The New Pact for Europe dossier says the surge in support for nationalist parties across the bloc poses a “fundamental threat” that could topple the “vulnerable” project.
It warns may ordinary voters are fed up with being ruled by an establishment they feel has failed to deliver on its promises and is “corrupted by elite interests”.
But the report also says, ironically, that the bloc could be saved by Brexit which has galvanised support for the EU by demonstrating the potential costs of quitting.
And it insists that whilst the EU is vulnerable to populist parties, the predictions of “prophets of doom” who predicted the club’s immediate demise will not come to pass.
New Pact for Europe is a pro-European project designed to stimulate a debate about the future direction of the project, which is taking a more federalist path in light of Brexit.
The group warns the EU still faces a huge challenge to get citizens back on board, with upcoming elections in Italy and Sweden likely to produce big gains for eurosceptics.
In its report, it states: “Populists want to be popular. There is some convergence between different kinds of populism. But the future lies elsewhere.
“This convergence will only lead to stagnation and, finally, to the collapse of the EU, because they will never agree to give the Union the tools to face the root causes of our problems and the key solutions: prosperity, security and fairness.
“The Union must not only tackle the unresolved poly-crisis and collateral damage, but also face a much more fundamental threat: a surge in authoritarian populism that is testing the basic foundations of liberal democracies.
“Albeit not confined to Europe, this threat is more fundamental for the EU given that the Union is still much more vulnerable than its constituent nation states.”
It warns that the appeal of populist parties “is expanding” even after Britain’s decision to leave, and that their ideology is now “framing or even dominating public discourse”.
The authors say this would make Europe “more introverted, backward-looking, protectionist, intolerant, xenophobic, and discriminatory as well as more inclined to oppose globalisation, trade, migration, heterogeneity, cultural diversity, and the principles of an open society”.
The report concludes: “There is no reason to herald the arrival of a ‘post-populist moment’, as some commentators have done over-hastily in the first half of 2017. It would be a mistake to cheer prematurely.
“Authoritarian populists’ successes signal that citizens are deeply dissatisfied with those who have been in power, and feel that the political class has not delivered on its promises, that their concerns have been neglected because ‘the establishment’ (including politicians and media) is corrupted by elite interests.”
On the issue of Brexit, the report characterises last year’s EU referendum as “often based on exaggerations, false promises or even outright lies” and says no European leaders had thought the UK would vote to leave.
It states that individual countries are “unable to provide solutions to the challenges of a globalised world” and that those who say they can are peddling “an illusion and a lie”.
The report says: “The negotiations are inevitably tough. The EU27 have defined clear principles and seem firmly committed to maintaining a united front, although the process might, at times, test their common positions, given some diverging economic and political interests.
“Meanwhile, the UK appears deeply divided, struggling to define what it wants out of the process and which financial and political concessions it is ready to make to build a constructive relationship with the EU.
“In the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, many in continental Europe feared that it might trigger a negative domino effect in the EU27, that the Union would become even more fragmented and that other member states might be tempted to follow the British example.
“But that has not happened. Instead, the many uncertainties and potential political, economic, and societal costs of the British decision appear to have acted as an external unifier, both at the level of governments and the public.”