The ongoing economic crisis in Europe did not only affect our economy as a block, but it also affects our politics. The rising popularity of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), a Eurosceptic party, True Finns, a nationalist party and France’s National Front, are only few examples to demonstrate the general dissatisfaction of voters with the current situation.
As resentment of the “Brussels-dictated” austerity policy grows, more voters are likely to give their vote to parties who criticize these policies, or to parties who criticize the EU as whole. The 2014 European elections, next spring, put forward a real question: will Eurosceptics dominate the European Parliament? Possibly.
There are signs that extreme political groups will gain significant support in next year’s elections. What will be the effect of the current crisis on the election process? How many Europeans are going to vote? Can their choice threaten the European Union?
In 2004, the European Parliament had 70 anti-EU members, mostly from Poland (League of Polish Families), Self-Defence, Law and Justice). In 2009, the Eurosceptic members grew to 120. Taking into consideration the current crisis, it can be expected that in 2014, opponents of the European Union may come close to a majority in the 751-seat directly elected Parliament. The result of which would mean a total reversal of the integration and the end of EUtopian dream.
A Few months back the European Commission, the IMF and the ECB presented a rescue plan for indebted southern Europe with stringent conditions; austerity measures. These measures include reforming public finances sector and other measures to apply spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit.
With the introduction of the austerity measures, Greeks gave their support to a radical anti-European party and Italians voted for a comedian Beppe Grillo. In Poland, the additional support was given to the Law and Justice party.
This emerging political trend shows that our society is becoming more divided over the achievements of the single market and Europe’s free movement of labour. In this atmosphere the media, especially in the “old” Europe, emphasized:
– Unemployment statistics – caused by the “newcomers” taking the jobs from the locals (be it British, French, or Germans).
– Social tourism and other scams where newcomers are exploiting the welfare system of other European countries.
– Increasing crime rates due to immigrants from the new member states.
The crisis affected the budgets of many families across Europe, many are looking for someone to blame for the austerity. Therefore in the current situation it is no wonder that the radical populist movements are flourishing.
What are the pre-election moods of the main political groups in the EP?
1. The Christian Democrats, the center-right political group, has 275 members from the ruling parties in many countries (including the Civic Platform and the Polish People’s Party). They are aware of their difficult situation and expect to lose up to a dozen members after the 2014 elections.
2. The Social Democrats with 195 members. They count on maintaining their current numbers and may even increase it. The British Labour Party has strong support and there is increased support for the Left in Spain and Germany.
3. Liberals, with 84 members. Here, there are no signs of optimism; they may lose 10 to 20 seats in the European elections. They have already disappeared in Italy, are in a bad situation in Germany, France and in the UK (paying the price for their coalition with David Cameron’s Conservative Party).
After 2014, the Parliament will also be smaller than it is now. Following the Lisbon Treaty (which increased the number of deputies) and Croatia’s EU accession, there are currently 764 MEPs. Only 751 Members will form the next legislature.
If the 2014 elections give pro-European political groups a majority, the Parliament will continue pushing for more Europe. If not, according to the Belgian “Le Soir” newpaper of 26 June, we might face a situation of the Parliament becoming “a monkey with a razorblade” …
Greetings from the European Parliament,
Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg