The rise of populists threatens not only Europe, but the political landscape of the entire Western world. 2017 can be crucial for the survival of the European Union: Several EU-countries have presidential and parliamentary elections and right-wing populists have attempted for a long time to seduce voters by exploiting the Union’s crises. Is the European project about to collapse? Many Europeans defiantly stand up for the continent’s unity in order to revive its common values and freedoms.
A pro-European voice becomes louder
A new public campaign called Pulse of Europe is gaining a foothold on Europe’s streets. Interestingly, it is a campaign that is fighting for an idea, a rarity in the era of the so-called “enraged citizens” who go on the barricades against everyone and everything. The protestors want to express what is at stake with the collapse of the Union: a project that has been safeguarding peace, freedom and the rule of law in Europe since World War 2. The organisers of the first demonstration explain that their primary goal is to make the European spirit publicly visible again.
A grassroots movement
In order to fulfil this goal, thousands of Europeans gather on public places every Sunday at 2pm in different cities like Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris, Hamburg, Straßburg, Brussels, Munich, Bremen and Lisbon. However, it all started in Frankfurt when 250 citizens met in the city’s European quarter in November 2016. The movement has been growing ever since: Today, smaller German cities like Essen, Wiesbaden, Passau, Stuttgart, Kassel, Heidelberg, Celle, Hannover and Halle also joined the call for unity.
The Existence of the European Union is at stake
“For Europe it’s all or nothing now”, warns Pulse of Europe in its manifesto. One of the major motivations of the first demonstrations was the so-called “Brexit” vote in June 2016. Now, the focus lies on the upcoming elections in the Netherlands (March 15th), Bulgaria (March 26th), France (April 23rd) and Germany (September 24th). The elections in the Netherlands and in France could become especially dramatic. The right-wing populist Geert Wilders, who wants to lead his country out of the EU, is leading in current polls. Similarly, Marine Le Pen would most likely succeed in the first round of the presidential election in France according to nearly all polls. Her party, the “National Front”, is heavily supported by the Kremlin and is campaigning against the Euro-zone and against the freedom of movement in Europe. Even in Germany the populists are on the rise with the so-called “Alternative for Germany”, which also fosters tight ties with the elites in Moscow. In regards to these anti-European threats, one of the founders of Pulse of Europe concludes: “The EU is not without any deficits, but in order to improve it, it must not collapse now”.
Not just cheerleaders
At the same time, most of those who participate in the Pulse of Europe movement do not consider themselves as “cheerleaders of the EU”. They rather want to express that the EU needs to be reformed in order to safeguard its existence. On their website they summarise their motivation: “We are convinced that the majority of people believe in the fundamental idea of the European Union and its reformability and development and does not want to sacrifice it to nationalist tendencies.” Thus, their ten-points-manifesto does not only contain the acknowledgement of the European fundamental freedoms but also the unambiguous demand for change, namely: “The European idea must be better appreciated and understandable for the man in the street. It must start at the bottom and carried upwards”.
The organisers want to bring the Pulse of Europe into all major European cities. For more information click here http://pulseofeurope.eu.