A Nationalist Alliance in the European Parliament Would Be More Effective if It Were Framed Around Left/Right Issues, Rather Than Immigration or Euroscepticism
Zoe Lefkofridi (LSE European Politics and Policy Blog)
For the very first time in the Union’s electoral history, candidates for the President of the European Commission were nominated by European political parties before the elections to the European Parliament. This move was an attempt to personalise EU-level politics and thus bring it closer to the citizen. However, due to the North-South divide generated by the crisis, it proved at times difficult to connect, for example, Greek and Spanish voters with a German candidate (Martin Schulz) from the Party of European Socialists, or a Luxembourgish candidate (Jean-Claude Juncker) from the European People’s Party.
The general loss of trust in the EU is reflected in the rise of populist parties at the national level. Such parties, given their lack of congruence and a hostility to negotiate a compromise with their opponents, were hitherto unable to organise their resources effectively and engage in long-term EU-wide campaigns. Their influence was therefore largely local, and they played a minimal part in EU institutions. Only time will tell whether 2014 will mark a new period in the inter-national cooperation of nationalist parties in the European Parliament. Aiming at a pan-European alliance of far right parties against the “Monster of Brussels”, Le Pen (FN) and Wilders (PVV) met and discussed with representatives from far-right parties such the Flemish Vlaams Belang (VB) and Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ). So far, their struggle for wider recognition has barred these movements from allying themselves with more openly racist-fascist parties such as the Greek Golden Dawn and Hungarian Jobbik.
Finally, the study shows that, similarly to other European parties, such as the European People’s Party and Party of European Socialists, the left-right dimension seems to be the obvious foundation for collaboration between the nationalist parties as well. On the left-right, they are much closer to each other than on the two of their most salient issues – EU and immigration.
Post-Libya and Post-Ukraine: In Search of Core Leadership
Jolyon Howorth (Istituto Affari Internazionali)
In the Arab Spring, in general, and the Libyan crisis of 2011, in particular, the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) proved to be an utterly inefficient instrument. One would expect the EU to adopt appropriate measures to avoid a similar fiasco in the future. In light of the crisis in Ukraine, this does not seem to have been the case. Does the crux of the issue lie primarily in the EU’s institutional arrangement, or are we dealing with a different kind of problem? Several areas deserve attention in this context. According to this study, the most formidable hurdle is the EU’s lack of leadership.
Despite common appearances, the greatest opponents of transnational solutions in defence matters are not eurosceptic citizens, but governments of EU Member States. Justified or not, the fear of loss of national sovereignty results in the absence of strong leaders with a clear vision and essential skills required to turn this vision into a reality. As it is, high positions in virtually all EU institutions are filled with people who evoke the least disagreement across the entire political spectrum. However, those candidates who made no enemies throughout their careers typically avoid causing conflict at all costs, rendering themselves unsuitable for leadership positions. To be able to effectively deal with different crises, such as the ongoing ones in Libya and Ukraine, the solution lies, as this study ultimately argues, in promoting stronger leadership of the European Union.
Free Movement in FOCUS: Is One of the EU’s Freedoms at Risk?
Boyan Tanev a Vít Novotný (Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies)
The free movement of EU citizens was criticised by the far right in the debates leading up to the recent European elections. This topic was already in the spotlight throughout 2013 in the context of expiring labour movement limits on Bulgarian and Romanian migrant workers in the UK and France. Mainstream political parties commonly play the anti-immigration tune to attract conservative voters. However, in doing so, they legitimise arguments of the extremist parties.
Many EU Member States are facing a shortage of qualified labour. In allowing qualified workmen to travel wherever their labour is needed, the free movement of European citizens offers a simple solution to this imbalance. In fact, the EU would benefit from actively supporting labour mobility, as it remains relatively low. The double enlargement of the Union since the turn of the century brought fresh labour into the EU15 and had a positive economic impact on the EU as a whole. At the same time, studies have shown that most EU migrants travel to work and thus are not the welfare scroungers, which is how they are often portrayed by far right parties. Importantly, the rules and conditions of social welfare redistribution are set by individual EU Member States. In this context, the EU only lays emphasis on the permanent residence criteria, which are also defined by Member States.
Also heavily contested before the elections was the question of how many Bulgarians and Romanians should be allowed to migrate to Western Europe. Systematic data about this year’s migration remains unavailable, but some facts are already known. Only nine Member States maintained transitional measures to the latest possible date. Most of the EU labour market has therefore already opened to the Bulgarians and Romanians. As a result, those who sought better work abroad had already gone by now. Furthermore, the controls did not apply to self-employed citizens. Bulgarians and Romanians prefer to work in countries closer to their own anyway: 37 percent of migrant Bulgarian and Romanian workers earn their living in Italy, and only 12 percent in Germany and 5 percent in the UK. Therefore, it is the latter two countries that need not fear a sudden wave of jobless migrants.
Placing limits on the free movement of persons would vitiate the liberties associated with EU citizenship, erode European integration, and allow the far right parties to set a future course of the Union. Mainstream political parties should present the objective truth and explain to their voters the benefits of free movement, and cooperate with other parties across Europe in tackling unemployment.