Instead of cowering in the face of right-wing populists and lowering ourselves to their level, we on the left should offer a truly progressive vision of hope. The first 25 years of the Copenhagen Criteria have provided us with a relatively strong base to building upon, but we are at a turning point. We in PES must challenge the quasi-authoritarians within our midst like Orban in Hungary and Kaczyński in Poland by providing people with an option of hope, solidarity, democracy, the rule of law and a respect for human rights. But we shouldn’t simply point fingers at the former Eastern Bloc counties. The western states, such as France and the UK, have also seen steps backwards with the rule of law and democracy. They are far from infallible. We must all take responsibility and strive for better.
We, social democrats, should not simply rely on our noble past; we, of course, should embrace our past triumphs as opponents of authoritarianism and bastions of democracy but also outline our progressive vision for Europe built upon strengthened Copenhagen Criteria and values in Article 2 TEU.