043_G19_Arena

Global

Following UKIP’s success, and in response to countrywide immigration fears, UKIP leader Nigel Farage has announced that the party would push for the adoption of stricter immigration control methods akin to the Australian points-based system. Under such a system, individuals with criminal records or terminal illnesses would be denied a visa. But how do we explain the same results across Europe? Some researchers have suggested that the far-right success stems from the effects of the economic crisis, which many have blamed on the EU and the euro. Where this is the case, the vote is one against national governments considered pro-austerity or else unresponsive to the austerity-dominated European Union. Professor Florian Schui, author of Austerity: The Great Failure, has attributed the success of the far right to failed austerity measures across Europe. “The failure to resolve this European-wide crisis has given rise to this European-wide reaction that has got people to vote for the far right,” he says. Parties opposed to austerity regimes imposed by the European Union are among those that saw success in the European elections. In Greece, an anti-austerity coalition led by the left-wing Syriza party received the largest vote share. For Schui, the results of the European elections are, on the whole, not necessarily a bad thing. “If you want to find a positive side to it,” Schui says, “for the first time we have experienced an integrated European debate about a European topic that dominated the European election. I think this has really taken European integration a step forward politically.” Tim Newark, author of Protest Vote: Britain’s Maverick Politicians, sees the results of the European elections as stemming from an enraged electorate. “In the UK, the UKIP vote is an anti-establishment one, delivered by people who feel left behind by the metropolitan elite,” he says, adding that the same can be said of Europe. “It’s no longer a left or right game, it’s about standing up against the political elite.” One thing seems certain – the presence of what were formerly thought of as fringe groups within the European Parliament will have an effect on Europe as a whole, although the true extent of this will only be revealed with time. For Schui, the voters’ decision to give presence to these groups could mean the beginning of the unravelling of the European Union. “I think it all depends now on what the EU is going to do, will it switch gear and solve this crisis or not? The unresolved economic crisis which gave rise to the far right has been mishandled by European politicians, and whether we will see more of the far right depends on whether this problem is resolved.” While the EU is unlikely to completely overhaul its current ideological position, it does have a history of pandering to the wishes of somewhat Euro-sceptic countries, notably with the compromises that had to be made to bring the Maastricht Treaty to fruition (see Europe? But we’re British!). But Tim Newark doesn’t believe that the EU will be particularly accommodating towards member states that want more autonomy. “The EU can’t and won’t change its direction, it’s just not in its DNA! It’s a united states of Europe or bust!” he says. When asked if he thinks a smaller EU is on the cards, Newark suggests that a lonely future could be in store for Britain: “I can see Britain being boxed into a position by Germany and its allies, so no concessions are made at all to Cameron and his pledge for a repatriation of powers, which could lead Britain to vote to leave the EU.” If Britain leaves the EU, he argues, Germany may feel safer in its position. “Maybe that’s what Germany wants,” he muses. “The free movement of people within the EU will see Britain with a larger population – and possibly richer and more economically dynamic – than Germany by the middle of the century.” Arena Politics Right-wing Eurosceptic parties in the EU Parliament ■■ Freedom Party of Austria – 19.72 per cent of votes: third place in Austria, four seats in Europe ■■ Danish People’s Party – 26.6 per cent of votes: first place in Denmark, four seats in Europe ■■ Finns – 12.9 per cent of votes: third place in Finland, two seats in Europe ■■ Front National – 24.85 per cent of votes: first place in France, 24 seats in Europe ■■ Alternative for Germany – 7.1 per cent of votes: fifth place in Germany, seven seats in Europe ■■ National Democratic Party – 1.03 per cent of votes: 12th place in Germany, one seat in Europe ■■ Golden Dawn party – 9.39 per cent of votes: third place in Greece, three seats in Europe ■■ Jobbik – 14.67 per cent of votes: second place in Hungary, three seats in Europe ■■ Lega Nord – 6.2 per cent of votes: fourth place in Italy, five seats in Europe ■■ The Five-Star Party – 21.2 per cent of votes: second place in Italy, 17 seats in Europe ■■ Party for Freedom – 13.3 per cent of votes: third place in the Netherlands, four seats in Europe ■■ UKIP – 27.5 per cent of votes: first place in the UK, 24 seats in Europe For some countries, the results of the European elections present a real possibility of leaving the European Union. In the UK there is talk of a national referendum on EU membership, the results of which, at this point, can only be imagined. For the moment, the most pressing issue on people’s minds, in the UK at least, is how these results will be reflected in domestic elections. According to Newark, the protest vote is likely to carry through. “Many of these protest voters had stopped voting at all – and now they’re back, happy to support anti-establishment parties in EU and domestic elections.” The presence of what were formerly thought of as fringe groups within the European Parliament will have an effect on Europe as a whole The morning after the election results, UKIP leader Nigel Farage seemed fairly confident that the party would see success in the general elections, after having effectively replaced the Lib Dems as the third party in British politics. “UKIP is going to win seats in Westminster next year,” he predicts. While Farage seems confident of the party’s success, we will have to wait until 2015 to see what the UK electorate has planned. www.global global four th quar ter 2014 -br ief ing.org l 43


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