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European elections. Mons. Hollerich (COMECE): “Populism in Europe is not the answer to the political crisis”

Interview with the President of EU bishops Msgr. Hollerich: "Populists made big gains in some EU countries but suffered losses in others. It’s clear that populism is not the answer to the political crisis in Europe.” Commenting on the Italian vote he said: "Italy’s economy over the past years has been a disaster. Today, people are poorer than they were ten years ago, which is not the case in all other Western Countries. People experience this problem and voted for those who made promises"

“My first observation is that many people went to vote. And this is a very positive figure. In recent months, we bishops invited people to go to the polls and we saw that these elections were important for the people. This is a very positive fact.” Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg, President of the Commission of the EU Bishops’ Conferences (COMECE), commenting the first results of the 2019 European elections starts from here, from the signs of hope. Msgr. Hollerich, in Rome to attend a conference in the Vatican press room for the presentation of the Pope’s Message for the Day of the Migrant and Refugees, analyses the European vote on this very important day for the EU.

How do you interpret the vote?

The two largest groups combined have clearly lost their majority in Parliament. It will thus be necessary to consider an alliance with a third political group which is a good thing because it forces them not to focus on their programmes but to see what’s important for the people in the talks with the other group. The populist parties performed strongly, but not enough to make Parliament ungovernable. This will compel other political parties to make policies that benefit the public. Populists made big gains in some EU countries but suffered losses in others. Populism is clearly not the answer to the political crisis in Europe. The Netherlands, Denmark and Austria, registered the opposite trend. And finally, future alliances between the political groups must also be considered. It is therefore very difficult to comment on anything today. Now it’s important to see what will happen in Brussels. I hope that everything will be done in transparency, that people will be able to see, follow and have confidence in the institutions of the European Union.

What do you think of the youth “Green” vote?

It is a very important figure. I regard this as an important point, too, because

all other parties will have to be mindful of ecology if they don’t want to lose the vote of young people in the future.

And this is a very good thing also in the light of Pope Francis’ strong commitment in support of integral ecology centred on the human person. The Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon region will also be important for Europe. Laudato Si’ has an impact on politics and it will continue to do so.

Populist parties won in Italy and France. Why in these two Countries in particular?

Perhaps we should focus on the national context. Let’s take Italy. It’s a great European nation that I love for its culture, its art and its literature. But Italy’s economy over the past years has been a disaster. Today, people are poorer than they were ten years ago, which is not the case in all other Western Countries, that lead a better life. I think that the people who experience this problem voted for those who made promises. I also think that populism has been chosen because of migration.

Europe left Italy alone.

Solidarity has been described as one of Europe’s founding pillars. But the Dublin Agreement proved to be ineffective, thereby leaving Italy and Greece alone to face this reality. Europe cannot be built on these grounds. The parties of the future majority will have to understand this.

What should be Europe’s answer to populisms?

identity is becoming increasingly important. And this happens at a time when societies are faced with structural transformations. Populisms, however, propose a simple identity while sociological sciences argue that

identity is an extremely complex and ever-changing matter.

We should be proud to be Italian. It’s not a bad thing but it is equally necessary to develop the European part of one’s own identity without denying the other, for Europe is not the denial of nations but rather their union.

What is the Church’s wish for the men and women who are going to populate the European Parliament?

To carry out fair, ecological policies, based on social justice.

Politics that benefit every European citizen. Look at the people. Don’t behave like an elite group that talks to other elite groups but as female and male politicians who engage in dialogue with the people.

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