Saturday

29th Apr 2017

EUobserved

The rise of anti-EU parties and the crisis of confidence

  • The respectable face of the far-right? The National Front's Jean Marie Le Pen and his daughter in the EU parliament (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

There was relative economic calm in 2013 after the euro's existential crisis of the previous year, but a different type of crisis started to emerge: rising anti-EU sentiment and collapsing political confidence.

Across the European Union, politicians have realised they can no longer dismiss parties which fundamentally dislike the EU as mere fringe movements.

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.

  • Wilders visiting the royal palace in the Netherlands (Photo: Roel Wijnants)

Far-right, nationalist or anti-EU parties are expected to scoop a record number of seats in the European Parliament elections in May 2014.

It is a disparate group, but their common grievance is that "Brussels" is "dictating" people's lives and there is little they can do about it.

Polls in 2013 indicated that most French and Dutch seats in the EU assembly could go to France's far-right National Front and the Netherlands' anti-immigrant Freedom Party.

It is hard to imagine a bigger set-back in symbolic terms: Both countries are founding EU states.

Marine Le Pen, the National Front leader, and the Freedom Party's Geert Wilders, two of the most savvy leaders in the anti-EU camp, have pledged to create a pan-European "patriotic" party.

Similar parties in Austria (Freedom Party), Belgium (Vlaams Belang), Italy (Lega Nord) and Sweden (Swedish Democrats) have said they will come on board.

If they attract 27 MEPs from seven different countries, they will become an official group in the EU parliament, entitled to funding and to chair committees.

The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn from Greece is set to enter the EU assembly for the first time and its Hungarian equivalent, Jobbik, is likely to increase its number of seats.

Britain's eurosceptic Ukip party could come top in the vote next May. The anti-EU True Finns party is polling second and the Danish People's Party is the third largest in the country. Even Germany has a newly formed anti-euro party, the AfD.

Meanwhile, broader trust in the EU is at an all time low.

A survey in Spring showed that the number of people who do not trust the EU institutions has soared between 2007 and 2012. The change in Spain were starkest - from 23 percent to 72 percent.

A common theme is hostility to immigrants. But the psychology and politics of migration is rarely dealt with at the EU level, where people tend to concentrate on technical adherence to EU rules.

There are other issues too.

The economic crisis saw EU countries give the European Commission powerful new tools to scrutinise member states' budgets.

But the change, which has profound implications for national sovereignty, was made with almost no public debate at the national level.

National elections come and go with as good as no mention of the EU, even in Germany, which paid the most to stop the euro from falling apart.

Politicians also continue to play the old game of agreeing something unpopular in Brussels and then undermining it at home.

As the EU heads into 2014, it finds itself in a peculiar situation: Fearful of the surge in anti-EU sentiment, but unable to find a compelling counter-narrative. Granting more power to Brussels, but without democratic mandate.

It all bodes ill for mobilising a generation of young voters to go to the polls in May.

This article was printed in EUobserver's yearly magazine 'Europe in review 2013'. The print edition looks back at the most important stories of the year. To obtain a copy of the magazine, please contact mc@euobserver.com. Price per copy €4.75 + postage, excl. vat. Discounts on larger purchases.

EUobserved

2014: Changing of the guard in the EU

As the EU heads into 2014, it is clear its economic woes are not over. But it is election year and Brussels will be distracted.

EPP group frustrated with Orban

Orban's ruling Fidesz party is getting too much to handle for the EPP group, as they are once again forced to defend the Hungarian premier's controversial actions.

Analysis

Orban set to face down EU threats

The European Commission and Parliament are to debate Hungary's slide into illiberal democracy. But the bloc continues to think that Hungarian leader Viktor Orban is not a systemic threat.

France still anxious over possibility of Le Pen win

Despite opinion polls that place centrist Macron well ahead of the far-right leader Le Pen in the 7 May presidential run-off, doubts are emerging about his capacity to unite the French people around his candidacy.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. EU boasts unity on Brexit talks
  2. May’s election juggernaut
  3. EPP scolds Orban over university and NGO laws
  4. Oxford-Studie besorgt über 'Schrott' News in Frankreich
  5. Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin
  6. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  7. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  8. One year later: EU right to open internet still virtual