WE ARE STILL AT A CROSSROADS, AND IT’S UP TO YOU WHERE WE WILL END UP
The election result in Italy will have consequences for all of us across Europe. Below are my takeaways from Sunday’s election. Sorry if it’s not the most uplifting read… but you have the power to make things better!
1. The rise of the far right is not over at all. After a steep increase in populist, far-right parties in 2015 and 2016, people got aware of the threat and started organizing. Brexit, pandemic and to an extent also the war on Ukraine have dampened that rise – but also our response to it. Sadly, the underlying factors driving people to vote for populist parties are still there and have not been mitigated. The recent elections in Sweden and Italy have demonstrated that quite clearly. A lot of intelligent people have analysed these drivers carefully. There is the feeling (or fact) of being economically left-behind or worse-off than our parents. There is for some a perceived threat to our culture due to migration. There is the radicalization and polarization due to new forms of communication (social media). But I would like to add one, that in my view is getting to little attention. One that you could address yourself: The middle of society does not enter political parties anymore. Somehow, we have distanced ourselves from the one area where we can take decisions about our current future. Parties are perceived as boring and not ready for our time. But no one actually considers entering and updating them.
2. Shift of majorities in Council will hurt Union in all policy areas. As Italy is shifting to the far-right, so will its voting weight in the Council. With nearly 14% of the vote, Italy has the third largest vote among all Member States. If you combine this with the votes of Poland (8.45%) and Hungary (2.17%) and potentially Sweden (2.32%), you get to 28% (link). This in itself does not look much, but is missing only 7% to get to a blocking minority. Far-right governments could soon be able to block any EU law – even if voted by majority vote! Let that sink in…! Rome may be able to join the conservative nationalist governments in Poland and Hungary on topics such as the rule of law, migration and social policy.
3. What’s up, Manfred Weber? For now, the European Parliament still has a pro-European majority. But this majority hinges on how the European conservatives (EPP) will deal with the growing far right. Where does the EPP go from here? They have a leader that is openly supporting the far-right coalition in Italy. They are a group that still flirts with Hungary’s mini-dictator. And at the same time, internal disagreements grow stronger within the EPP as there still are pro-European voices among its members (see Tweet). Europe’s largest political party has a hard time defining its allegiances. The party of its founders Adenauer and Schuman has to think about where it will be heading ahead of the 2024 elections.
4. What are you going to do about it? My key take away is as clear as ever: If the far right is rising, we need to do better. We need to organise ourselves better than them, we need to reach people better than them. And we need to offer a convincing vision of where Europe is heading! If you want to prevent Europe from falling to the extremes, get active! Join a pro-democratic party. get out of your spectator role, this is your country, your continent. Get out of the sofa and join a party. Change it from within, shape your society.
If you believe in the European Union, now is the time stop being a bystander and to contribute to the world you want to live in! If you and many of us act now, Sweden and Italy mark the height and the end of the far-right’s rise.