In this interview series, we reach out to some of our liberal party leaders to hear their thoughts on liberalism, Europe and beyond. For this month’s interview, we spoke with Corinne Cahen, leader of ALDE member party Demokratesch Partei (DP) in Luxembourg. The interview was conducted in late May.
Corinne Cahen, what inspired you to go into politics and which parts of your work do you find to be the most rewarding?
I have always been involved in volunteering – I took care of refugees, helped to empower people and was a member of many civil society organisations. I love working with people and supporting them to be able to stand on their own two feet. However, at some point I realised that I was no longer satisfied with the political decisions being made, so I decided to go into politics to develop and pursue projects that I am passionate about.
It is fulfilling to see that our decisions as politicians contribute to the progress of society and to the realisation of our goal, which is an inclusive society where everyone has equal rights and equal opportunities.
As leader of the DP, I want my party to empower people to live their best life. We have always focused on liberal values such as freedom, responsibility, tolerance and progress. Our party is and remains the guarantee for a free society, in which people can live the life the way they want and in which politics are at the service of the people, not the other way around.
What makes the DP unique in such a small state as Luxembourg, and what are the party’s short- and long-term priorities?
Xavier Bettel makes the DP unique ;). The DP is unique in Luxembourg because we defend social and liberal values. We develop visions for a better future, and we are not afraid to translate them into action. We don’t impose any way of life, but we give people the necessary resources to make their own choices and succeed in life.
Freedom is a core value for the DP, meaning that all people should be able to choose the way they want to live and make their own decisions. Freedom also means that you accept and respect other people’s choices – live and let live. But it also means that political leaders need to have the courage to make decisions and create the necessary framework so that everyone can lead a self-determined life.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, our short-term priority is to develop an exit strategy that meets the needs of people, for example their need for social contact, but without overburdening our health care system. At the same time, we must also support the economy and ensure that people will have a secure income in the future.
"Democracy is worth fighting for as it is the only way to achieve a just and equal society"
In the long-term, we need to prepare Luxembourg and its residents for the future: by investing in a good education system to guarantee equal educational opportunities, by fighting social inequality, by investing in the economy and encouraging entrepreneurship, by protecting our natural environment, by investing in new infrastructures and by implementing a balanced fiscal policy – in short, developing policies that benefit all our residents and enhance their quality of life.
In your opinion, what are the next steps for the EU to overcome the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and what lessons has your party drawn from this crisis?
Europe and the European Union have suffered a lot due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the EU failed to implement a coordinated response to the crisis. For example, some people in the Greater Region of Luxembourg don’t understand why some countries decided to close their borders; an action that has had a huge negative impact on their everyday lives.
The EU needs to show that it is able to act and that its first priority is the well-being of its citizens. The biggest challenge will be to save jobs and to boost the economy.
It is yet too early to draw a definite conclusion about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. What we have observed so far, however, is that people can be very flexible and adapt quickly to new situations. We also noticed that working from home could be a future blueprint for a better work-life balance.
The only thing I can say for sure at the moment is that this crisis has shown us that our health is the greatest wealth that we possess. This is why we must continue to invest in a robust and well-organised public health system.
With so much global uncertainty around us, liberal democratic values have been under attack in some countries. From your point of view, what is the liberal answer to the continuous rise of extremist forces?
A democracy is a fragile system that also has its weaknesses. Nevertheless, it is worth fighting for as it is the only way to achieve a just and equal society.
"This crisis has shown us that our health is the greatest wealth that we possess"
Those who choose liberal democratic values choose an open and free society – a society that promotes equal opportunities and diversity, and that fights against all kinds of exclusion.
And this is how we stand out from other political movements: liberals trust peoples’ own judgement for their individual, but also collective decision-making, while respecting the core values of democracy, freedom and diversity. This differentiates us from extremist parties and movements. The authoritarian trend in Europe and around the globe has often curtailed the rights of people who do not fit into their ideology and worldview.
This is the key difference that we liberals need to remind people of, over and over again.
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