A profile of Philippe Legrain as part of the "In the EU We (Mis)Trust: on the road to the European elections" debate

Critically acclaimed thinker and former senior policy-maker Philippe Legrain will be a speaker at In the EU We (Mis)Trust: on the road to the European elections – an event ECF is organising in De Balie, Amsterdam on 10 April.

Legrain’s latest book, European Spring: Why Our Economies and Politics are in a Mess – and How to Put Them Right, is due to be published on 24 April. It starts with the following premise:

The present economic pain and fear of the future are poisoning politics too. Many people have lost faith in seemingly self-serving politicians, EU technocrats and elites in general, all of whom have so far failed to solve the crisis, let alone to set out a compelling vision of a brighter future. Social tensions within countries are multiplying, as are political frictions between them. Understandable anger at the flagrant injustice of bailouts for rich bankers and budget cuts for poor schoolchildren overlaps with a despicable scapegoating of outsiders, in particular immigrants. Scots will vote on whether to split from Britain in September 2014, Catalans from Spain in November. Germans and Greeks are at each other’s throats. The project that binds Europeans together – the European Union – has never been more unpopular; Britons may even vote to leave. The EU’s crowning achievement, the euro, is increasingly perceived as a sadomasochistic straitjacket. This anti-establishment, anti-foreigner, anti-EU mood is fertile ground for extremists and snake-oil salesmen. In May 2014’s European elections, xenophobic and reactionary parties such as Britain’s UKIP and France’s Front National and the PVV in the Netherlands look set to do exceptionally well. The far-left seems likely to top the poll in Greece. An anti-establishment movement headed by a clown may come first in Italy. Worst of all, many are losing faith in democracy itself.

Legrain emphasises the point that “the EU is in deep trouble” in this video interview with Joop Hazenberg. He explains the inability of politicians both at a national and European level to deal with the crisis, which results in “a collapse in trust in the EU”.

In all of his interviews and writings, Legrain proposes a different kind of Europe, an open Europe and new ways for a better democracy. Among the supporters of this call is philanthropist George Soros, who has said that “Philippe Legrain provides an original and insightful analysis of what has gone wrong with Europe’s economies and politics and a timely warning that the crisis ultimately threatens our open societies. Better still, he provides a blueprint for a brighter future and how to achieve it”.

ECF is proud to host Legrain on 10 April at the De Balie debate centre in Amsterdam as part of our New Pact for Europe project, which examines the challenges facing Europe today, and the strategic choices that need to be made.

We are looking forward to hearing Legrain’s voice on April 10. We hope that his contribution to the debate can set the ball rolling in the process of rebuilding our trust in Europe.

About Legrain

Philippe Legrain is a critically acclaimed thinker and communicator who has also been a senior policy-maker. From 2011 until February 2014, he was independent economic adviser to the President of the European Commission. From February 2011 until February 2014, he was head of the team that provides President Barroso with strategic policy advice. Before that, he was a visiting fellow at the London School of Economics’ European Institute and an independent consultant and commentator. He has also been special adviser to the Director General of the World Trade Organization; chief economist of Britain in Europe; editor of the magazine of the World Economic Forum; and trade and economics correspondent for The Economist. He is now setting up a new think-tank, OPEN: the Open Political Economy Network. Philippe is the author of three successful books, Open World: The Truth about Globalisation (2002), Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them (2007), which was shortlisted for the Financial Times Business Book of the Year award, and Aftershock: Reshaping the World Economy after the Crisis (2010). His new book, European Spring: Why Our Economies and Politics are in a Mess – and How to Put Them Right, is due to be published on 24 April.

More about Philippe Legrain in Dutch:

Column Philippe Legrain, “Een andere wereld”, Groene Amsterdammer, Imagining Europe edition (PDF, p. 14) “Europeanen zijn bezorgd dat hun beste dagen achter hen liggen. Mensen willen zich verbergen voor de wereld en zich terugtrekken.” […]

Highlight on Philippe Legrain in Dutch television programme Tegenlicht: “Het Westen maakt de zwaarste financiële crisis door sinds de jaren dertig. Europese overheden proberen steeds meer de eigen economieën en werkgelegenheid te beschermen. Legrain vindt dit onverstandig. Hij is een groot voorstander van vrije arbeidsmigratie. De strenge maatregelen die overal in het Westen genomen worden om dit te beperken, beschouwt hij als immoreel en oneconomisch.”