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British-French-German seminar

  • Date(s)
    26 February 2004
  • Location

The New Politics of Insecurity

Citizens care deeply about migration and insecurity. This fact was proven in the articles written by David Blunkett, Brigitte Zypries and Marisol Touraine. The three panellists were chaired by Gaetan Gorce, who began the session by reminding participants that support for populist and demagogic leaders and the new anti-immigration Right is rising rapidly, and the Left must respond.

The seminar discussed the threat to social cohesion and the potential for a fractured community if security issues are not properly defined and addressed at all levels.  Given the relationship between social cohesion and order, the definition of security has to be broad. Social democrats should address civil and social security as part of the same political dialogue rather than separating issues of personal integrity and social stability.

Combining these two issues allows progressive policy to tackle not only security threats such as crime and antisocial behaviour, but also to look at the underlying causes of social marginalisation and isolation, which ultimately result from past failure to deal with social security issues. Threats to the integrity of the individual at the local, national and international levels are part of a wider security agenda, which also includes positive freedoms to engage with society as an active citizen.

Social democrats share the common objective of balancing effective security measures with the preservation and promotion of individual liberty. The challenges posed by globalization mean that security issues are considered a fundamental part of a responsive social democratic agenda – one that recognises the impact economic and social disruptions have on the individual’s sense of stability and security. Participants argued that when individuals feel greater economic and physical security, they are more willing to engage in society – building the social capital needed to sustain their communities.

At a national level, feelings of fear and powerlessness in response to both levels of crime and terrorism have prompted calls for a stronger state where individual freedom gives way to security.  However, it is important that a reasonable balance is maintained between the two, and where tensions exist, adequate protection must be provided by the state for the individual. Internationally, the threat of terrorism and the need to intervene in certain situations represent challenges for social democrats. Rather than withdrawing, policies must be driven by a desire to seek common solutions, in particular with a European dimension.

Social democrats need to be proactive in responding to security issues. In the past, the Right has flourished in these areas by playing on the fears of citizens. The seminar addressed what social democrats can offer, and the best means of communicating to the public that their fears are being listened to.

The seminar was closed by Peter Mandelson, Hubertus Heil and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who all agreed that the two-day session had been a useful opportunity to thrash out ideas and responses to common challenges.

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