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Council of Europe: Battaini-Dragoni, the European project as the antidote to nationalism and populism

(Strasbourg) “Nationalism – as to which distinctions should be duly made, because we cannot tar everyone with the same brush – is threatening international cooperation and dialogue between nations, which are the foundation of peace. It pursues the primacy of national interests, even to the detriment of the interests of the broader European and international community. Nationalism tends to make ‘material’ interests prevail, even disregarding the fact that Europe is a ‘community of values’ that bring us closer, that bring our populations and States together. In addition, nationalism closes doors, lifts barriers. It is quite the opposite of what our countries need, as they cannot face the global challenges alone”. Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni is deputy general secretary of the Council of Europe. Interviewed by SIR about the latest news from Europe and the future of the continent, she analyses the phenomenon of nationalism and populism, which the CoE has arranged surveys, debates, measures about. In her opinion, the European project, as opposed to nationalist withdrawal, provides “a process of openness and solidarity: joining forces not to be insignificant, to strengthen our democracies and our economies, to better protect the citizens’ rights”.
What about populism? “The General Secretary’s yearly report explains how important it is to be accurate when we define populism that damages democracy, limits public debate, delegitimises dissent and reduces pluralism”. “Democratic governance – she points out – is fundamentally important. That’s why, as the Council of Europe, we insist on programmes to educate people to citizenship, because there’s a cultural problem, a problem of civic conscience, of taking personal responsibility for one’s local community and for one’s country, underneath it all. We should all focus on young people to arouse critical conscience, democratic culture and the values of solidarity and participation”.

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