5th Aug 2021

Juncker warns mainstream parties against imitating populism

  • Juncker campaigning in the Netherlands in April 2014. (Photo: Peter Teffer)

Mainstream political parties in Europe should not try to imitate eurosceptics, but defend European integration, the EU's Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has said.

Juncker explicitly names the two political parties that are in the Dutch coalition, centre-right Liberal and centre-left Labour, and the centre-right Christian-Democrats, who are a member of Juncker's political family, the conservative EPP.

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“Attacked and goaded by citizens and media, they give more room to the discontent [among citizens]. And do you know what the result is? That countries become ungovernable”, Juncker told Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant on Saturday (27 December).

“My advice to parties like CDA [Christian-Democrat] and PvdA [Labour] is: Don't imitate the populists! If you want to engage with angry citizens, you have to stand in front of them. Not walk away or run after them.”

Juncker, who was prime minister of Luxembourg from 1995 to 2013, also blames the three Dutch mainstream parties for the Dutch 'No' in a referendum on the European treaty in 2005.

He said they did not defend the treaty enough “out of fear of being associated with the EU”.

Junckers' words come as the Netherlands' main anti-EU party, Geert Wilders' Freedom Party, is near or topping recent polls.

In 2015, Wilders is to go on trial on charges of incitement to hatred after he got a crowd to shout "fewer Moroccans" at an election rally in early 2014.

His opponents fear he will play the victim to increase sympathy from voters.

Anti-EU parties are also set to remain a major part of the political scene in several countries in the coming year.

The UK is due to hold elections in May with most of the focus likely to be on how well the eurosceptic Ukip party can do.

In 2014, it won the EU elections in the UK and made its breakthrough into Westminster by winning two parliamentary seats in autumn.

In France, Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front party won a quarter of the votes in the EU elections, beating the main centre-right and centre-left parties.

A recent survey showed that if the vote was held today she would win the first round of France's presidential elections, due in 2017.

Meanwhile in Germany, the eurosceptic AfD, founded in 2013, had its first electoral success in the EU elections in May and then subsequently won seats in local assemblies in three German states.

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