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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Eurosceptic and Populist Landscape in the European Union


7Dnews London - AFP

Sun, 05 May 2019 15:13 GMT

Populist and Eurosceptic parties have emerged in many countries of the European Union and, although not all go as far as wanting a Brexit-style departure, they are no friends of Brussels.

European voters go to the polls to choose a new parliament on May 23rd-26th. Gains for Eurosceptics and the far right would be a new blow for the bloc's established leaders as the Brexit crisis rumbles on, according to AFP.

In a referendum on June 23rd, 2016, Britons voted to quit the EU by 52% to 48%. The outcome stunned the EU and Britons would in the end balk at actually leaving.

In Britain: the divorce process has been fraught and two extensions to the original March 29th, 2019, deadline mean Britain could well still vote in the European Parliament elections unless a Brexit plan is agreed very quickly.

At the last European Parliament elections in 2014, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) capitalised on the strong anti-EU mood to score a major victory by taking 24 of Britain's 73 MEP seats.

This time around, anger at both the ruling Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party over Brexit could push voters into the arms of two newly-formed groups: The Brexit Party, which leads in the opinion polls, and pro-EU centrists, Change UK.

In France: Marine Le Pen's far-right National Rally party, which has 14 out of 74 French MEPs, has toned down its anti-European message but maintains a tough anti-migrant stance.

Eurosceptic right-wing parties, The Patriots, which is pushing to leave the EU, and Debout la France (France Stand Up), have two seats each.

On the far-left, France Insoumise (France Unbowed), with three Euro-MPs, is against certain EU treaties but is not for pulling out of the bloc.

In Germany: the anti-migrant and anti-Europe Alternative for Germany (AfD) won its first seats in the national parliament in 2017, with nearly 13% of votes.

It is Germany's single biggest opposition party but holds only one of the country's 96 MEP seats, losing six after a series of defections.

In Italy: Italy's ruling coalition of the anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) and anti-immigrant League party won the 2018 national election on an anti-migrant and anti-EU platform, but notably stepped back from demands to exit the Eurozone single currency bloc.

The populist government clashed with most of its EU partners when it closed its ports to refugees and has sparred with Brussels over budget numbers.

Of Italy's 73 Euro-MPs, six belong to the League and 11 to the Five Star Movement.

In Hungary: Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban regularly criticises the EU, particularly over immigration policy. Orban's populist government faces the threat of European sanctions over the rights of minorities and refugees, and academic and media freedoms.

Orban's Fidesz party, which has 11 out of 21 Hungarian Euro-MPs, was suspended in March from the centre-right European People's Party, the EU's biggest political grouping.

In Austria: the far-right Freedom Party entered the government of conservative chancellor Sebastian Kurz in 2017, with the post of vice chancellor going to leader Heinz-Christian Strache.

While defending a hard-line policy on migration, the party, which has three of Austria's 18 European seats, has abandoned its flirtation with a referendum on whether to leave the EU.

In the Czech Republic: Prime Minister Andrej Babis' populist and centrist ANO party holds only two of the republic's 21 European Parliament seats, despite facing charges over an EU subsidy scam. He has consistently rejected the accusations against him as a politically inspired plot and was able to form a minority government.

The anti-migrant Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party, which is looking to bag its first seat in the European parliament, favours a "Czexit" from the EU.

In Poland: the Eurosceptic ruling conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) holds 14 of Poland's 51 European seats, and is polling well for the upcoming vote. Since the country faces EU sanctions over what Brussels sees as consistent threats to the independence of its judicial system and civil society.

In the Netherlands: The Freedom Party (PVV) of Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders promotes a "Nexit" from the EU. It has four of 26 Euro-MPs and became the second biggest force in the national parliament in 2017 polls, securing 20 of 150 seats.

In Denmark: the Danish People's Party, with four out of 13 Euro-MPs, is anti-migrant. It wants to reform rather than quit the European Union.

In Estonia, Prime Minister Juri Ratas has drawn the party into a three-party coalition with five ministerial posts. It holds no seats in the current European Parliament.

In Finland: the Eurosceptic party, which has two of 13 Finland's European seats, does not advocate leaving the EU altogether but wants reforms of the bloc.

In Portugal: The Socialist government is in alliance with the Left Bloc, which wants Portugal to leave the Eurozone single currency area, and the Communists, who envisage leaving the euro and possibly also the EU. The two Eurosceptic parties have four of the country's 21 European seats.

In Romania: the Social Democratic Party government has had several run-ins with Brussels and has been threatened with "swift" consequences by the European Commission over proposed judicial reforms seen as a threat to the independence of the courts. The party holds 10 of Romania's 32 European seats.

In Sweden: the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD), with two of 20 Euro-MPs, went into last year’s parliamentary elections with the promise of a referendum on a "Swexit", but have since softened their stance.