22nd Oct 2016


EUobserver launches election series ahead of EU vote

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

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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.

EU parliament approves Juncker commission

MEPs have approved Juncker's new EU commission, with a slightly smaller majority than in 2010, and following a number of concessions on portfolios.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity