Politicians preparing for EU election battle

After the summer break political life has resumed in the EU and is dominated by the elections to the European Parliament next May. The haggling over the top EU posts has begun, and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is pressing ahead with plans to abolish daylight saving time. Commentators observe how two opposing camps are positioning themselves for battle.

Open/close all quotes
De Volkskrant (NL) /

It's Macron against Orbán this time

French President Macron and Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán stand for the polarisation that characterises the upcoming European elections, De Volkskrant comments:

“For Orbán, campaigning will focus on the duel between multiculturalism and Christian culture, attitudes for and against immigration, and the conflict between the federalist European Union represented by Brussels and the Europe of nation states. ... In the Hungarian leader's view the elites - and especially the elite of '1968' - are to blame for everything. He wants to right that, and feels bolstered by the shift to the right in Austria, Italy, and to a certain extent also in Germany. ... Macron wants to pick up the gauntlet together with other progressive forces in Europe which, like him, want a stronger EU and pluralist societies. But how he intends to do that is another question.”

Revista 22 (RO) /

Populists preparing a last attack

The populist leaders, first and foremost Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, are seeking to dominate the European Parliament, the Romanian weekly Revista 22 writes:

“The problem is that for both sides of this alliance the topic of immigration is just an instrument for implementing their deeply anti-liberal, authoritarian agendas. Orbán's chief goal is to consolidate his heavy-handed, corrupt regime, while Salvini's main goal is to first of all create one. ... The longer the European conservatives continue to put off the confrontation with the extremist populists, the more difficult it will be to stave off the end of liberal Europe.”

Telos (FR) /

What Europe needs to deliver

The EU must do more to explain to citizens what advantages it offers if it wants to be more popular and get them to go out and vote, economist François Meunier explains on the debate website Telos:

“What Europe lacks is good projects which, even if they're sometimes technocratic, are nevertheless useful to the people. And they must be accompanied by good PR. What the 'populations' - a term loaded with overlapping meanings - are demanding is action. Or put differently: what's needed is competence areas in which Europe 'delivers'. ... A competition policy that can even dash Google's illusions is a good example, and cause for pride. As is the future European satellite navigation system. And there's is no lack of other areas, from the most modest to the most ambitious, from air traffic control to the introduction of ecological standards to migration policy.”

Público (PT) /

Us against them

Público expects the election campaign to be a tough one:

“Governments and political parties are preparing for a European election year that will be unlike any other before it. ... The EU governments have learned nothing from the refugee crisis that has rocked Europe for five years and made immigration the most contentious political subject on the EU agenda - causing profound changes in Europe's political landscape. ... Nothing is regulated yet and the prerequisites for the development of a common asylum and immigration policy are even more tenuous than they were before the crisis started. ... Without a doubt this will be a battle between opening and closure, an 'us' against 'them.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

The fight is on

All those who want Europe to remain a union of Christian cultural nations oppose Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, the pro-government paper Magyar Hírlap contends:

“Macron, who went from being an investment banker to an investing politician, believes that nations are a thing of the past and only stand in the way of his United States of Europe. He wants to replace the weakened chancellor Merkel, who is fighting for political survival, and become the European strong man who will transform our cultural nations into a colourful but faceless multiculti mass, controlled from a central pivot. However, it looks like not just the Hungarians, Poles, Czechs, Italians, Austrians and Bavarians will stop him in his tracks, but hopefully also his own people. The big struggle that will last until May has begun.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

The old Europe would die

Never before was Europe as divided as it is now, international politics expert Franco Venturini writes in Corriere della Sera:

“In Italy, as in other EU countries, the pro-Europeans are aiming to reform the EU from the inside out without throwing out the baby with the bathwater. ... By contrast the nationalist populists, bolstered by the growing support of the population, want to take control of the command centre in Brussels. But they aren't saying what their 'new Europe' would look like, particularly since they would have to admit that this Europe could hardly be compatible with their radical nationalism. ... Consequently a victory of the sovereigntists would not lead to the birth of a credible new union that assumes the legacy of 70 years of peace and favourable economic conditions - but to the death of the old Europe.”

Club Z (BG) /

Falsehood flies and truth comes limping after

Club Z explains why the populists will have an easy job of it in the election campaign:

“People prefer lies they can understand to truths they can't. For example many believed Brexit would flush hundreds of millions of euros into the coffers of the British National Health Service. After the referendum those who'd made this promise admitted it was wrong, but at that point it no longer mattered. The populists lie in language that is understandable and play with the people's feelings and fears. They exploit uncertainties about what the EU is, while the EU representatives have to respond to them with difficult arguments that take some time to understand. The situation is very reminiscent of the Jonathan Swift quote: 'Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late.'”