On 21 April 2016, PDU Policy Officer James Bartholomeusz addressed the European Democrat Students conference in London.
Speaking as part of a panel discussion entitled ‘Tackle the Democratic Deficit – and defeat Populism?’ alongside Hans Blomeier of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and Pawel Swidlicki of Open Europe, James argued that the so-called democratic deficit is only a secondary cause of the recent rise of populist movements. Rather, the primary causes are far larger structural issues with the present state of Europe – prolonged economic malaise and the worst refugee crisis since 1945 – for which there are only common European solutions, including EU fiscal union and a robust foreign policy response to state collapse in the Middle East. Given that such elements of international political union are unpalatable without a properly democratic EU architecture, James suggested the title premise might be inverted: by taking the necessary steps to defeat the root causes of populism, the EU can overcome its democratic deficit.
James would like to thank EDS and the other panellists for a stimulating discussion. The Project for Democratic Union looks forward to future work with all three organisations.