Fight populism by explaining the benefits of globalization, ex-German finance chief urges

  • European citizens are due to vote on new representatives for the European Parliament between May 23 and 26.
  • However, years of economic stagnation and long-lasting crises over immigration in Europe have translated into a push toward anti-establishment parties across the continent.

Germany's former finance minister expressed his concerns about an upcoming election at the EU this year, saying voters would only shun populist politics if the benefits of globalization are fully explained to them.

European citizens are due to vote on new representatives for the European Parliament between May 23 and 26. However, years of economic stagnation and long-lasting crises over immigration in Europe have translated into a push toward anti-establishment parties across the continent.

As a result, non-mainstream politicians have gained ground in national elections over the last few years and are likely to see further gains at this EU-wide vote.

"It's a real danger for the next European Parliament," Wolfgang Schaeuble, president of the German Parliament and former finance minister, told CNBC's Annette Weisbach.

A report from the European Council on Foreign Affairs said Tuesday that anti-European parties are on course to win a third of the seats and would "frustrate activity, undermine the security and defense of Europe, and ultimately sow discord that could destroy the EU over time."

The same think tank said that anti-European parties are likely to work together to undermine European cooperation, such as pushing for an end to sanctions on Russia.

However, because the vote is still a few months away, Schaeuble said that it's time to "fight" populism and explain to people the advantages of globalization.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble
Axel Schmidt | Reuters
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble

"We are at the beginning of the campaign. And in the campaign, you have to fight and not (think) 'what will you do if we are not to be successful?' We will do what we can, and I think we can win," he told CNBC this week.

"The most important thing for political leaders to do is to explain to the population why it is so, why it is needed, what are the real advantages; that globalization will make everyone richer, the opposite will make everyone poorer," he said.