About the project

Background and objectives

Populist parties and euroscepticism are on the rise in most European countries. Particularly the Euro-Zone crisis, the Greek bailout crises, and the refugee crisis have led to impregnable resentments both towards the European Union (EU) and to other EU member states. As the Brexit and many parliamentary elections, e.g. in Poland, indicate, populist parties are gaining more and more political power and are challenging the established pro-European consensus. Populist euroscepticism is thereby characterised by its inclination to be emotion-based rather than facts-based.

Against this background, the Institute for European Politics (IEP), in cooperation with Das Progressive Zentrum, has launched the project TruLies – The Truth about Lies on Europe. Supported by the Stiftung Mercator, the project pursues two overarching objectives: First, the project aims to conduct a systematic analysis and deconstruction of frequently used populist and eurosceptic tropes and rhetoric, identifying false assertions, enemy images, and prejudice (objective 1). Second, these academic-analytical findings shall be presented in such a way as to create public outreach and to contribute to the debate on European populism (objective 2).

Objective 1 „Academic analysis“: Systematic and analytically sound deconstruction of incorrect assertions, enemy images, and prejudices

Populist rhetoric often fuels prejudices and creates or strengthens enemy images concerning the EU institutions and the EU as a community of shared values. Infamous examples are the alleged Brussels “regulation frenzy”, Germany as the EU’s “paymaster”, or the notoriously work-shy southern states. Enemy images such as these can be understood as social interpretative patterns, which categorize social and political environments in simple black and white schemes. These ready-made truths provide an easily accessible political world-view and vocabulary by contrasting the negative “foreign” or “other” with the positive “familiar” or “own”. Hence, they form an integral part of the toolbox of populist and eurosceptic political parties.

TruLies – The Truth about Lies on Europe aims to counter such prejudice-infused images by analysing and deconstructing eurosceptic tropes and rhetoric, and by providing easily accessible political facts and information surrounding controversial issues such as the Eurozone, TTIP, and migration policies. This is meant to contribute to an acknowledgement of the complexity of political consensus-building and decision-making, particularly on a European level. By that, a more encompassing and better, albeit not uncritical, understanding of European integration should be fostered.

In order to achieve this objective, eurosceptic statements of politicians, political parties, media representatives, and other opinion leaders are gathered and analysed with regard to the following questions: What are the key elements of eurosceptic and populist statements and assertions? Which of these are “real truths” and which are specious “simple truths”? And how do these deceptive arguments vary over time?

Objective 2 “Public outreach”: Presentation of the analytical findings

The second object of the project is to present the academic-analytical findings in such a way as to create public outreach and to contribute to the debate on European populism. The findings need to be “translated” into a comprehensible and accessible format, which suits the identified target group of social and political multipliers. One way to foster this process is to engage in constructive dialogues with actors from civil society, politics, and adult education. As persons from these spheres are in daily contact with the phenomenon of euroscepticism, these “practitioners” can contribute important and new experiences, which would escape a purely academic approach. Hence, the project team constantly engages in discussions with respective multipliers.

In addition, the results of the project are presented and discussed on- and offline, e.g. in the form of so-called fact sheets, multipliers’ workshops, lunch discussions (“Mittagsgespräche”), and blog posts in order to achieve the highest possible diffusion within societal sectors. Exemplarily, an English version of the factsheet on asylum abuse can be found here.

A public and honest dialogue between citizens and politicians is crucial in order to close the gap between the public and “elite” opinion regarding Europe. With its encompassing and discursive approach, TruLies – The Truth about Lies on Europe aims to contribute to that dialogue and to foster a more fact-based understanding of European politics.

The Truth about Lies on Europe is supported by Stiftung Mercator.