Europe shifts to the right: where will this lead?

While the official results of the EU elections are not yet in, the trend is clear: the liberals, greens and social democrats left have lost considerable ground, while the conservatives, right-wing populists and far right have made strong gains. This means a clear shift to the right in the balance of power in Strasbourg. Commentators in Europe's press take different views of how significant the shift is and what impact it will have.

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Hürriyet (TR) /

Biggest change of course since the fall of the Berlin Wall

Hürriyet talks of a turning point:

“This was not the direction in which the European continent steered in the new era following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. ... Back then the prevailing opinion was that values such as democracy, the rule of law and human rights had permeated the entire continent and that a liberal European order based on pluralism and tolerance had been permanently established. Everyone believed that the course of history would now move in this direction and never turn back. Since the elections on 9 June, the optimism among those committed to the European project has been replaced by question marks and worries.”

Deutsche Welle (RO) /

Romanian anti-right alliance is itself illiberal

Deutsche Welle's Romanian website says the decision by the country's ruling parties PSD and PNL to run together in the European elections was not a good one even if it helped to hold backright-wing populist forces:

“It has already become apparent that the PSD-PNL arrangement has destroyed the opposition's role in keeping power in check. PSD and PNL have taken control of the judiciary, they have managed to buy media with a wide reach, they are turning into an illiberal regime at breakneck speed. ... The PNL and PSD have adopted the philosophy of Viktor Orbán, who ten years ago declared in the Transylvanian town of Tușnad that 'democracy doesn't necessarily have to be liberal'. But sooner or later this path will drag the country downwards.”

Club Z (BG) /

AfD isolated in the European Parliament

Despite coming second in Germany and winning 15 seats, the right-wing populist AfD's influence in the new European Parliament is likely to remain limited after being kicked out of the ID group, Club Z observes:

“A minimum of 23 MEPs from at least 7 countries are needed to form a parliamentary group. It's unlikely that there will be volunteers from that many countries. Neither Viktor Orbán's Fidesz nor Geert Wilders' Dutch PVV will want to team up with the Germans. And the MEPs of the Bulgarian [nationalist] Revival party alone won't be enough.”

Mladina (SI) /

Politicians not responding to people's concerns

For Mladina, the relatively weak performance of the social-liberal coalition government shows that Slovenia's leading politicians lack comprehension of the true needs of the people:

“The current Slovenian governing coalition still has enough time before the next parliamentary elections to finally understand society. It has time, but in the past two years it has still not shown that it has enough humanity and empathy to find answers to people's real concerns. Things like bills and prices: rents, holidays, the price of drinks in your favourite bar. Governments, parliamentarians and ministers love being above such banalities of life. But that's what real life looks like.”

Verslo žinios (LT) /

Not so many worried about Russian influence

Verslo žinios criticises the high abstention rate in Lithuania:

“The rise of the radical right is worrying both for pro-European politicians and for societies that uphold European values. Russian tentacles are trying to penetrate ever deeper into the European consciousness - it's no secret that a large number of European extremists survive on Russian money. Passive, indifferent voters are a real boon for them. It's staggering that almost two-thirds of Lithuanian citizens, who have the right (and the duty) to vote, didn't think about this.”

RFI România (RO) /

Romania: strong centre thanks to clever tactics

In Romania the much-criticised electoral alliance between the governing PSD and PNL parties helped to ensure that the right-wing populist AUR fell short of expectations, RFI România points out:

“The co-scheduling of the local and European elections as well as the PSD and PNL's joint electoral list mobilised a significant number of voters and led to an overwhelming vote in favour of the pro-European parties - 80 percent of the votes went to them. ... The decision to hold the two elections at the same time and to put the two parties on the same list was heavily criticised and blamed on President Iohannis, but it has proven fruitful, at least at European level. Iohannis' term as president expires at the end of the year, but he is hoping for a high-level European post. The election results speak in his favour.”

Yetkin Report (TR) /

Good for the economy, bad for democracy

Yetkin Report comments on the impact of the elections on Turkey:

“The new political landscape in Europe presents both challenges and opportunities for Turkey. Among the negative side, the rise of nationalist, xenophobic and Islamophobic sentiments now approaching mainstream acceptance could strain Turkey-EU relations, which have been in a holding pattern for decades. This may further harm the bar for the efforts to improve democratic standards in Turkey. The increased competition between European countries in economic and trade arenas might benefit Turkey. Its strategic proximity to Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia could open new opportunities.”

Die Presse (AT) /

A shock for all pro-Europeans

It won't be possible to overcome the crises in Europe with the far right, Die Presse warns:

“An FPÖ victory in Austria, a resounding victory for the Rassemblement National in France, clear right-wing nationalist majorities in Italy and Hungary, a strengthened AfD in Germany: to varying degrees in each country, this is a shock for all pro-Europeans who seek common solutions. Because none of the major crises facing Europe can be surmounted together with these parties. They reject any kind of internal solidarity in the EU - whether it's about a joint stance vis-à-vis Russia, tackling climate change, migration, or the emerging trade wars with China and a US under Donald Trump.”

The Daily Telegraph (GB) /

Centre still intact

Too much is being made of the rise of the right, says The Daily Telegraph:

“In the Strasbourg parliament pro-EU centrists, Greens and socialists will hold on to a majority of seats, boosting the chances of Ursula von der Leyen securing a second term as European Commission president. Socialists won the largest share of the vote in Malta, Romania and Sweden, helping the centre-Left retain its position as the parliament's second-largest group, albeit far weaker than in the 1990s. While the narrative is of a pro-Right surge across Europe, the reality is much more complex.”

Tageblatt (LU) /

EPP must show its true colours

The Tageblatt emphasises:

“The EPP is largely to blame for the normalisation of the far right and its current electoral successes. It adopted far-right political ideas and looked for common ground. The results are now clear for all to see, and instead of celebrating their first place the conservatives should bow their heads in shame. For helping the far right to become socially acceptable. And above all, they should think about which side of history they want to be on - the one that advances Europe, or the one that propagates nationalism and thus the very opposite of the European idea. ... The Christian Democrats of the EPP must now show their true colours.”

De Telegraaf (NL) /

Break with Brussels' arrogance

The shift to the right will also have to be reflected in the EU Commission, demands De Telegraaf:

“The first contours of cooperation are becoming visible in Brussels. The Social Democrats and the Liberals have lost, but they're not lowering their sights. They're actually increasing the pressure on the largest party, the EPP, threatening to withdraw their support if it cooperates with far-right blocs. This is the notorious Brussels arrogance of the pro-Europeans, who are deaf to the democratic voice of their citizens. The ball is now in the court of the member state governments who will decide the composition of the new European Commission. This body will also have to shift to the right for the sake of better representation.”

New Statesman (GB) /

LIttle chance of turning rhetoric into reality

The winners from the far-right parties will have a hard time implementing their plans, says The New Statesman:

“For the New Right, winning may come to be seen as the easy part. ... If they want to change the direction of the EU, Meloni and Le Pen will need to confront Brussels head-on. ... They retain, as Meloni told a conference in Madrid last month, the intention of stopping the EU's further integration, and forcing a return of powers to national parliaments. It's an almighty goal for this new Franco-Italian engine to have set itself. And in the absence of the strong domestic background that allowed France and Germany to build the EU in the first place, it remains to be seen if they can turn rhetoric into reality.”

El País (ES) /

Left lacks credibility

El País comments on the collapse of the left:

“The slump in support for social democracy, the radical left and the Greens shows that the problem is not that social democracy has been too lukewarm and conformist, nor that the radical left has been too aggressive. They don't need to adapt their programme but to regain their credibility to be able to offer the people better times. In short, the problem is not that people are not in favour of equality and social justice, but that the citizens don't trust the left-wing parties to achieve these goals - some of them because they are too entrenched in their ideology and others because they are too enmeshed in the system, and all of them because the wind of history is blowing against them.”