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EU elections

Written By: - Date published: 7:30 am, May 25th, 2019 - 20 comments
Categories: Europe, uk politics - Tags:

We will get the results of the European parliament elections in the next day or so.

It’s the first election they’ve had since the refugee crisis, the Brexit referendum, and the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.

There’s a reasonably high chance that the far right are going to increase their share of this Parliament.

Yet the latest Eurobarometer survey shows that almost seven out of ten Europeans, excluding the British, believe that their country has benefited from integration – the highest share since 1983.

That’s a pretty broad mood indicator. But one of the big dividers is across an east-west fault line, with Eastern Europeans tending to trust the political system less than in Western Europeans, so they tend to vote in European elections in lower numbers. Institutional disaffection and low turnout are also pervasive among young Europeans in general, despite the fact that they are more pro-European than the average.

It’s easy to characterise both hard left and hard right parties as beset with a sticky nostalgia; each with their own back-casting a meaning of history for them and their political causes. But the E.U. can now better be framed as “The EU was created by societies that feared the past. Now Europeans fear the future.

The political parties that are successfully replacing the stable centrist ones are largely highly nationalist and ethnically focussed, or deeply anti-immigration, or indeed both. They are not primarily driven by economic agendas, but by identity and a will to protect existing groups of settled peoples within specific countries.

There have been massive political shifts in Europe since the massive downward shifts in wealth from the Financial Crisis over a decade ago, and the deep austerity programmes from many European governments. Why this did not shock and kick the E.U. into a massive political renewal programme to refresh their actual social mandate, beggars belief.

Instead the common theme of most countries has been national seclusion and a rejection of the immigration that Europe desperately needs to respond to its ageing, socially entitled population, compared to the immigrant countries.

In Denmark, the left gets the necessity of limiting immigration as well.

Brexit is the biggest political counter to this: the alternative to belonging to Europe is a very, very cold and isolated place to be, and it is also the start of real political, social and economic chaos. There is also absolutely no sign that the U.K. Labor Party would have been any better at handling it. The net result will be many E.U. Parliamentarians who will be seeking to actively smash the E.U. from within. The United Kingdom is already shivering and it has barely opened the exit door.

As a result there are not as many anti-Europe parties quite so cocky about leaving Europe as unattached countries any more.

Writing from New Zealand, it’s pretty easy to poke the finger at Europe’s refugee issues when we take so few of them and our parent country Australia shoulders the moral quandaries from resisting them. We all benefit from explicit or implicit anti-immigration discourse, even if New Zealand gets to keep its’ blushes with more adroit diplomatic moves. Opposing uncontrolled immigration is reasonable; turning our backs on our neighbours is not.

But it may be surprising to know that immigration is not the issue that concerns more Europeans. Nope, it’s the economy.

Inequality has been rising across most European countries since the GFC, as well as in most OECD countries including New Zealand. It has simply amazed me that the E.U. has failed to show that massive redistribution of wealth to the poorest within the poorest European countries could result in a renewal of the social contract that sustains the E.U. in the first place.

They must do it. It is the core purpose of the European Parliament to set a budget in the interests of all, and to do so in cooperation with member states.

To me, that is the core job that the European Parliament has to do more convincingly. The best counter to xenophobic ideologies is to increase the popularity of massive social service and wealth redistribution. That is the task of the remaining centre-left and centre-right parties that are sustaining the E.U.

The E.U. has never before had more effective tools for addressing the economic and financial challenges that may arise. And, for all the palaver about xenophobia and its discontents, there’s still a chance that the pro-EU alliance parliamentarians may remain in a majority.

The question is a deep and hard one: is it worth sticking together? Is it worth recommitting? Or is there simply a slow drift in which the core countries such as France and Germany continue to rally the cause of collectivity which is very attractive to the small, the weak and peripheral, but not so attractive to wealthy medium-sized states driven by febrile political fools.

It also doesn’t help that the potential for full-throated political renewal within the electoral system has deserted Gen X and has only started to alight within those generally too young to vote.

That’s a long to time to wait to regain institutional belief in a cross-country representative system.

20 comments on “EU elections”

  1. SPC 1

    Brexit is largely older people voting for the Britain of their youth in the 1950's and 1960's. And those involved want the referendum result fixed in time and applied until they die off. 

    However at each election in future, Labour the LD and SNP are going to run on re-joining the customs union and single market. Time is not on their side. They cling to the 2016 result because it will never be repeated.

    These old people (no CGT, work and get super privileged elite) are like the Boers in the laager under P Botha. A regime awaiting the stake in the heart. 

    • Dukeofurl 1.1

      There isnt that many 'older people' to get a 52% majority. Its was far more regional  in that outside London 'region'  and a few  'EU- centric enclaves'  the voters didnt see much benefit from EU or other dominant economic policies.

      That was even with junk economics saying the economy would suffer a sharp shock once the result was announced. It could have been over 55% vote to leave if  the reality of economic  adjustment would be small was pushed instead.

      Even before  joing the EU ( or Common market as it was called then) Britian was a member of the Free trade area

      Britain has had a leg out of the EU anyway ,  no Schengen , no Euro, No Charter of Fundamental rights, The 'Area of Freedom security &Justice'

      the UK originally  was out of the  'Social Chapter of the Maastrict Treaty' but that  was abolished by Blair


      The other area which they are 'in' is Security and Defence Policy ( Denmark is the only one  outside this agreement.


  2. James 2

    My three wishes:

    Brexit party do extremely well in the E.U. elections

    Boris to replace May

    Boris and Farage to deliver a ‘no deal’ brexit for the UK people. 

    Oh and a bonus wish – make it as hard if not impossible to have morons try to get back in

    (regardless if they leave it will be close to the end of the E.U. – other countries will see how well it goes and will leave also)

  3. Anne 3

    This post is one of the best you've done AD. At least it's helped me to comprehend the  intricacies of current EU affairs.There are plenty of standardistas better placed than me when it comes to commenting so I will leave it to them except to say in general terms:

    setting aside the effects of CC which is the elephant in the room that legions of officials everywhere avoid mentioning like it's a plague… we are seeing the real effects of 30-40 years of of world-wide market-place ideology and the consequences are becoming increasingly chaotic and dangerous. What is worse, it is throwing up the very worst kind of leaders whose ignorance and stupidity is only compounding the situation and leading us closer to impending economical and social catastrophes.

  4. Incognito 4

    Excellent post!

    Yes, there are (too) many internal and external issues at play. With rising geo-political tensions, I think the EU will band together.

    The political parties that are successfully replacing the stable centrist ones are largely highly nationalist and ethnically focussed, or deeply anti-immigration, or indeed both. They are not primarily driven by economic agendas, but by identity and a will to protect existing groups of settled peoples within specific countries.

    Immigration always has economic drivers. Even if not explicitly stated, economic and ‘identity’ agendas are always inextricably linked. This is one reason why these agendas are so pervasive. In many ways, it is the same in the US, for example. I reckon that these kind of ‘dual agendas’ have much less sway here in NZ but recent developments might prove me wrong on this.

  5. mosa 5

    The real Nigel Farage.

    Lavish lifestyle

    Just a matter of days before the 2019 EU elections, Channel 4 News ran a feature on Nigel Farage. It claimed that the Brexit Party leader was personally bankrolled by multi-millionaire Arron Banks. (Banks is currently under investigationby the National Crime Agency and the Information Commissioner’s Office regarding the role played by his companies during the EU referendum campaign.) The EU is now investigating Channel 4‘s claims.


  6. CHCoff 6


    This equally applies to societal dominance and levers of power. Undemocratic demand, the destabilizer of economies.

    Due to technological advancements, the old methods of reset (keep going till collapse) are alot more far reaching extinction level events, even for the super priviliged.

  7. woodart 7

    parent country…. bollocks to that. statements like that make me fairly dissmissive of the whole column.

  8. Katipo 9

    Stephen Fry's take on the why some of the wealthy are backing a Brexit…


  9. RedLogix 10

    As always a column worth reading and thinking about Ad. 

    Instead the common theme of most countries has been national seclusion and a rejection of the immigration that Europe desperately needs to respond to its ageing, socially entitled population, 

    Hans Rosling made a very important point here; in all but several regions in the world, birth rates have dropped to close to replacement or lower. As an inexorable, mathematical consequence the demographic distribution … that was traditionally biased toward children and youth … is now taking on a more even shape with every age cohort more evenly represented. 

    Emphatically this is not a bad thing. It means families are choosing to have the number of children they want; it means people are living longer and healthier on average. (There are some important exceptions, but that's another thread.)

    The only downside is the perception that as more and more people live well past the usual age of retirement questions arise about how we are going to pay for their 'social entitlement'.  My own father for example was forced into retirement at 58 and is now 90 and looks like he's got years in him still; he could easily be retired almost as long as he worked.

    There are two answers to this puzzle; one is that we already tend to discount the substantial contribution many older people continue to make to society, and increasing this contribution with more flexible and intelligent workplace practices is an obvious option.

    The other major factor is technology; an ageing population is not a problem if productivity rises to match. The critical problem, the one we totally agree on, is distribution.

    Solve the distribution problem and there will be no need for mass immigration to 'replace the next generation'. We can all agree that the two extremes, totally open borders and totally closed ones, are impossible. Borders, like the walls of any biological cell, have to be selectively porous in order for the nation to thrive.

    But the problem for Europe is that it's all one-way traffic. We don't see a problem for instance with Welsh 'flooding' into Ethiopia. Europe's problem is that it has been too successful and the economic gradient between it, the Middle East and Africa is too great. And better redistribution is a double edged tool, you cannot have say a generous UBI operating in one country, next to another with severe inequality without setting up the conditions for uncontrolled economic migration.

    This is the root of the crisis of confidence Europe is going through, that it’s unity is a good thing regionally, but insufficient in the global sense.

    • Mark 10.1

      <i>But the problem for Europe is that it's all one-way traffic. We don't see a problem for instance with Welsh 'flooding' into Ethiopia. </i>

      Yeah, That is why 500 million white people live outside of Europe.

      So what the fuck do you mean by 'one way traffic'?

      Not to mention the plunder of African countries by Europeans.

      It is true that its about economic disparity. That is where China is contributing. By building infrastructure and developing hitherto poor places without a shit show of improvement, people will be more inclined to stay home when there are opportunities at home.

      • RedLogix 10.1.1

        At least the West has a history we are allowed to talk about. Rather than erase  it altogether:


      • Dukeofurl 10.1.2

        " By building infrastructure and developing hitherto poor places without a shit show of improvement"

        Railways/ports  roads were built in the colonial period too. With Chinese built infrastructure ( usually by imported chinese labour and skills) the  project is funded by loans from China, often 'without a shit show of repaying'

        There are roughly 1 million chinese emigrant now living in Africa, they form a  commercial class in most of the countries there

  10. SPC 11

    The centre right and left coalition lost their majority (down 40 seats each)

    The nationalist/populist parties main modest gains.

    The Liberals (up 40) and Greens (up 20) made gains also. Now either group would give the coalition a new majority.

    In the UK the Brexit Party won most, but their gain was less than the fall in the Tory and UKIP vote. The LD gained more than Labour fell.

    The UKIP and Tories got to 50% last time. This time the LD, Labour, Greens, Change UK SNP and Plaid Cymru did better than that. But not much can be read into this when the UK turnout is only 35%. 

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