Stark warnings over European election

Rise of anti-European parties seen as threat to EU

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Europe-watchers are warning that the May European election could stifle EU decision-making — or even spell an end to the bloc altogether.

The European Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank, published a report on 11 February which warned that anti-EU politicians “are for the first time almost certain to acquire more than one-third of European Parliament seats” in the election, based on current polls.

This could have important consequences for the functioning of the Parliament, it said, and for the European Commission, the EU’s implementing body.

“While there are significant divides between them on substance, anti-European parties could align with one another tactically in support of a range of ideas: from abolishing sanctions on Russia to blocking the EU’s foreign trade agenda, to pulling the drawbridge up against migration,” ECFR said.

“This would put at risk Europe’s capacity to defend its citizens from external threats at exactly the time when, given global turmoil, it needs to show more resolve, cooperation, and global leadership.”

Writing in The Guardian newspaper a day later, philanthropist and Open Society Foundations founder George Soros warned that “Europe is sleepwalking into oblivion” ahead of the election. He compared EU politicians to their equivalents in the final days of the Soviet Union, oblivious to the changes lying just ahead.

Soros called for EU politicians to “recognise the magnitude of the threat” and “awaken the sleeping pro-European majority and mobilise it to defend the values on which the EU was founded”.

ECFR plans to help them do just that. It said: “We offer a strategy to fight back: by driving a wedge between anti-European parties, exposing the real-world costs of their key policy ideas, and identifying new issues that could inspire voters: from the rule of law and the environment to prosperity and Europe’s foreign policy goals.”

For example, some anti-European politicians are reluctant to address climate change, while others are not, it said. “And while anti-immigrant parties in central and southern Europe (including those in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Italy, and Spain) are deeply conservative about social issues — such as LBGT rights — this is not always the case for comparable parties in western and northern Europe.”

Pro-European politicians should emphasise this differences, ECFR said, with the goal of destroying any anti-European alliance.

Words: Craig Nicholson

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