How much influence will right-wing populists gain?

The EU Parliament elections will decide whether EU member states move closer together or further apart. According to polls the right-wing populists stand to make major gains and, if they form a parliamentary group together, become the second-strongest force in the parliament. But not all observers are convinced they will be able to push through their agenda.

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El País (ES) /

Entering Europe's house armed with dynamite

The EU only makes sense if it maintains its founding goals of peace and democracy, El País points out:

“For decades, those who didn't share these basic values chose to reject the project in its totality. But after Brexit those who oppose the EU's principles have swapped trying to escape the institution in favour of trying to change it from within. Some will interpret this change as a victory for the Europeans. But what would be the purpose of an EU devoid of liberal democracy, pluralism and respect for basic freedoms - but full of nationalism? Doesn't this completely contradict its basic principles? What's the good of a building if everyone wants to enter it but some of those people are only doing so in order to blow it up?”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Europe's institutions are well protected

Even if they win a lot of votes the sovereigntists will have a hard time changing the EU, predicts editor-in-chief Guido Gentili in Il Sole 24 Ore:

“Firstly, because there must be a thorough analysis on the basis of the results to assess what position the sovereigntist political wave has achieved and what alliances are at all possible. Secondly, because even for a 'simple revision' of the treaties to take place - which is only possible on economic and monetary policy - the European Council will have to vote unanimously on whether the revision actually pertains to monetary issues - and only after the Commission, the EU Parliament and the ECB have all had their say. What's more, any changes to the treaties will only enter into force if they are ratified by all the EU member states. ... Radically changing Europe from one day to the next is a complex matter. Propaganda alone won't be enough.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Lowest common denominators are not enough

All together, the parties that want less rather than more Europe could achieve 40 percent of the votes, Adevărul estimates, before adding:

“Populism is not always the same as nationalism or sovereigntism. Populism can be both left and right-wing. When it comes to relations with Russia there are significant differences between the Polish PiS, the Hungarian Fidesz, Salvini's Lega Nord and Le Pen's Rassemblement National. Which is why it seems illogical that the populists in the European Parliament would form one or even two groups. ... The most likely scenario is that all their alliances will collapse immediately after the elections.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

People should know about anti-EU candidates

The great majority of Irish see the EU in a positive light, according to polls. They should be told about the many Irish candidates who are intent on the EU's destruction, Irish Times demands:

“Of course, political parties and Independent candidates are entitled to adopt a hostile attitude to the current shape of the EU, and voters are equally entitled to elect them to the European Parliament. Yet it is important that the electorate has the information at its disposal to make an informed decision. That means all of the unambiguously pro-EU parties need to spell out their positive visions of the European future, and not get sucked into personality contests or debates about national issues which have no relevance to the current election campaign.”

Le Soir (BE) /

Europe has to stabilise itself first

For philosopher Peter Sloterdijk in Le Soir, the concerns about the European project are exaggerated:

“It was conceived at the end of 30 years of war - it was a miracle that so many survived and we are 500 million today. ... Europe is a recent creation. We have still not developed the good manners of a coherent identity, let alone a stable one. What makes me optimistic is this historical analysis which permits a little frivolity when we look at Europe: it is too young to be solid. The US consolidated after the Civil War, in the 1870s, a good century after its creation. I think it will be the same for the Europeans.”

Rádio Renascença (PT) /

Choose your allies carefully

Rádio Renascença is worried that Viktor Orbán may create a precedent:

“The Hungarian prime minister, who is proud of his 'illiberal democracy', will not support the EPP's leading candidate Manfred Weber. His party will join the group of Eurosceptic and national conservative parties led by the pseudo nationalist [and Italian interior minister] Matteo Salvini. ... We can only hope that the democratic right in Europe doesn't decide to join forces with the 'patriotic' right - a designation that serves only to mask the fact that this is a populist, xenophobic and authoritarian far-right.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Candidates must be clear about their agenda

The candidates will really have to work hard in the election campaign to convince voters that they have a plan when it comes to dealing with right-wing populists, warns Dagens Nyheter:

“With a fifth of the seats in the EU parliament and power in just a handful of capitals, populist nationalism cannot abrade the EU project. But if its ideas continue to gain currency they will become dangerous in the long term. ... Of course [voters] want to know how politicians think the EU should respond when governments rebel, and how politicians plan to deal with the populists in parliament: will they cooperate and adapt or do they believe in resolutely defending the fundamental values of European cooperation?”

El Mundo (ES) /

They want to destroy the institutions from within

Francisco Sosa Wagner, who was MEP for the Unión Progreso y Democracia from 2009 to 2014, recounts in El Mundo his own experiences with right-wing populists in the European Parliament:

“The biggest threat in the phase that is beginning now comes from the populist parties. How do you recognise them? I talk from personal experience: for several years I sat next to a young Dutch MP from the Freedom Party. When I noticed that he always voted for the opposite of what had been proposed, I asked him whether there was nothing he agreed with. He told me that he was there to destroy the Parliament and the European institutions from within.”

The Sun (GB) /

EU would become more palatable for the British

The Sun, on the other hand, would be happy to see right-wing Eurosceptic parties gaining more influence in the EU:

“The new parties are opposed to everything the current administration stands for. They are Eurosceptics. They wish the EU to be a trading bloc, not a supranational government telling every country what to do. ... It's all a bit ironic, isn't it? Three years ago we voted to leave the EU - for many of the reasons that have led to this surge for the populists on the European mainland. If the populists can gain control of some of the EU's institutions, it might become a much more palatable organisation for British people.”