Luxembourg EP candidates Christophe Hansen (CSV), Fiona Godfrey (Volt) and Joanne Goebbels (LSAP) at Delano Live on 2 April 2019. Traditional and new parties with a pro-EU stance must join forces to counter the eurosceptics in the next European Parliament.
Photo: Jan Hanrion/Maison Moderne
Traditional parties and new pan-European movements must stand up to the eurosceptisicm of the likes of Matteo Salvini at the European Parliament elections, argues Delano’s editor-in-chief.
The meeting on Monday of four nationalist parties in Milan, as reported in Delano’s breakfast briefing, heightens the prospect of eurosceptic populists gaining a strong foothold in the European Parliament after May’s elections.
For far too long the popular view of the European Parliament was of an institution that merely rubber-stamped commission and council policy. There is, then, a certain irony that as it finally has come of age and has been helping shape EU policies--“flexing newly discovered muscles” in the words of Politico’s Ryan Heath and Maïa de La Baume--the European Parliament could become hostage to those very agents whose political agenda is to question the democratic nature of the European Union.
With Salvini’s League now joining forces with Germany’s largest opposition party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), and nationalist parties from Denmark and Finland, there is a real chance of a new powerful bloc forming. This could include those parties currently under the wing of the Europe of Nations and Freedom group to which Salvini’s League and England’s Ukip currently belong, and whose largest number of MEPs come from France’s National Rally (formerly the National Front). It could join forces with the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy bloc, whose members include MEPs representing Five Star in Italy, the AfD (who currently only have 1 MEP) and Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.
If it wins enough seats, then, under the remote tutelage of Salvini, the new eurosceptic group could, according to Politico, become a force “capable of blocking appointments and taking charge of up to six of parliament’s 20 committees.”
That is a frightening thought, especially as the EU strives to deal with the fallout of Brexit and the ongoing dispute with the United States over trade tariffs, while simultaneously trying to reign in the powers of the global tech giants and seeking agreement on how to handle member states who ride roughshod over the rule of law.
The disparate elements within the two blocs still have several differences. “There is more that divides the populists, than that unites them,” CSV MEP Christophe Hansen told Delano last month. Hansen was one of the most vociferous supporters of the move to banish Viktor Orbàn’s Fidesz party from the EPP, from which it has for now been temporarily suspended. Indeed, there is still a question hanging over where MEPs from Fidesz and Poland’s Law and Justice party, the latter a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists, will sit in the new European Parliament. Both have been wooed by Salvini, according to The Guardian.
Hope comes in the form of the coming together of older and younger politicians who support the values of the European Union. The more experienced heads know only too well the danger of allowing the European project to fail. Even as the influence of their own parties is on the wane, they will have to display the maturity and nous to bury their differences and agree to vote together as a powerful majority in the European Parliament.
Ideas like the report on the “well-being for everyone in a sustainable Europe” by former Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen and former Greek economy minister Louka Katseli, of the Progressive Society, may give the socialist parties of Europe new life.
But newer political movements, peopled largely by the under 40s and possessing all the vim and vigour that youth brings, can also play a role in cutting off the oxygen of protest support that the Eurosceptics currently enjoy.
Look at the enthusiasm and knowledge of members of pan-European movements like Volt or the left-wing populist DiEM25 and you see viable and immediate alternatives to the far-right. Perhaps only in the long term, they will also be a credible preference to the fading traditional parties of the old guard.
Europe can be saved, but it will require an extraordinary effort and a very special combination of circumstances to stave off those who would destroy it.