Thursday

2nd Dec 2021

EUobserver launches election series ahead of EU vote

  • Election posters in Brussels: Broadly, voters tend to want less EU than more of it. (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

In recent years, a slew of parties has moved from the fringe to occupy central political debate across the EU - they are eurosceptic and hard-right and they are making mainstream politicians nervous.

With the May EU elections fast approaching, focus has shifted to the record number of seats such movements are set to win in the next European Parliament.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

This will likely be as much due to outright popular support for the political parties themselves as the twin factors that have plagued the EU elections to date: a dwindling turnout and the perception that the EU vote matters less than a national vote.

Numerous statements by European leaders about "anti-EU forces" give the impression that the parties form a coherent political movement.

The reality is quite different, however.

There are degrees of far-right ranging from anti-democratic neo-nazi parties, such as Hungary’s Jobbik and Greece’s Golden Dawn, through to the anti-immigrant National Front in France.

Meanwhile, “eurosceptic” is an amorphous term covering everything from single-issue parties to parties that want their country to leave the EU.

The less extreme end does not want to be associated with the hard right. And the anti-foreigner, nationalistic tones of all the parties makes effective cross-border co-operation with one another difficult.

But still, their increasingly strong presence on the European political scene raises important questions.

Where do these movements come from?

It is too simple to put down their origins entirely to Europe's economic crisis, which has resulted in record-high unemployment and reduced public spending.

Countries such as Spain, Portugal and Ireland - all deeply affected by the crisis - do not have hard-right parties, while France has had one for decades.

The other major issue is how and whether to engage with illiberal politicians.

There has been a tendency for mainstream parties to adopt some of the rhetoric to try and win back votes.

The UK's recent bitter debate, fanned by the government, on EU migrants is an example. Anti-Roma statements by France's Socialist interior minister is another. By contrast, getting populist parties to engage on substance regularly fails.

The national trends are compounded by a political vacuum at the heart of the EU. Leaders stress the need for more EU integration to prevent a further euro crisis, but are at a loss how to fix the EU's democracy and transparency deficits.

Meanwhile, polls show that trust in EU institutions has plummeted.

Broadly speaking, voters want less EU than more of it.

In this fluid political landscape, EUobserver is lauching a new journalistic project, beginning 11 February, to assess the impact of anti-EU parties across the spectrum ahead of the EU elections on 22-25 May.

Supported in part by a grant from the Open Society Foundations, local journalists from 16 member states will write a series of articles putting such parties into context, exploring their roots, examining the extent of their socal acceptance, and how mainstream politicians are manouevering in response.

The aim is to contribute to pan-European debate ahead of the EU vote, which is gearing up to be the most symbolically important in the parliament's history.

Schinas spars with MEPs over migration job title

A number of MEPs pressed Margaritis Schinas to drop the "Protecting the European Way of Life" title of his portfolio, which deals with migration. But Schinas refused, claiming it needs protecting from terrorists and populists. He failed to convince.

Poland's 'vague' nominee flops in EU hearing

Poland's nominee for agriculture commissioner, Janusz Wojciechowski, is likely to face a second hearing after MEPs from top political groups lambasted his "vague" performance on Tuesday.

Analysis

How MEPs will quiz the next commissioners

The EU parliament will organise public hearings to assess the future commissioners' suitability for their job and their knowledge about the portfolio they had assigned, before the new EU commission takes office on 1 November.

Interview

EP must be tougher on nominees, MEP says

European commissioners ought to be forced to sell shares in firms that they will one day regulate, a French MEP at the coalface of an EU vetting process has said.

News in Brief

  1. Poland curtails media access to Belarus border
  2. Report: Germany's Scholz 'backs compulsory Covid jabs'
  3. Omicron 'present in Europe at least 10 days ago'
  4. German court finds ex-Islamic State member guilty of genocide
  5. Report: Shell is considering return to Libya
  6. Report: EU to reveal €300bn infrastructure plan
  7. Barbados becomes world's newest republic
  8. Far-right Zemmour will run for French presidency

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

Who is the new EU parliament president, David Sassoli?

The 63-year-old centre-left Italian MEP was elected president of the European Parliament, with 345 votes. A former journalist, Sassoli has experience as a vice-president of the parliament, but is little known.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew report reveals bad environmental habits
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImproving the integration of young refugees
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNATO Secretary General guest at the Session of the Nordic Council
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCan you love whoever you want in care homes?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNineteen demands by Nordic young people to save biodiversity
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable public procurement is an effective way to achieve global goals

Latest News

  1. No obligation to defend Ukraine from Russia, Nato chief says
  2. EU agency: 'Omicron vaccine' approval to take 3-4 months
  3. Ombudsman launches probe into Commission tobacco lobbying
  4. Lead MEP wants 'mandatory relocation' in EU asylum law
  5. The EU's 'global gateway' - an answer to China, or a dead-end?
  6. Osman Kavala in a Turkish jail - taking injustice personally
  7. Frontex implicated 'to some extent' in violations, says officer
  8. Omicron shows need for pandemic global pact, WHO says

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us