Dimitris Rapidis

There is a growing concern from both independent and politically-dependent media that the forthcoming elections for the European Parliament on May will be stigmatized by the increase of anti-EU political forces. The rationale behind these concerns, while being clearly advocated, lacks significant understanding of the problem per se: Why the EU citizens are willing to question the European establishment by supporting eurosceptic forces?

Britain leads the way as the anti-EU Independence Party is on course to win the largest share of the vote in elections of the European Parliament with 30%, whereas the Liberals, the Labour, and the Tories slightly overcome 56-57% altogether. In France, a recent poll indicated that as much as 24% of the French population intends to vote for Marine Le Pen’s National Front, while in the Netherlands Geert Wilder’s eurosceptic Freedom Party concentrates 17% to 19% of voting intentions. In Denmark, which is said to preserve one of the most pluralistic political ecosystems, the eurosceptic Danish People’s Party along with the anti-EU People’s Movement stand for 29%. Are these voting intentions accidental? Not at all.

In addition, it only takes to compare these rates with the population digits and the number of seats these four countries might acquire in the next Parliament. It certainly depends on the performance of other political parties and groups as well, but for the time being and with only two months left, it goes without saying that the eurosceptic and anti-EU movements and parties find significant ground of support in lack of well-developed and bottom-up debates in Brussels and the capitals of the EU regarding the most crucial issues of our era. From this perspective, euroscepticism does not exist per se; it is feeded by broad policy gaps.

Bridging Europe’s 10-day online poll in the beginning of January (i.e. that was purposedly kept fresh throughout the following months) was eloquent of what we are now experiencing. Under the question
“What is the most important issue the European Union has to deal with?”, the majority of voters tapped for freedom, security, and justice with 38,3%, austerity politics with 35.3%, and constitutional reform with 17.7%. All three issues have been consistently neglected in the preliminary debates and it is on these three policy fields that anti-EU movements are developing their rhetoric: anti-immigration feelings; economic disaster; institutional deficit.

The failure to address these issues is paradigmatic of the mindset the EU mechanisms and the EU leadership are operating nowadays. After following the campaigns of the major political groups, someone could clearly discern the mismatch between political vision and political deeds. In this context, it is at least depreciating for the EU citizens to be treated as if they were clinically dead, with no sense of time, plunged into superficial oblivion of what has been done these five years , when it comes to stand in front of the ballot box: The European public will get what the European public wants.

At the end of the day, there is a growing gap of risk-assessment regarding the “next day” in the European Union. The presence
of a strong anti-EU alliance in the European Parliament might not be catalytic in decision-making, but it will certainly be insolvent. Notwithstanding, is there anyone to believe that this eurosceptic wave is going to end up with the elections of the European Parliament?

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