News > EM The Netherlands: High time for Europe to step up in defense of liberal values

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Participative democracy and civil dialogue, Post 2015 Agenda, Promoting fundamental rights

EM The Netherlands: High time for Europe to step up in defense of liberal values

Impressions of the EU Poort “Scenarios for a post-American Europe”, Dec 15, 2016

‘Europe has to step up urgently and engage in the defense of liberal values in a world which is scared, confused and increasingly polarized, and most likely abandoned by the US with more isolationist policies on the horizon after Trump’s election.’ This was one of the stark messages which The Guardian policy editor for Brexit and former Washington Bureau chief Dan Roberts shared with his audience in the EBN Urgency debate in Nieuwspoort on Thursday December 15.

The very animated debate set the tone for the crucial engagement with the great global transitions, which the EBN wishes to stimulate in the coming year. In the confusion after Brexit and the Italian referendum and in the leadup to crucial elections in several European member-states in 2017, the call for a vital rethink of Europe is growing louder by the day. Around the globe, we hear many voices urging a much more fundamental revisiting of the deeper causes of all the social unrest, uncertainty and malaise that also affect our continent. There are a wide variety of appeals to work much more energetically against isolationism and exclusion politics. In fact, the ‘Trump moment’ and ‘American retreat from the world’ according to some may also constitute a window of opportunity for the rest of the world to redraw its own positions and international relations, more independently of the American hegemon.

Dan Roberts gave a succinct analysis of the causes of Trump’s election and reflected on his recent transition back from the US to Europe. He commented on how Europe to outsiders, visitors and migrants still constituted a hugely attractive environment, for its organized communities, social safety nets, stable institutions and relative peace. But he emphasized that nothing should be taken for granted. Europe should free itself from its inward-looking anxiety, step up and relate more effectively to the changing world.

Wim Boonstra (Rabo bank) commented on the various ways in which European cooperation is currently under threat. High (youth) unemployment figures in many countries, in otherwise ageing societies, an unbalanced policy mix, with monetary policy losing its effectiveness, and little consensus in policy circles on how to move forward all undermine trust in the effectiveness of European cooperation. Better communication of the positive results of European integration is highly necessary, but not enough. Politicians should be fairer and stop abusing Europe, Boonstra maintained. He urged for safeguarding the internal market and the European freedoms, and a more pragmatic approach towards economic policy with more flexibility in times of recession. Boonstra made a plea for greater emphasis on how to increase the speed of reform in order to improve long-term growth potential and sustainability of public finance, improve labour market flexibility, access to quality education and social security to help people to adapt to change.

Kenyan former TV journalist and international relations lecturer Josh Maiyo approached the question of Europe’s new roles in the world from the perspective of the rapid geopolitical reshuffles, which are happening under our eyes. He commented in detail on the example of how China is stepping in the vacuum drawn by a too inward-looking Europe and an isolationist America. Maiyo – too – clamoured for Europe to regain a more significant role in promoting human rights and values, and fairer trade relations which could benefit the younger generations and development in Europe and Africa alike.

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