Europe has always been divided between those who want to build walls and those who want to tear them down, but the two sides have become even more entrenched following the refugee crisis. The wealth built through free trade and movement is under threat from calls to reinstate border controls, while the UK referendum on membership in June threatens to completely destabilise the cooperation.
Political party The Alternative (Alternativet) thinks that the EU has failed in its primary role as a peacemaking force. They criticise its passive behaviour and delayed reaction to major challenges, and is now calling for change.
In March, the party launched a new political campaign, ‘We Are Bigger Than This,’ to instill hope in the European project. The campaign was launched at a summit at the Danish parliament that was organised with help from British think tank Compass and together with 70 politicians and individuals from across Europe.
Hope for Europe
Alternativet, which was first elected to Parliament last June, is known for its novel approach to politics. In addition to its manifesto, the party is guided by six core values – including humility, empathy and humour – and develops its policies through so-called political laboratories.
So perhaps it wasn’t surprising that they held the meeting in ‘the Hope room,’ workshopping solutions to problems such as the refugee crisis and climate change.
The initiative, however, is not merely an intellectual brainstorming process – it is also a model for how to rebuild and strengthen the European community.
“We must stand together, think bigger while strengthening personal leadership, so that the individual takes responsibility for communities and for democracy as a whole, both locally and across Europe,” says Alternativet’s leader Uffe Elbæk.
British MP for the Greens, Caroline Lucas, supports the movement, saying that politicians “lack the courage to step up” and share the responsibility of tackling the problems facing Europe.
Italy’s eurosceptic Five Star Movement was also present at the meeting.
“To solve the crises we face, it is very important to make connections and collaborations across Europe to exchange ideas,” says Italian MP Mirko Busto. “If we do not work together, we run the risk of being drowned out by the voices of fear that are undermining European cooperation.”
Alternativet is not alone in its desire for greater pan-European cooperation. This year also saw the launch of the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) by the former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. The movement addresses many of the same issues, but with a greater focus on increasing the transparency and accountability of the EU.
This was made clear at the movement’s launch in Berlin earlier this year, which included Alternativet MP Rasmus Nordqvist as a keynote speaker, alongside prominent public figures such as Varoufakis, Slavoj Žižek, and Julian Assange.
While a collaboration between DiEM25 and Alternativet is already in motion, the two movements have a number of differences.
DiEM25 is a pragmatic and well-established operation, with a thorough manifesto and goals to be achieved by 2025 regarding migration, public debt, investments, banking and poverty.
The same cannot be said of the ‘We Are Bigger Than This’ campaign, which has yet to develop concrete proposals for reaching its goals. The rhetoric on the website is even less decisive – “[Europe is] a continent where suspicion melts into trust,” and “we combine smart brains and warm hearts.”
Is the campaign running on empty buzzwords? An Alternativet representative stated that its main purpose at the moment is raising awareness and creating a debate across Europe.
What both initiatives have in common, however, is a wish to strengthen the EU. The question is whether the movement can gain more momentum than the forces that would happily pull it apart. M