- Research reveals in forensic detail how anti-European parties will incapacitate the European Parliament after elections in May – and what this could mean for the future of Europe
- Study identifies areas that anti-Europeans could undermine, and cause irreparable damage to, such as trade, security and defence
- ECFR announces that it will carry out extensive polling across the EU in the run up to, and in the immediate aftermath of, May’s European Parliament elections. This will identify the key battlegrounds for parties and the issues that matter to voters in each Member State
The 2019 European Elections: How anti-Europeans plan to wreck Europe and what can be done to stop it’ is the most comprehensive mapping yet of the impacts of anti-European parties ahead of May’s European Parliament elections. Drawn from a network of associate researchers in EU capitals, interviews with political parties, policymakers, and policy experts, and analysis of patterns in voter segmentation and party manifestos, the ECFR study examines what is at stake in each of Europe’s 27 Member states and considers the influence anti-European parties could wield on key issues such as trade, security, climate change and the EU budget if they collaborate in the European Parliament.
The report warns that, despite divisions between anti-European parties, they are likely to work together to undermine European cooperation and prevent action against member states that are in breach EU values.
It concludes that this year’s European Parliament elections will be most significant ever, and that the future of the Europe, as an international power capable of guaranteeing security and prosperity to its citizens, is at stake.
The report finds that anti-European legislators could:
- Inhibit Europe’s response to major foreign policy challenges: by pushing for the ending of sanctions against the Russia, undermining NATO, and by demanding a national, rather than a European, response to the economic threats posed by China and the US.
- Weaken the rule of law in Europe: by blocking Article 7 procedures in the European Parliament, and undermining Europe’s ability to internally defend democracy and breaches of human rights.
- Damage Europe’s economic competitiveness by obstructing the negotiation or ratification of free trade agreements (FTA), such as a post-Brexit arrangement with the United Kingdom. The report predicts that trade policy will be chosen by anti-European parties as their favoured battleground.
- Put Freedom of Movement in Europe at risk: by striving for the reintroduction of strict internal border controls as the main solution to the EU’s migration challenge;
- Hamper global efforts to curb climate change: by advocating the withdrawal of their country, and the EU in general, from multilateral arrangements, such as the Paris climate agreement;
- Promote the EU’s disintegration from within: by wrecking budget negotiations, stalling on the appointment of Commissioner, and using their platform in Parliament to push for in-or-out referendums in member states. The resulting paralysis will undermine the argument that the EU is reformable.
- Change the political culture of Europe: Success in EP elections could be used as springboard for success in national elections by Europe’s nationalists. The greatest impact of the EP elections might be on a wave of national elections in Denmark, Estonia and Slovakia over the next year, which could bring nationalists to power as coalition partners, frustrating the work of the European Council.
The report, in its analysis of the upcoming election campaigns and the strategies for fighting the anti-Europeans, notes that:
- Pro-Europeans must broaden the debate to show the real-world costs of the anti-European parties’ agendas across a range of policies. In most countries, national political issues will dominate the campaign, and migration will only be one important issue among many in every member state except for Portugal, Ireland and Lithuania.
- Mainstream conservative parties should refrain from adopting the agenda of far-right parties and joining them in coalition.
- The focus, for the mainstream parties, should be on addressing the concerns of voters on foreign policy, climate, security, defence, growth and jobs, where nationalists are divided and have less to say.
This study, on the consequences of increased anti-European representation, is the first major output of ECFR’s ‘Unlock Europe’s Majority’ project and will be supplemented by further reports as well as extensive polling across Member States throughout the election cycle.
ECFR polling will identify the battleground issues for political parties; the standout concerns of voters in 15 EU Member States; and the impacts the results will have on major policy areas, such as foreign affairs. This outreach will be undertaken, and subsequently published, in three tranches between February and June 2019.
Mark Leonard, Director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said:
“The warning in this report, that anti-European parties are gaining strength and could paralyse the EU, should concentrate the minds of pro-Europeans. They must not become trapped into becoming defenders of the status quo in Europe or allowing the election to become a referendum on the issue of migration – which is exactly the battleground that the anti-Europeans want”
“Instead, pro-Europeans need to unmute the silent majority by fighting different elections that Europe’s different publics will vote on –such as the climate change election, the ‘Facebook’ election for those concerned for their data and privacy, the election for those worried about Russian aggression, the prosperity election for those worried about stalled living standards, the rule of law election for those worried about democratic backsliding, and the ‘’saving Europe’ election for the EU’s most ardent defenders”
Susi Dennison, Senior Fellow and Director of the European Power programme at ECFR, said:
“This report shows how high the stakes are and how much damage the anti-Europeans could do. As well as frustrating EU action that will help Europe’s citizens – from trade deals to action against Russian aggression – they will use their power in the European Parliament as a launch pad to transform politics throughout Europe. We offer a strategy to fight back: by exposing real-world costs of their key policy ideas, and identifying new issues that could inspire voters.”