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article imageLiberals urge EU 'reinvention' to fight nationalism

By AFP     Sep 27, 2018 in World

Prominent liberal politicians from across Europe issued a clarion call for a "reinvented" Europe on Thursday, warning that rising nationalism threatened decades of peace since World War II.

"We refuse to be a new generation of sleepwalkers," the eight leaders wrote in an op-ed published in Britain's Guardian and France's Liberation newspapers as well as on the Spanish news website El Diario.

Ahead of European Parliament elections due next May, they hinted at the need for a shake-up of party alliances in Brussels, saying: "We are determined to go beyond existing partisan structures if they act as obstacles."

Europe's dominant centre-right bloc, the European People's Party, has been particularly divided over whether to kick out the populist party of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

"We must act now, or the European project will stall," the article said, warning that a century after World War I "our continent once again faces division and stagnation".

"Worse, it could be suffocated by nationalist and populist forces for whom the EU represents a historical anomaly that must be undone."

The letter was signed by Christophe Castaner -- the head of French President Emmanuel Macron's party -- as well as former Italian premier Matteo Renzi and Albert Rivera, leader of Spain's centre-right Ciudadanos.

Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat also signed it along with Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the liberal ALDE group of MEPs; Belgian politician Olivier Chastel; ex-Romanian premier Dacian Ciolos; and Alexander Pechtold of the Dutch party D66.

They urged the continent to come together and "reinvent Europe, to finally meet the expectations of its citizens".

The op-ed called for concrete solutions to the slew of problems facing Europe, including deep divisions over how to handle the wave of migrants arriving from across the Mediterranean.

And it accused far-right politicians such as Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and France's Marine Le Pen of offering nothing "beyond blaming the EU for all their evils".

"We have eight months to get Europe to wake up," it said.

It did not list any specific reforms sought by the authors, beyond calling for "a sovereign Europe capable of acting forcefully" in areas including the economy, defence and immigration.

"In our determination to reinvent Europe, nothing is ruled out," the op-ed added. "We are ready to reform the EU treaties if necessary."

Ahead of the European elections, a war of words is heating up between liberal centrists like Macron in favour of closer European cooperation, and anti-immigration nationalists such as Orban.

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