Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What the EU Elections Tell Us

by

A moment of discomfort, perhaps. Right-wing parties trumpeting, fuming, fulminating their way into an institution they don’t particularly like – the virus coming in and taking hold of the frail, and at times oblivious body. This is more than a suggestion that the status quo is rotten, that parliaments aren’t working and the European Union is crumbling. Make of that what you will.

The reality remains that the various parties of the right in Europe have done rather well for themselves in the EU elections. Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party was thrilled with the 27.5 per cent vote for his party, the first time in over 100 years a party other than the Tories or Labour have won a nation-wide poll. Farage hopes to leapfrog with this result into the UK elections when the time comes, placing Britain’s relations with the EU on the chopping block.

France, Austria and Denmark have seen a showing by various parties who have managed to gain 25 per cent of the vote. Other established parties – such as the Liberal Democrats in the UK – have suffered an electoral erasure, though the results are by no means obvious. British Labour, for instance, recorded the highest number of votes in the election in 20 years, a notably underreported result. The ultra-nationalist BNP Party lost 5.1 per cent of the vote, and their MEP, leader Nick Griffin. (Griffin’s feeling was that UKIP has stolen his racist thunder.)

The Tories, left reeling in the wake of the results, felt the need to surf the euro-sceptic wave. Prime Minister David Cameron came out after the elections calling Brussels “too big, too bossy, too interfering.” The term “Europe” should only be used where necessary.

There has been much in the way of disturbing the status quo in Brussels. But the question here is how far this goes. Is it, as Walter Benjamin said of fascism, a case of expression, and therefore aesthetics in politics? Or will it result in something more concrete, a structural re-ordering of Europe’s policies in such areas as immigration and economic reform? After all, much of this indignation would be absent if the EU bloc was rolling in cash more than debt.

While categorisation remains the misguided prerogative of the political scientist, the parties are certainly not the same. Farage swills beer, speaks to a particular brand of British voter, and is only gaining votes because of a peculiar distortion between British domestic politics and its association with Brussels. The great paradox for Farage is that he may only be able to do well in an anti-European setting. Remove Europe, and he ceases to be relevant.

The other parties, such as Marine Le Pen’s Front National, or Italy’s Northern League, are more complex, showing strong domestic performances and a determined stance to reform, not so much Europe as their own countries. Beating Europe is one way of promoting other issues. Indeed, Le Pen can’t be entirely discounted for the next election of the French Presidency. While such groups, along with UKIP, are grouped under the “Europe of Freedom and Democracy” banner, their association is more likely to be a fractious one in due course. It is unlikely, for instance, that Greece’s left Syriza party will have much in common with Le Pen.

The outgoing President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, was not as negative as the pundits. The pro-EU side had, in fact, come through in the end. Indeed, Barroso suggested that the “political forces that led and supported the essential steps in the Union’s joint crisis response, notably the political forces represented in the European Commission, have overall won once again.” While Barroso is putting on a brave face, he risks getting some egg on it if no account is taken of the forces of the right, and the overall thrust of it.

The Socialists and Democrat bloc in the European Parliament, typified by Martin Schultz, has offered an alternative to the austerity medicine offered by Barroso and company, insisting that a pan-European wage is appropriate, along with policies to fight youth unemployment.

One of the main contenders as Barroso’s replacement is former prime minister of Luxembourg, Jean-Claude Juncker, whose European People’s Party won 212 of 751 seats. It always goes without saying that the German favourite is bound to be disliked by other powers. Farage has termed Juncker “fanatical about building the United States of Europe”. Sweden and Britain have come out against him, while the Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, is certain that Juncker will “definitely not” get the job. Things are already off to a merry start.

Far from the European idea being dead, it has merely been given a jolt. The response from Brussels will prove vital, lest the project unravels from within. The European experiment has been moving away from transparency into increasingly opaque forms of governance. The populists have capitalised. Bad bureaucrats have become the excuse for poor race relations and local decline. Everyone needs their excuse for bad behaviour, and the EU’s institutions should stop providing the basis of one.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyon
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]