The challenges after the European elections

The challenges after the European elections

Despite their significant boost in almost all 27 countries in the European Union, far-right parties failed to create the momentum they expected in Sunday’s European Parliament elections: Securing only 120-140 seats out of 720, Italy’s Premier Giorgia Meloni with the European Conservatives (ECR) and France’s Marine Le Pen with the Identity and Democracy (ID) group, are not expected to threaten the convergence of the three historic European parties on the basic issues, even if they manage to overcome their big differences on crucial issues, such as Europe’s stance on Ukraine.

From the results so far, the European People’s Party (EPP), the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the Liberals (Renew), with or without the help of the Greens (Greens/EFA), seem to be comfortably exceeding the magic number of 361 seats, which will be necessary in the new European Parliament for the selection of the president and the members of the new Commission, and for passing the most important legislation. Furthermore, this will be accomplished without depending on the support of smaller parties, and especially The Left (GUE/NGL), whose marginalization was confirmed on Sunday. It is possible, however, that their agreement on the new European Parliament will become more difficult, due to their lower percentages.

The survival of these historic European parties should not lead to complacency. In large European countries the rise of the far-right is worrying and should be explained. Is it situational or is it due to deeper processes? In any case, the rise of far-right parties will cause turmoil, as it risks shifting the political confrontation to much more right-wing positions.

In France the result of the European elections has already prompted President Emmanuel Macron to call early elections. In Italy, Prime Minister Meloni’s influence is expected to strengthen, not only within the country, but also in the EU.

The rise of far-right parties will cause turmoil, as it risks shifting the political confrontation to much more right-wing positions

By accepting Brussels’ policy towards Ukraine, the 47-year-old prime minister, a former nanny, waitress and bartender at a famous club in Rome, is trying to distance herself from her neo-fascist past. For example, a few days ago, on the centenary of the assassination of Italian socialist politician Giacomo Matteotti by Benito Mussolini’s fascist hordes in 1924, he was commemorated in the Italian Parliament. Hence Ursula von der Leyen’s overtures towards Meloni, which prompted French far-right leader Marine Le Pen to ask Meloni (before the elections) to team up and form a right-wing group.

In fact, if former European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi’s candidacy for the presidency of the Commission finally goes ahead, I believe that Meloni will be faced with the dilemma of either supporting the Italian banker – with whom she has worked closely in the past – or cooperate with the party that is ideologically closest to her, the ID group of Le Pen. Much in the new European Parliament will depend on what she does.

Another politician that was elected on Sunday is the French journalist and director Raphael Glucksmann, head of the center-left Place Publique party, which cooperated with the French Socialist Party. With the 14-15% he received, he not only took the French Socialists off the fringes, but also positioned himself as a reliable bulwark against Le Pen’s path to the French presidency. It is interesting to note that Glucksmann, as chairman of the outgoing European Parliament’s special committee on foreign interference, has made a career as a staunch critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and has accused many European politicians, such as former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, of collaboration with Russian oligarchs (see his 2023 book “La grande confrontation”). Let’s see…

Nikos K. Alivizatos is an emeritus professor at the University of Athens.

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