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Home Editorial Europeanist Parties Prevail in European Elections

Europeanist Parties Prevail in European Elections

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  • Autore:

    Lucio Levi

  • Titolo:

    Member of UEF Federal Committee, Former President of UEF Italy

The clear message sent by voters in the elections for the European Parliament (EP), held on 23-26 May 2019, is that the Europeanist parties continue to have the trust of a large majority of citizens. The centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) remain the two largest European parties, but register a considerable decline.

For the first time since direct elections, begun in 1979, they have failed to achieve together the majority in the EP. Therefore, a coalition with Liberals (ALDE) and probably the Greens, whose popular support has grown, will be necessary to lead the European Union (EU).

On the other hand, despite the success of Marine Le Pen in France, Nigel Farage in the UK, Matteo Salvini in Italy, Jaroslaw Kaczynski in Poland, Viktor Orban in Hungary, who have obtained the highest number of votes in their respective countries, the sovereignist parties will represent a minority in the EP. Together, the three sovereignist groups (ECR, ENF, EFDD) have the same weight as the EPP. Moreover, while they have dropped their plan to leave the EU and the euro in favour of reforming the EU from inside, they are divided on several other issues like the relations with the US and Russia, the fiscal compact and the economic and monetary policies. The weak point of their plan is that, to unite Europe, they rely upon what divides it, i.e. nationalism.

50,97% of EU citizens took part in the elections, the highest turnout in 20 years and the first time since the first direct elections that turnout has increased. This is the first visible effect of the start of a real political struggle between political parties at the European level. The European elections have been so far conceived as a test to check the strength relationships between political parties at national level. The inversion of tendency occurred this time is the consequence of the challenge of the sovereignist and populist parties to the EU, which has contributed to transform the electoral competition into a choice between Europeanism and nationalism.

Now it is up to the parliamentary groups to form a coalition representing a large majority of elected MEPs and to choose the name of the President of the European Commission and his programme for the next five years. The coalition will unite left-wing and right-wing parties in order to defend the “acquis communautaire” – i.e. European values, common institutions and economic and social integration – against the populist challenge. But the evolution towards the formation of a normal party system, based on the left-right dialectics, is underway. The next European elections will be the test bed of this innovation.

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The decline of traditional centre-left and centre-right parties and the rise of new political forces, like the greens and populist and nationalist parties highlight the existence of discontent and uneasiness in the public opinion towards the EU and its capacity to face the new demands emerging in European society. The fact is that the traditional parties have adopted ordinary provisions, while the scientific revolution of material production, the economic and the environmental crises and the increasing international tensions, due to the return of protectionism and the arms race, require extraordinary measures.

Blair’s “third way”, a political program embraced by most centre-left parties of the Western world, materialized in an alignment with the triumphant neo-liberalism of the first phase of globalization. The most significant social benefit of globalization has been poverty reduction, but ungoverned globalization has entailed heavy costs for ordinary people, like the increase of inequality worldwide and the disappearance of the middle class in western countries. The vision of the world which has prevailed was a world without vision.

The left, having proved unable to go beyond the neoliberal vision, ended with undergoing the reduction of state influence on the economy, the austerity policies, the erosion of the welfare state, the containment of migration flows. The lack of government of globalization has triggered a nationalist and authoritarian dynamic in political institutions, leading to fencing national borders, eroding the division of powers and limiting political freedoms.

The left has confined itself to defend the rights of the old workers (pensioners), but not those of the new ones (the young people), who have to fight against unemployment, precarious work, new forms of exploitation and poverty, growing inequality. The poor, the outcasts, the unemployed and more generally those who have experienced an income curtailment felt themselves abandoned and most of them have considered the nation-states as a protection from the insecurity generated by globalization and have adhered to the appeal of reactionary ideas, like protectionism and nationalism. For similar reasons the centre-right parties have yielded to the extreme right.

The rejection and criminalization of migrants, represented as those who threaten our security, our welfare and our identity, is the ideology that ascribes to those who experience conditions of life far inferior to ours all the ills of the world. Like once the Jews, they play the role of scapegoats. Those who get the most benefit from ungoverned globalization are the global finance, the giants of Web 2.0 and multinational corporations. Since the beginning of the globalization process, it was clear that, to govern the process, politics should regain the upper hand on the economy through the extension of government, political institutions and democracy at the international level. The starting point is the strengthening of the cohesion and democracy in the EU.

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European unification should restart from a challenge to the United States and China on the ground of innovation. A huge European investment plan (a “Green New Deal”) leading to the clean energy  transition is necessary. The current economic model, that fosters relentless consumption and upsets climate equilibria in a way that will soon be out of control, should be overcome in the direction of sustainable development, the improvement of the quality of life and the creation of new employment opportunities in vanguard sectors such as energy, ICT, artificial intelligence, the internet of things. The Climate Paris Agreement should become the driving force of a European environmental policy which reshapes the quality of development increasing the production of renewable energy. A carbon tax would create a powerful incentive to reduce carbon emissions and the money collected would be partially returned to the citizens in the form  of a social dividend, providing a tax relief to low-income households or a reduction of social security contributions.

On the other hand, instability, conflicts and wars that trouble the Mediterranean area and the bordering regions of Europe demand that the EU endows itself with a single security and defense system and speaks with one voice. First of all, the European Commission should be entrusted with the task to regulate migration flows and redistribute immigrants across member states according to equitable criteria. At the same time, the EU should promote a development plan with the African Union, aiming to manage migration in the long run through investments in infrastructure projects, first of all development of renewable energy, the most promising area of job creation.

Only if the EU becomes a global actor there is hope that it can have an impact on global affairs. The old world of the nation-states is disappearing and a new one made up of macro-regional states or unions of states is under construction. To survive in today’s world, a union of states as large as the EU is the minimum indispensable. Moreover, the United States is not willing to protect Europe any longer and is planning its disengagement from the Mediterranean. This means that common defense – together with a Green New Deal – represents for the EU the highest priority.

In order that the EU becomes capable of acting, two institutional changes are necessary. First, the unanimity vote in the fields of the increase of budget resources, foreign, security and defense policy and treaty revision should be replaced by the majority vote according to the democratic principle. Second, the EU should be endowed with substantial additional own resources, fostered by European taxes, such as a carbon tax or a web tax, to enable it to act independently of the member states.

If Europeanist parties, which have prevailed in the European elections, continue with a “business-as-usual” approach, they will pave the way to the victory of the sovereignist parties in the 2024 elections. I conclude with a sentence Greta Thunberg, the young leader of the campaign “Fridays for Future”, pronounced before the European Parliament: “Our house is falling apart; politicians have to take action now, because there is not much time left.”

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