Populism, racism and xenophobia have infected Europe

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Gianni Pittella [European Parliament]

We have been infected. The virus of populism, racism, xenophobia has affected Europe. This virus in Europe is named Le Pen in France, Farage in Great Britain, Orban in Hungary, 5 Star Movement in Italy, Kaczynski in Poland, writes Gianni Pittella.

Gianni Pittella is Chair of the group of Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament.

But the US is not immune. They have the same virus in their society. And this virus is represented by Donald Trump. In this new environment, Europe and the US must work closer together. And we, the progressive have to work together.

The Trump proposal for the US coming back to the so called `splendid isolationism` is not an option. An isolated America would be a risk for  the US itself and for the entire world.

Donald Trump is just not reliable.

His preaching about isolationism and confrontation cannot be the basis for responsible foreign policy.

The EU cannot do it alone. We need you. We need the United States of America. We need Hilary Clinton to become the next US President.

President Obama recently said that “the United Sates, and the entire world, needs a strong and prosperous and democratic Europe”. I do share, as European, this vision. However, we are in turbulent times in which different events are challenging this idea: Brexit has shocked all of us, including the American people, as a sign of the disintegration of Europe; terrorism is alarming our societies, spreading fear and death; the migration crisis is questioning the very fundamental basis of our world.

Making this picture worse, we are dealing with a governance system of the European Union that is ineffective and outdated and with a blind austerity that is stifling growth and investments.

This is not all. All around Europe is on fire. War is literally at our doorsteps. Making the thing even worse, in Turkey Erdogan is dragging the secular Turkish democracy into an authoritarian regime.

Business as usual is not an option. For Europe and for the US. We all have the responsibility in steering and tackling this new era. The world needs a reliable, effective and democratic Europe and US. The world surely does not need Trump or his European populist friends. We are not confronted with the decline of Europe or the US, we are confronted with the lack of political vision to face all these new global threats.

A globalisation without control and the blind austerity policy brought about a worldwide Economic crisis that alienated in particular the middle class and the less well-off. This is a mistake we made in Europe and also in the US in the last decades.

In these last years, Europe has focused too much on banks and finance and too little on people. We have to make it clear that the power of democracy must overcome the power of finance. We need, and we urge the EU Commission, to shape a new political roadmap starting with the social agenda. We appreciate in this sense the suggestions launched in the US Democratic Party for a progressive platform.

US-EU cooperation should not be only based on pragmatic interests. It should be based on common values. In this interconnected world we need an interconnected economy.

The EU and the US alone represent one third of the global trade exchange and half of the world`s GDP. It is crystal clear that TTIP can be a chance both for the US and the EU. But it must be also crystal clear that we need a progressive TTIP based on common values which protects and promotes consumers and citizens’ rights as well as the environmental and labour high standards.

We cannot negotiate a TTIP which increase the population’s fear about globalisation. Any trade deal should be backed by a majority of citizens. As much as for the economic field, also in the International arena we need a multi-polar alliance structured around the EU and the US. An alliance that necessarily must be open to other crucial players like Russia, China, Africa, even Iran. This alliance should work steady to reassure peace and stability in the conflict areas, Syria, Libya, Eastern Europe and sub-Saharan Africa in primis.

For years somebody imagined he could eradicate terrorism with bombs – do you remember Bush? – instead of eradicating the root causes: poverty, injustice, low grade of education, religious radicalisation. In one word: lack of democracy.

Now we have terrorism flourishing at home, in our societies and we must fight this threat back together without changing our DNA.

Hence, Africa is so important. Europe and the US share a common future with Africa. This future could be either one of threats and dangers, or a future of great opportunities for peace and development; it is up to Europe and the United States to decide the shape this future will take.

African countries must become one of our most strategic and close political partners. Migration, peace, security, climate change, counter-terrorism, development and education. We share the same challenges with Africa, and with Africa we must address all of them.

Together with that Hilary Clinton, the new US president, I’m sure that Europe and US will be able to shape a progressive future for next generations.

We deserve it.

Subscribe to our newsletters