By Victoria P. Sorensen
Anti-EU banner / RT
After four days of elections in each of the 28 European countries, election results for the European Parliament have come in. Euro-sceptics and far-right parties have won a substantial number of seats and have greatly increased their influence. It’s looking dire for the European collaborative.
The European Union was founded as a project for greater economic integration between Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, and has expanded since 1945 to include 28 countries. With a rocky start during the Cold War years and the changing face of European power structures after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the European project has been under constant development since its founding. The primary goal, however, has always been to promote stability and remove national barriers to commerce. The European Union is by no means an ideal democratic institution, but a positive development has been the opening of borders and the growth of a multicultural, pan-European community.
However, this European sense of community has faced great challenges since the beginning of the 2008 Financial Crisis. Consequently, issues such as high unemployment and increasing migration have led to far-right populist parties gaining popularity amongst the European electorate. These right-wing parties aim to halt European integration, presenting the most serious threat to the European project in decades.
Most striking was the change in party preferences in France, where the eurosceptic Front Nationale gained 25% of the vote, and in the United Kingdom, where the much-debated xenophobic UK Independence Party emerged as the victor of the elections, having received 27% of the vote. As such, UKIP became the biggest party to represent the United Kingdom in the European parliament. Additionally, in Denmark, yet another far-right party received the majority of the vote. Believe it or not, this party’s re-elected MEP was seen in a family amusement park hailing and singing Nazi songs on Hitler’s Birthday in 2007. Still, The Danish People’s Party received no less than 26.6% of the vote.
These election results are a cause for concern, not just in Europe, but all over the world. A return to xenophobia, anti-immigration policies, racism and Nazism is unquestionably a massive step in the wrong direction for achieving a tolerant and inclusive democratic structure in Europe.
Fortunately, as much as the right’s victories are a troubling development for European politics, the far-right parties still do not constitute a majority in parliament. And there were important victories for the radical left. In Sweden, for example, a feminist candidate Soroya Post was elected for the first time ever, and in Spain a new party, Podemos, rising out of the Indignados protests of 2009, made huge progress. There are many problems with the EU – not the least of which is its lack of democratic institutions – but the best hope for change comes from these radical left parties. They alone can carry forward the fight for democracy and socialism in Europe, while maintaining the important gains that have been made for opening borders and building a multicultural Europe.
The battle for a positive and inclusionary democratic project is not yet lost; we need to keep on fighting and remind people that anti-migration policy, discrimination and racism have never led to prosperity and never will.
Victoria Pihl Sorensen is a political activist from Denmark who's interning with YDS this Summer.