Sunday

18th Aug 2019

Magazine

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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 story was originally published in EUobserver's 2013 Europe in Review Magazine.

Click here to read previous editions of Europe in Review magazines.

Magazine

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.

Orban praises von der Leyen after first face-to-face

The EU Commission president-elect said she had a "good talk" with Hungary's controversial premier. Orban returned the praise, saying said the former German defence minister "thinks with [a] central Europeans' head".

Von der Leyen aims to 'rebalance Europe'

The German EU Commission president-elect hopes to bridge divisions within the EU, as she meets with EU leaders setting up her team of commissioners.

Johnson's call for new Brexit deal hits EU 'no'

The UK will not nominate a new EU commissioner, the new British PM said in his first address to parliament, and insisted that the Irish backstop can be renegotiated - without giving any specifics on alternative solutions.

News in Brief

  1. Trump turned down: Greenland not for sale
  2. UK Libdems would back Clarke or Harman as new PM
  3. Six countries agree to take 'Open Arms' ship migrants
  4. Gibraltar judge: Iranian ship should be released
  5. Increasing fears of a global recession
  6. Far-right hate crimes on the rise in Germany
  7. EU steel tariffs have 'worked well' so far
  8. Italian court: Migrant rescue ship can enter Italian waters

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  2. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  3. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  4. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals
  5. Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide
  6. US offers Johnson helping hand on Brexit
  7. Italy: New government without Salvini in the making
  8. Brexit row delays financial products transparency review

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us