EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: European politics is showing a distinct trend towards populism, as evidenced inter alia by the electoral results in Italy, Sweden, and Austria. The main reason for this shift is widespread insecurity over the outcomes of the migrant crisis. The rise of populism is likely to be a major factor in the 2019 EU parliamentary elections.
Populism in Europe as a civilizational legacy has a deeply rooted history dating back to Greco-Roman antiquity. As was recorded by classical historians like Livy, the overarching political structure of the Roman Republic was pierced by populism that arose as a result of loopholes in the system. The opposition of Publius Claudius to Roman nobility during the late Republic reflected the way populist discourse functioned in the classical world.
The principles that emerged after WWII in Europe – such as systems of social welfare, social democracy, and cultural integration – tempered the power of populist discourse as a political tool. Moreover, the mass migration of political refugees from eastern to western Europe during the Cold War encouraged the acceptance of refugees and asylum seekers, which came to represent a display of European values.