source: Ecaterina Tolicova
Sweeping right-wing? Or just a weakening left? What will happen next June? Is the status quo the music of the past? Or is there no wind of change at all? Furthermore, is the EU loosing from its reputation or is it just the political communication from the right? Let us explore the EU’s political spectrum together and prepare for whatever may come.
Last week I was listening to a podcast, when one of the guests pointed out, that there is a high probability for a right-wing sweep in the European Parliament elections next June. This might, he said, bring a substantial change in the EU’s liberal-leaning politics. In recent years, the European Union was described as a political entity swayed towards the left. The organization of 27 countries was well-known for its liberal politics, urging governments to enforce green change and progressive measures. However, in 2022 with the election of Giorgia Meloni the streak of countries with left-wing leadership broke. According to poll expectations, other European countries will follow the right breeze, which might mean that in the next EU elections more conservative representatives can start their mandate.
The European Parliament Elections 2024
The strengthening of the right-wing forecasts an interesting picture for the upcoming European Parliament elections in June 2024. The EP consists of 705 members, who can form any number of parties during their mandate. Currently, there are 7 groups, with the European Peoples’ Party on top (176 seats) followed by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (144 seats). Even though the EPP is said to be a party positioned in the central-right, it is hard to say that they have been pushing conservative bills. Moreover, the oldest party of the EU is viewed as a liberal group by the more right-leaning members, like Hungary or Poland. An important thing to realize is, that even though two members of the EP are from the same country, they do not necessarily work for the same party. Next June voters will send members to the parliament by the law of proportionality, meaning that the higher the population of the country, the more representatives will attend the meetings in Brussels. According to Politico, there is a high possibility for a right-wing sweep in the election’s booths, as central-right parties are now starting to form alliances with once-considered historically unloved far-right groups.
source: Parliament’s seven political groups: European Parlaiment Website
What do the EU critics say?
It is a common saying that the EU is, as a whole, destined to be a powerless organization. Leftist critics say that sanctions regarding the Ukrainian war and green measures are not processed quickly and efficiently enough. It is, therefore, a common topic that the EU, to keep up in the race with the US and China, should change its veto policy and should induce joint foreign affairs. However, these voices are coming from the left, what do right-wing politicians argue in the EU? It is almost a constant topic that right-wing parties urge higher sovereignty for their own nations. They are trying to limit the EU’s hands-on virtue towards domestic politics. Moreover, the conservatives tend to criticize the EU’s green politics as well, by emphasizing that the organization makes hasty, and not at all well-thought decisions in the matter. These topics lead to high misunderstandings in the EU summits, therefore it is necessary to mention some of them on their own.
More liberal representatives and heads of state argue that the goal of the European society should be to make the integration of immigrants as easy as possible. Some of the EU lawmakers support a policy that would help asylum seekers settle down and make their life in the EU more accessible. The ones who are supporting this policy often emphasize the idea that this would stop the peaking migration crisis by pushing immigrants not to go from one EU country to another. However, critics say that this bill hurts the sovereignty of an individual member country and their right to deal with the crisis. Right-wing members emphasize, that only states can make decisions in such matters, since the culture of the countries depends on them.
Even though, over the summer more than 60,000 Europeans died from heat-related causes, the EU’s Green Deal is losing popularity. When Ursula von der Leyen got elected, she introduced her climate bill, which was accepted with high support from almost all parties in the EP. However, with the elections coming up the President of The European Commission has lost valuable popularity within her very own party. Although centralists and conservatives support the carbon neutrality plan, they believe that the current climate action, the Green Deal is hasty, and not well structured. Next year’s elections will potentially slow down the green initiative further within the EU, as with a possible right-wing sweep, members of the Green parties might not receive enough votes. Moreover, Frans Timmermans, the Commission Chief of Climate in the EU, might return in the autumn to Dutch politics, leaving the green parties without central support.
As a consequence of the Russian-Ukrainian peace talks in the EU, member states realized, that the organization’s veto policy makes the negotiations longer and ineffective. In order to remove this inefficiency in the EU, nine states have indicated that they would urge a change in the veto policy. The supporters of the change include Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovenia, and Spain. These countries5 argue that the current system prevents the EU from an effective foreign policy and believe that ‘Improved decision-making is also key to making the EU fit for the future’. However, countries that have right-wing governments dislike this idea, as it would, as they say, demolish the sovereignty of members and create inequality on the political spectrum. Therefore, the change in the lawmaking process of the EU is a difficult game to play, as none of the sides is willing to let the other one to take the ball home.
But in which countries is there a right awakening? Several nations have turned or will possibly turn their heads away from the left in response to the economic crisis of the last couple of years.
Firstly, Italy. In the Mediterranean country Giorgia Meloni was elected as prime minister. The first woman to ever hold this office is a member of the only Italian party that had not yet distanced itself from the far-right movements during the 1930s. Her election was considered a turning point in the EU, she was even called the most dangerous woman in Europe by Germany’s Stern magazine. However, after more than a year had passed, she did not turn out to be so militantly right-leaning as previously suspected. Although she does maintain the right-wing way of economics, she does not cross any steps in the EU and except for the migration law, she supports the decisions made in Brussels.
Although it is hard to imagine that there will be a right-wing chancellor in Germany, we must mention the country with the biggest economy in Europe. The far-conservative organization, AfD (Alternative for Germany) is, in fact, gaining popularity. With the seemingly ineffective decisions made by the social democrats and the problems between the parties of the governing coalition, the traffic light looks weak and incompetent of governing. However, even though there is a popularity gain on the far-right side, it does not mean that they will replace the current regime. The CDU, a central-right party is also in for the race to poach the leftist voters. What is more, the Christian democratic party has around 30 years of governing experience, which means that in the upcoming fight for power, they have a considerable advantage compared to all other parties.
Last but not least on the list is Spain. In July, the country held its national elections, where the leftist Pedro Sánchez was reelected as prime minister. However, he fell short of expectations, as this year’s election was the most competitive since 1996. Meaning, that on the right-wing the Spanish People’s Party has gained a surprising popularity, which can open a possibility for a conservative turn in the Iberian country.
With Slovakia and Finland on the list, these countries might join the growing right-wing wave next June, when citizens will visit the polls to decide how they want to shape Brussels. On the conservative side there is an often-critical view towards the EU, and when gaining popularity, they can change how the organization shapes the continent.
But will these changes really matter in the life of the EU?
The question is not easy to answer and there is not one good reaction to it. There is a difference between right-wing politics in the western part of the continent and in the eastern part of it. While, in the more developed countries conservative policies would mean higher market control, or more controlled asylum intake, in post-Soviet countries, like Poland or Hungary there are political regimes, which people would call far right. In these member states, the EU is often communicated as the source of misfortune, and politicians tend to blame the organization for any crises happening in their countries. It is enough to look at the difference between Angela Merkel a center-right winger and Mateusz Morawiecki an Eastern European right-winger. Moreover, right-wing politicians who get elected in Western countries tend to consolidate after taking office. The example of Giorgia Meloni fits this description perfectly. The Italian prime minister was said to be the most dangerous woman in Europe. Before getting elected, her speeches were full of far-right ideas, however when she took office, she started to be more careful, and more closely align her party to the big Western countries.
The idea of a right-wing European Union is hard to imagine. However, it is in our own hands. Next June, every European citizen over 18 will have their say in the future of the continent. Are you going to change the status quo? Or do you trust the current policymakers and will give your cross to the existing MEP? Let us know on our social media comment sections or via email. And don’t forget, voting is the most beautiful right to bear in our system; take the opportunity and shape our future.