Ahead of the EU-wide parliamentary elections, a much needed overview from BBC Europe editor Gavin Hewitt of the state of the European Project and its extant political trilemma. From Gavin Hewitt’s article
Unless the polls are very wrong, sometime next weekend Europe will learn that at least a quarter of the seats in the next European Parliament will have gone to anti-establishment and Eurosceptic parties.
The figure could even be closer to 30%. In many places the election has become a referendum on the European project itself.
These parties have very different agendas: some are from the far right, some from the radical left, but they all in their own ways question the EU’s prevailing ambition of “ever closer union”. Some are wreckers, wanting to tear down the Brussels temple – a fifth column set on undermining the European institutions from the inside.
So how will the European mainstream, the political caste that has set the agenda for almost half a century, deal with these usurpers? How will they deal with their own unpopularity? Some no doubt will choose the easy slap-down and dismiss these upstart parties as a rag-bag army of xenophobes, racists, populists, nationalists, neo-Nazis, and nation-state romanticists. Such labels, of course, conveniently avoid having to engage or argue.
Many will be tempted to argue the case of the majority – a 30% protest vote means that 70% stuck with parties who support further integration. A win is a win. Scoop up the pot.
In the European Parliament the temptation will be for the mainstream parties – the Conservatives (EPP), Socialists (S&D), Liberals (ALDE) and Greens – to form alliances to fend off the Eurosceptic challenge. They may well be more determined than ever to deepen integration. Guy Verhofstadt, one of the candidates for president of the European Commission, hinted at that when he said “this month you will see a kind of victory for the Eurosceptics, but that will hopefully lead to the emergence of a pro-European electorate and eventually to the new leap forward that we need.”
Read the whole thing. Here are his final lines
The European debate is often characterised as a clash between federalists and sceptics. It ignores the fact that there is a growing body of reformers who believe in the EU but insist it has to change for its own good.
Two days after the vote Europe’s heads of government have been summoned to Brussels to discuss “the shape of Europe”. Some see this as the start of the opening that the reformers have been waiting for. We shall see.
Well, we might…