First off, here are the socialists:
Countering euroscepticism will be a central topic of the European socialist party’s campaign, according to Massimo D'Alema, the president of the the left-wing foundation FEPS, who worries about the surge of populist and extreme parties at next year's European election.A winner that: let's make the EU more socialist, less viable economically and give more power to the bureaucracy at the centre, then all those nasty populists will just turn into a little hoop and roll away.
Speaking to EurActiv, the president of the Foundation for European Policy Studies (FEPS) says that “the only way to counter such euroscepticism isn’t to defend Europe as it now exists."
“The socialist slogan of this campaign should be: ‘we want to change Europe’. We are not defending the current form of the EU,” he adds.
D’Alema is a former prime minister of Italy, who led two successive governments from 1998 to 2000. He now leads the foundation of the socialist political family on the European level, FEPS, which is involved in drafting the text that will serve as European common manifesto for the socialists' campaign.
“We cannot ignore what the eurosceptics are saying,” he says. “We must take it into account. But the problem is how to answer to their arguments; how to offer an answer – including technical solutions. This is our duty as traditional political parties. Populists don’t offer such answers.”
The EPP, the supposedly Centre-Right grouping is concerned but sees no reason to panic:
These worries are shared by the centre-right European People's party (EPP). At a recent event in the European Parliament, the deputy director of the European Peoples Party's political foundation the Centre for European Studies, Roland Freudenstein, addressed these alarmist calls, stressing that “there is reason to worry" but "no reason to panic".Presumably, the knowledge that turn-out for European elections falls every five years gives these worried but not panicky people heart: they will get back to the trough as most people will not be bothered to vote for anybody.
“Populists are problem seekers, not problem solvers. This means we should not shy away from addressing the topics they address,” he said. “The worse reaction would be to cry out: ‘Help, the Barbarians are at the gate; we have to team up’.”
We shall have to wait till February and March of next year to see what the various manifestos say. Meanwhile, there is a slight tinge of worry among some:
There is a risk that the upcoming campaign becomes a battle of pro-EU politicians versus anti-EU politicians. “This will benefit the Eurosceptics, and not the pro-Europe camp,” argues Paul Taggart, who studies Eurosceptic parties from across Europe at the University of Essex.When I read comments like that with the clear lack of understanding of how the whole principle of the EU differs from simple policy making I take heart. These people cannot win an IN/OUT referendum. Then I remember that there are many on that side who are smarter than this denizen of the University of Essex. Also I look at our side and read their comments. Then I despair.
It also distorts a debate on policy, Taggart says: “A normal [political] debate would be to have a range of different opinions. If politicians discuss the welfare state, you don’t hear a debate on whether you should have one or not; you hear a variety of positions.”