The result of the Dutch election is no longer a wakeup call, but there are some lessons to be drawn. The winner is the mobilisation of citizens for democracy, as participation in this – non-compulsory - election reached nearly 80%. Furthermore we are all happy that the leader of the ‘one member party’ did not become the strongest party, although it does now have too many parliamentarians in the new Tweede Kamer. Even if Wilders did not manage to get the most seats, he has managed to impose his agenda on the public debate and some have been tempted to toy with his topics hoping to attract voters. As usual it does not pay to echo populist talk, because the voters prefer the original to the copy. Furthermore, the usual effect is that right wing populist arguments are brought into the political mainstream, and this is by no means only a Dutch problem. In a way, tolerance has its limits. The provocation from Turkey also played a role, with the government giving a clear reply, but only the leading party benefitted from it. With new parties entering the Parliament and a possible coalition, even more political compromise will be needed and Wilders may again try to take advantage of this.
In the approach to the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty we can at least go to Rome, leave nostalgia behind and turn our attention instead to a programme of civic engagement in a Europe of values and solidarity. At different moments we will highlight the vision of the Europe we strive for. Some voices expressed concern that by being critical of some European developments we would add to Euro-scepticism. And some social arguments are even being used by the far right. This is a concern, although the fundamental problem lies in the undervaluing of the social dimension and the unilateral focus on markets, competition and competitiveness, the non-respect of the Treaty’s objective of social and territorial cohesion. This is what we will continue to criticise, as this feeds disappointment and disengagement, while we remain engaged with union, progressive civil society and parties to strive for change!
Civil society remains a “force de proposition” and in this sense we will continue to contribute to the European integration project, to challenge it and to defend it against the coalition of destroyers whether from inside or outside of the EU. Vi aspettiamo tutti a Roma: l’Europa siamo noi!
This editorial appeared in the Weekly Round Up of 17 March 2017.