Member of the Month: Friedrich Naumann Foundation

Your organisation, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF), has done several events on countering populism this year (for instance, a workshop on fake news in May and a workshop on winning debates in ‘post-truth’ times in June). In what ways do you see populist rhetoric playing a role in the German federal elections later this month?

In both our workshops we have dealt extensively with communication and campaigning strategies of populists and how to counter them. Populists use very emotional, negative, often untruthful or misleading narratives to appeal to “the people” and position themselves against “the elites” and minorities. In Germany we have seen this kind of populist rhetoric from the rightwing AfD (Alternative for Germany) who are campaigning to “stop mass immigration” and the “self-destruction of our state and our people.”

What we’ve learnt from recent successful, liberal campaigns across Europe is that you mustn’t fall into the trap of emulating the negativity and simplistic arguments of the populists. Rather, an optimistic, motivational appeal paired with a clear, human, sometimes also humorous style of communication serves Liberals well. The FDP in Germany has chosen this way to campaign for the elections and so far the reactions have been very positive.

Could you expand on how the subject of Europe been approached in this election? What do you believe distinguishes the major candidates on this issue?

As is the case in most national elections, domestic issues top the agenda of all major parties and the focus is on topics like job creation, safe pensions, good education and so forth.

Almost all parties that stand a chance to pass the 5 percent threshold on 24 September are pro-European. The approaches to shaping the future of Europe are pretty much along party lines: the Social Democrats call for more investments for job creation, education, economic growth and nature protection. The Greens have similar plans, and want to get a “Green Deal” to create jobs and protect the environment. The Conservatives (CDU and CSU) take the security angle at Europe, advocating for a European Defense Union and stronger common border protection.

The liberal FDP is looking at Europe as a continent of chances, advocating for deeper cooperation in areas where the Member States are stronger together, such as a common energy market, a common asylum policy and cooperation against terrorism.  

Only the AfD campaigns to leave the Eurozone and toys with the idea of leaving the EU altogether.

The FNF is known to be a very active member organisation within the ELF network. What is your experience working with the liberal partners in the network and how does it benefit the activities of the FNF?

Over the years we have had the chance to work with a number of ELF partners on different projects. This year we have been fortunate to cooperate with five excellent partners on the workshop series “Standing up to Populism.” These partnerships are valuable for every step along the way, from brainstorming and exchanging on the basic project idea to discussing concrete workshop topics and nominating speakers and participants.

We are thankful for all this input, without which the workshops would’ve not been as educational, effective, and – FUN!

What activities can we expect from the FNF in the rest of 2017? And how can other members stay up to date on your work?

We used the summer to prepare for a busy fall and winter!

We are kicking off the new season with an event on the future of financing journalism and will dive deeper into the topics of countering hate speech online in the context of several upcoming events. We have also planned an event series dealing with the questions of how to overcome the biggest obstacles on the way to a European Defense Union.

There are plenty more topics we will be discussing and reporting on and we invite you to sign up for our Eurogram newsletter to stay up to date (register at and follow us on Facebook at “Friedrich Naumann Foundation Europe.”

01. Sep 2017 by Intern

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