Over the last decade, common features to democracies across Europe have been on the one hand the crisis of mainstream political parties, which supposedly have become incapable of performing their traditional role of representatives of people’s general interests, expectations and demands, and thus suffer of a deficit of legitimacy. And, on the other hand, the growth and proliferation of grass-root, “populist” parties and movements. The latter have been giving voice to opposition to immigration, multiculturalism, globalization, to concerns for the preservation of national, regional or ethnical identity and culture, and to a general discontent with the current political, economic and social order.
While it is difficult to offer a comprehensive definition of what populism is and to fit populist parties and movements into the traditional political divide between right and left, it is possible to identify some common traits, such as their anti-establishment rhetoric, their simplistic and emotional discourse, their hostility to elites in general and politicians in particular, their exaltation of the will, values and wisdom of the common man, the rejection of any constraints on popular sovereignty, the idea that change can occur only through a radical replacement of a (corrupt) ruling class, increasingly separated from the daily lives of ordinary people.
In a context in which the “European model” based on social rights, inclusion, welfare state seems to be constantly under attack, the democratic institutions appear to be powerless in governing economic and social events and the European Union is perceived mainly as an agent of enforced stability, populist movements will increasingly represent a challenge to the established political parties and system.
Against this background, the aim of the seminar, organized by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies, the Fondazione Italianieuropei and the Centro per la Riforma dello Stato, was to involve scholars and politicians into a debate on the implications of the emergence of these movements in the European political scenario, and for the evolution of democracy.
The seminar was organized around two sessions. The first one focusing on the development of the European party system and on the role of political parties today. The second one on the main features of grass-root movements, pirates, populist groups etc. across Europe and their challenge to established political parties.
10.00 Panel 1: Political parties in Europe
Massimo D’Alema, President of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies and the Fondazione Italianieuropei
14.30 Panel 2: Populist movements in Europe
Mario Tronti, President, Centro per la Riforma dello Stato
17.30 End of works