Populists chairing the European Commission and Parliament

No, the title of this post does not refer to a dystopia to come after the next European elections in 2019. It refers to the two presidents of today – Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz. Now why can they be seen as populists in some plausible way? In my view, this is because of the way in which they see politics and the role of the “people” in it.

The day after the referendum both Juncker and Schulz pressed for the UK to trigger the Article 50 TEU procedure as quickly as possible. Schulz was reported to have consulted EP lawyers how this could happen even in the absence of a formal notification from the UK government. Juncker, in turn, wants UK members of EP out of the assembly soon and acts as if the UK is not a member of the EU anymore – e.g. by not using English in his official communications anymore. The British people have spoken and that is the end of the matter, they seem to suggest.

For a populist the „will of the people“ is the ultimate source of authority – no matter what legal provisions and political conventions may have to say. I know this a very crude understanding of populism, which would put Orbán and Kaczyński very close to any supporter of the idea of direct democracy. But it is an understanding of populism now very much current in certain circles, which want to delegitimize any opposition to certain EU policies as “populist”, if made in the name of the people – such as the Greek Syriza or the Spanish Podemos.

In reality, however, there is no pure „will of the people“. It is always moderated and mediated, if only through how the matter is put to people’s decision, or by how „the people“ is/are to be understood ...

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