Thursday

21st Mar 2019

Ruling elite under fire in EU elections

Ruling parties in some of the EU's biggest member states are coming under heavy fire in EU election campaigns, giving eurosceptic groups a chance to grab attention.

Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi, whose right-wing PDL party is polled to scoop up to 40 percent of the country's EU vote, faced calls to resign on Wednesday (20 May) over alleged links to a corporate bribery scandal.

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  • UKIP's Mr Farrage - emerging to challenge the UK's ruling Labour party (Photo: EUobserver)

A court in Milan has ruled that a Berlusconi proxy paid British-born lawyer David Mills €435,000 to act as a "false witness" for the premier in a series of fraud trials which implicated the media tycoon. The PM's spokesman said the resignation calls were "politically timed" to damage Mr Berlusconi, who heads his party list.

British eurosceptic party UKIP is to spend €2.3 million in the next two weeks to woo unhappy Labour voters in the wake of the parliament expenses scandal.

"Of the recent inquiries we have had from our first-time buyers [new supporters], around 60 percent of them have come from Labour," UKIP leader Nigel Farrage said, the Times reports. UKIP and Labour are both polling at around 16 percent, compared to UKIP's 6 percent at the start of May.

The anti-Lisbon treaty Libertas party has targeted the Conservative opposition party, which currently leads UK polls, with a video clip making fun of Tory leader David Cameron's apology for the expenses problem. Libertas says the clip has had over 1 million hits.

France's ruling UMP party has fended off a legal challenge against its promotional video, with the audiovisual regulator, the CSA, on Wednesday ruling the clip was not "propaganda."

The centre-right Civic Platform government in Poland has seen its approval ratings dip for the fourth month in a row, according to CBOS surveys. Approval dipped from 44 percent to 42 percent in May. Prime Minister Donald Tusk's personal rating fell three points to 48 percent.

Eurosceptic opposition Law and Justice party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski on Wednesday said Poland faces an "infernal [economic] crisis," urging Poles to give Civic Platform "a warning" in the EU vote.

Laziest MEPs shamed

The Polish political elite in general has come under fire in articles detailing the laziest MEPs and euro-deputies' lavish lifestyles. Tabloid Fakt said Civic Platform MEP Krzysztof Holowczyc was absent for 65 percent of EU parliament sessions. Daily broadsheet Rzeczpospolita wrote that from June, MEPs are to fly around Europe in business class and have in the past sipped cocktails on African beaches at symposia on poverty.

In Germany, a joint campaign by the ruling CDU and CSU parties is trying to appeal to the most conservative end of the spectrum of centre-right voters.

The campaign focuses on religious issues, such as making a reference to God in future EU treaties, keeping Turkey out of the EU and strengthening the role of the German language in the European Union. The parties also pledge to see if European competences can be clawed back to the national level.

Greek opposition socialist party Pasok has attacked the governing New Democracy faction for dissolving parliament early in what it sees as an attempt to run away from a series of corruption scandals. "Pasok is linking the European elections with national elections," socialist leader George Papandreou said on Wednesday. "We want citizens to ...change the direction of the country."

The Czech left-wing opposition party, the CSSD, is planning to pump up to €2.6 million into its EU election battle against the conservative ODS faction. CSSD chairman Jiri Paroubek said the recent ODS government managed to draw less than 1 percent of EU funds for the country available up to 2013.

Fears over voter apathy are being confirmed in Ireland and Romania, where people appear to be more interested in local by-elections and upcoming presidential elections, respectively, than the EU vote.

Election posters cause annoyance

Irish people have begun to complain about plastic EU election posters obscuring important road signs. In a letter to the Irish Times on Thursday, an academic from the Catholic University of Louvain informs Irish readers that the Belgian government erects temporary structures offering a designated space for a limited amount of recyclable paper posters instead.

Sweden is bucking the trend, however. In Gothenburg, pre-voting in the EU election at the major Nordstan polling station shows that 900 people cast ballots on Wednesday compared to just 278 at the same stage in the general election two years back.

Austrian Greens are doing their bit to kindle EU sympathies, with street theatre in Vienna on Wednesday designed to dispel cliches, such as the notion that Brussels spends all its time regulating on bendy bananas.

Meanwhile, the Spanish government has put forward a legal proposal to EU member states, which would allow the EU parliament to increase the number of MEPs from 736 to 754 as soon as the Lisbon treaty is ratified (potentially in early 2010) instead of in 2014 (as currently envisaged).

The move, reported by the Irish Times, is to be considered at the June EU summit. Spain, France, Sweden, Austria, Britain, Poland, Portugal, the Netherlands, Bulgaria, Latvia, Slovenia and Malta stand to benefit from the extra seats if it goes through.

May tosses Brexit spanner into EU machinery

The UK is seeking a three-month delay to leave in the European Union. But its 30 June deadline is a major headache given the European elections in May. The European Commission is demanding EU summit leaders reject May's proposal.

Centre-right EPP faces showdown with Orban

The EU's largest political alliance, the EPP, will try to put the 'Orban issue' behind it going into the European election campaign. Hungary's ruling party, Fidesz, could be expelled or suspended from the political family.

Opinion

A compromise proposal for the Article 50 extension

At this week's summit, EU leaders should extend Article 50 until the May European elections. But they should postpone the effective date of the UK's withdrawal from EU rights, rules, and regulations for another year - to May 2020.

Have a good reason for Brexit extension, Barnier tells UK

Ahead of the crucial summit of EU leaders on Brexit this week, the EU's chief negotiator warned Theresa May's government to have a clear objective for an extension that she still needs to request formally from the EU.

EU countries push for new rule of law surveillance

Germany and Belgium have put forward a proposal for a "peer review" of EU countries' legal systems as member states and EU institutions struggle with disciplining member states that break EU rules.

News in Brief

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  6. Chinese leader visits Italy, France as Rome joins 'Silk Road'
  7. EU agrees to sanction political parties breaching data rules
  8. EPP votes Wednesday on future of Orban's party

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The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

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EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

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