Eurosceptic Sentiment. A Review for 2014

The 2014 European Parliament elections can be named a victory of mainstream pro-European course parties, which include the European People’s Party, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, or the European Green Party – all together, according to my latest count, winning 533 out of 751 seats. This counting, however, is not yet over. The rest, as we will see, is truly colourful, although far not enough to make an anti-European sentiment as a bare factor. Indeed, Europe is not ending at 70 percent of the count. So, what gives us the rest?

A surprising victory, as some may notice, could be assigned to the European Conservatives and Reformist (ECR) group led by the British and Polish conservative parties. In the latest count, the group succeeded to increase its size by 10 members, totalling to 67, and this is highly probable that it will become a third major group in the European Parliament leaving European liberals behind.

Though ECR can be seen as close to mainstream policies in Europe, the group is surrounded by controversies. One is linked to admission of the far-right xenophobic anti-immigration parties – Dansk Folkeparti and the Finns Party. In this case a defending statement was made by the new president of ECR Syed Kamall, who is a Muslim, saying that it is about controlling and not demonising the immigration. This could be a wake-up call to some group members, who still remember their membership in the European Peoples Party before the split into ECR.

That coldly calculated and suspicious shift could concern the moderate wing of ECR being less eurosceptic and not much engaged into the central argument defended by the British conservatives on renegotiating the UK relationship with the EU. The last and failed attempt by Mr Cameron to have a blocking coalition against Mr Juncker as the President of European Commission is another (new?) sign of a limited support for the British vector by the European partners. Remains to be seen if this will be picked by softly eurosceptic Poland’s Law and Justice Party witnessing massive subsidies from the EU funds for its country.

No more eurosceptic in the ECR group is New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), who refused the European liberals only because of a competing party in Belgian politics. On the other hand, a comfortable position in the ECR could be maintained with a new member from Germany – the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) held by a small group of Sunday Church academics and industrialists, fiercely opposing the Economic and Monetary Union and advocating Germany’s return to Deutschmark – a bit of discomfort to Germany’s Chancellor Ms Merkel that was disproportionately speculated in the media. However, even AfD sees itself close to liberal and modern conservative mainstream parties, for example, such as Reinfeldt’s Swedish Moderate Party.

A surprising success of keeping up a political group in the European Parliament goes to Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD) group led by the UK’s Independence Party leader Mr Farage, who struggled until the last days to fulfil the requirement of 25 MEPs from a at least seven member states. He is among real suspects, not lacking colours and also being a former host of Dansk Folkeparti and the Finns Party. Though he has not yet entirely abandoned the common sense and had encouraged to close the doors of EFD to xenophobic and anti-Semitic loudspeakers. His latest pal and saviour can be named after the Italian comedian Beppe Grillo and his Five Star Movement, which added to Farages’ group 17 MEPs. The success of Grillo’s party in Italian politics is due to anti-austerity politics led by technocratic governance from Rome, or as Grillo claims – from Brussels. Even in this case, it would be difficult to argue that this group would be entirely anti-European, while its claims are rather linked to trust in institutions and austere economic policy symbolically attributed to the euro.

Steady positions in the Parliament will be maintained by the Confederal Group of European United left, which advocates Keynesian more spending and less austere policies. The Group’s historical linkages to the Communist parties have transformed into anti-NATO and pro-Russian policies. Some members of this group even participated as ‘observers’ in the illegal referendum organised by secessionist criminal groups in Ukraine’s autonomous region of Crimea. Group’s mainstream claims can be summarised by Mr Tsipras, the populist leader of Greece’s Syriza party, criticising main establishment parties and a disastrous policy of austerity, asking cancelling of debt and demanding not to place a burden on the taxpayers. However, his claims cannot be held purely anti-European either.

This leaves us with the last grouping being the last failure in all senses. A joint venture by Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front, and Geert Wilders, chairman of the Party for Freedom, to form a new Parliamentary group called Alliance for Freedom has missed the deadline and failed to gather the MEPs from seven EU member states. While Ms Le Pen has learnt the lesson not to repeat her farther’s mistakes and to keep her anti-Semitic and xenophobic profile low, this did not prevent her from condemning immigrants and all the political class, supporting the Syrian president, and praising Mr Putin for the ‘democracy’ and ‘fair elections’ in Russia and maintaining close relationship with Russia’s radical parties. A true victim of Ms Le Pen’s failure and of her policies is the Italian Lega Nord, which has left the EFD group for the glamour of the National Front. Lega Nord similarly to New Flemish Alliance believes that their regional secessionist claims can be still legitimate under the umbrella of the confederal EU with limited powers. The Lega Nord Party in the Italian Parliament has even voted for the Treaty of Lisbon, which is hardly imaginable with the musketeers of the Front National and sheds perfectly the light on the eurosceptic sentiment in Europe.

Photo by Kirill Kudryavstev/AFP/Getty Images

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