A major concern regarding the future of Europe and the upcoming European elections is clearly the narrow-nationalist and xenophobic populist threat.

For EU leaders and policymakers, fighting regressive populism is a matter of sanctioning non-compliance of Member States with the European values and democratic principles, the rule of law and respect for Human rights and civil liberties.

funding conditionality is a way to address this along the Commission proposals for the next EU budget. For indeed, the existing measures, such as infringement procedures or the sanctioning mechanisms provided by art. 7 of the Lisbon treaty proved inefficient so far in countering current and preventing future abuses. While this idea is quite appealing in European circles, it is less popular among local actors. Some worry about the potential negative side effect on population, with the risk of reinforcing regressive trends.

As the Commission sets out its budget for the coming years, it must remember one important thing: The struggle for the soul of Europe is happening in local communities, regions, towns, villages. Without adequate funding, those who want to see a brighter, more open Europe will lose faith in their dream.” So
writes Robert Biedroń, the mayor of Słupsk in Poland, in the last days of July. He suggests, in turn, a redirection of funding programmes to the local levels in case of national governments’ deficiency in observing the rule of law.

And this idea looks appealing as well. Indeed, going local and backing values with money can be thought as a weapon to
Make Europe Great for All along the promise of the EU proclaimed values and objectives.

But are funding sanctions or shortcuts the right and most meaningful way of putting the European values at the core of European policies? Let us doubt about this.

What do public policies need to tackle first and foremost in order to be serious in confronting regressive populism? We say inequality and fears.

Raising inequalities between countries and inside countries reflect first and foremost the way globalisation has been and still is conducted. Is the European Union addressing the issue in a way that answers people’s fear of insecure future, which for many replaced hope? Do European policies provide a convincing answer to the claim by regressive forces all around the continent that policies should divide between a so-called “us”, a self-defined shared community, inside, and “them” they want excluded, outside?

When the main policy slogan both at EU and national levels is to “help each one be competitive in the global economy”, people’s fears are not addressed the proper way.

Today, people need first answers to the problems they feel. There is no alternative but policies ensuring effective access to basic rights for all. For the rich and the poor, the unemployed and the start-upper, man and woman, the disabled and the front-runner,… Healthcare, education, housing, decent work… cannot be “optional” within our societies. They should be the basic commons. They should be at the heart of EU and national policies.

Coming back to the future European budget, it has to reflect the claimed values of the European project, including through direct funding to local authorities and to civil society sector. Not against the vote of some member states, not to enter confrontation, but because it is the very reason of being part of the European project.

As we are few weeks ahead from celebrating the 70th anniversary of the United Nation proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, let us recall its article 29, 1st alinea: “Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.” Let us say it another way. A society that negates the legitimacy of rights for some, whatever the reason, can only see the rights of the many delegitimized.

That is the issue the EU needs to address, in practice, to counter regressive populism.

#MakeEuropeGreatforAll #MEGA

P.S. Is this the life we really want?