EHF: “Words are not enough to tackle populism in Europe”

8 November 2013

On the 5th of November 2013, the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the Vice-President of the European Parliament, László Surján, held a high level meeting in Brussels with representatives of the philosophical and non-confessional organisations. The topic discussed was Putting citizens at the heart of the European project in times of change”. This meeting was organized on the basis of the Lisbon Treaty (Article 17 of the TFUE) which commits the EU to
an “open, regular and transparent” dialogue with religious communities and non-confessional organisations.

The President of the European Humanist Federation (EHF), Pierre Galand, was invited to the meeting and took the opportunity to raise several questions about the rise of populism in Europe. “We are deeply concerned by the growing far-right extremism is Europe, said Pierre Galand. In many European Member States, populist groups have reinforced nationalism and strengthened racism, xenophobia and sometimes homophobia, during the last decade. These groups are harmful to the health of European democracies.”

The European Humanist Federation made several recommendations on how to tackle populism in Europe. Among the recommended measures was creation of a mechanism – analogous to the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission – in order to monitor the respect of the rule of law and fundamental rights by all EU Member States. “The EHF is happy to see that such a mechanism is gaining wide support, including in the 2012 draft report on the situation of fundamental rights in the EU, said Pierre Galand. Following this body’s advice, the European Commission should implement “smart sanctions” so as to force the concerned Member States to respect these criteria without disadvantaging the country population”.