Going European: The Need for Reining In the Anti-EU Right

by Gae­like Conring.

In an unprece­dent­ed move Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders last week announced their coop­er­a­tion going into the Euro­pean par­lia­men­tary elec­tions due in 2014. Their wide­ly report­ed announce­ment gave anti-EU sen­ti­ment a face, even in coun­tries with­out anti-EU polit­i­cal move­ments. For those iden­ti­fy­ing with their anti-EU stances, but still slight­ly queasy about cast­ing a vote for the far right, it may well have removed that last lit­tle bit of reservation.

With­out a doubt it marks a sig­nif­i­cant shift in the strat­e­gy of anti-EU rightwing par­ties which have most recent­ly gained trac­tion due to the eco­nom­ic hard­ship brought about by the debt cri­sis. In a break with the past, ide­ol­o­gy takes a back­seat to the cause of pro­vid­ing a polit­i­cal home for the dis­con­tent­ed, giv­ing these par­ties dis­tinct­ly nation­al fla­vors. Before last week’s announce­ment, this has made it hard for them to agree on poli­cies at a supra­na­tion­al lev­el. Still, some obsta­cles per­sist. For exam­ple, The Unit­ed King­dom Inde­pen­dence Par­ty (UKIP), though inter­est­ed in coop­er­at­ing, will not join cit­ing the anti-Mus­lim sen­ti­ment per­pet­u­at­ed by the Front Nation­al as the deal break­er. The Alter­na­tive for Ger­many (AfD) is try­ing hard to strip its image off any asso­ci­a­tions with the far right.

Nev­er­the­less, estab­lished par­ties should take this move seri­ous­ly. The pol­i­tics of the debt cri­sis have height­ened per­cep­tions of unelect­ed and demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly unac­count­able bureau­crats deter­min­ing the future of the Euro­pean Union and its cit­i­zens. At least in part, this demo­c­ra­t­ic deficit is root­ed in the absence of politi­cians giv­ing EU pol­i­tics a face. Nation­al­ly, polit­i­cal con­fronta­tions and dis­agree­ments are car­ried out and resolved in debates between politi­cians, mak­ing the pub­lic privy to the pub­lic pol­i­cy process. When it comes to EU pol­i­tics, nation­al lead­ers appear to be weak and at the behest of face­less bureau­crats in Brus­sels. In the absence of politi­cians giv­ing a face to the EU and becom­ing polit­i­cal­ly account­able, the EU as a whole becomes the oppo­nent, thus putting into ques­tion the Euro­pean project each and every time when the going gets rough.

Under­stand­ing the dan­ger­ous void cre­at­ed by the imper­son­al nature of EU pol­i­tics, Mar­tin Schulz, a can­di­date for the Social Democ­rats, has moved to turn the par­lia­men­tary elec­tions into a con­test of find­ing a suc­ces­sor for Jose Manuel Bar­roso, the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion due to step down next year. Tak­ing the cue, the Greens are let­ting their mem­bers decide who should become their con­tender for the EU top job. The Euro­pean Con­ser­v­a­tives, cur­rent­ly the strongest pow­er in par­lia­ment, remain unsure about their next move. Remov­ing the choice of Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion from the realm of inter-par­ty horse-trad­ing and plac­ing it square­ly in the hands of the EU pop­u­lace would renew a sense of demo­c­ra­t­ic account­abil­i­ty, there­by ren­der­ing base­less the alle­ga­tions of the anti-EU right.

Of course, sym­bol­ic acts need to be fol­lowed by leg­isla­tive changes aimed at clos­ing the demo­c­ra­t­ic deficit. But with anti-EU par­ties tak­ing a size­able chunk of the pub­lic­i­ty relat­ed to next year’s elec­tion, it is high time for the estab­lished par­ties to quit pos­tur­ing and start pub­li­cal­ly coun­ter­ing the charges lev­elled at the EU by the rad­i­cal fringes.

Gae­like Con­ring is an Affil­i­ate at d|part.


The views and opin­ions expressed in this arti­cle are those of the author.

Related Posts

Leave Your Comment