch its project. It needs a new approach to rebuild Europe.

The 60-year-old elite-driven EU must open the floodgates to the Europeans, or the citizens’ wave will raze the EU machinery to the ground.

While official efforts like the European Citizens’ Initiative haven’t yielded any noticeable results, citizens are taking matters into their own hands.

The Corbyn campaign drew young people in huge numbers. Almost half of Macron’s candidates for this weekend’s parliamentary elections are entrepreneurs, farmers, doctors, teachers, firemen and there’s even a fighter pilot.

The momentum (as Corbyn’s grassroots movement is also called) is growing and threatens to turn party politics into citizens’ politics.

In a new social media-powered era, Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said democracy “has to adapt” as citizens stand up in new ways, although shortfalls must be addressed.

Billionaire investor George Soros added that Jean Monet’s top-down EU “needs to be radically reinvented”.

And Professor Alberto Alemanno has shown us how citizens can succeed when they know how to make their voices heard.

In “The Revolt of the Masses”, Ortega y Gasset warned about the ‘mass-man’ and the threat posed to democracy in the context of fascism.

Almost a hundred years later, a revolt of the citizens may be the only way to transform our desired world into a reality.


Theresa May’s election mishap sent shockwaves through Brussels today. The leaders of the European Parliament’s three main groups couldn’t resist gloating, while Commission Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier kept a cooler head and urged cooperation.

Pick your way through the EU’s neighbourhood policy minefield and see how the bloc aims to boost security and prosperity on its borders with EURACTIV’s latest Presidency debate video. And check out Tweets of the Week for the lowdown on the UK election, EU defence plans and the Development Days conference.

Arancha González, the executive director of the International Trade Centre, told that slave labour is still present in value chains and transparency is the only cure.

Development experts have warned that small farmers are often overlooked in the fight against poverty, despite the fact they produce 70% of the world’s food. The European Public Services Union said the private sector should be kept out of EU aid policy.

The Commission plans to reshuffle its development budget to beef up digital infrastructure in Africa, while promoting the bloc’s tech regulations and opening markets for European investors.

France’s new Defence Minister Sylvie Goulard has welcomed the EU’s proposal on deepening defence integration. Commissioner Pierre Moscovici admitted the bloc had never been able to cooperate in the past but said “this time it will work”.

The EU executive asked member states for a mandate to open negotiations with Russia over the legal framework for the offshore sections of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.

Critics of the EU’s trade policy warn the bloc has learned nothing from its TTIP mistakes. Angela Merkel yesterday met her Argentinian counterpart in an attempt to kick-start stalled Mercosur trade talks.

Catalonia’s government says it will hold an independence referendum on 1 October but Madrid insists the plan is illegal and has vowed to use any means necessary to block it.

Samuel White contributed to this Brief.


France’s first round of legislative elections get under way and Kosovars go to the polls too.

Views are the author’s.

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