Freedom News

EU election: Extreme right is no longer out in the cold

News stories focus on dramatic little swings, but a much bigger, slower development is at stake

The organised far-right in the EU Parliament now has over 130 seats, with another hundred or so unorganised far-right MEPs. This is part of the actually most important ongoing change in EU Parliament and Commission politics: that the centre-right at the EU level has started to move towards cooperation with the far-right. This means the EU level of government is seeing a shift similar to that we have seen in member states like Netherlands, Finland, Austria and Sweden, where the extreme right is no longer kept out in the cold, but is seen by the centrist right as a legitimate force to cooperate and hold power with.

The exact results of the EU Parliament election are going to affect exactly how fast and how nasty this development is going to be, but the overall picture is the same as at the national level. Centrist politics has already killed itself and is seeking more and more allies on the fringes to survive. The Greens who, 20 years ago, were seen as EU-critical radicals, are now often counted as part of the centrist camp. But even counting the Greens, the liberals, and the centre-right and centre-left, this makes 453 seats in total; last election they had 518 and back in 2004 they had 643.

From an anarchist point of view, the question is, how does all these numbers affect the state, the violent organisation controling us? Since the EU parliament has the power to make and negotiate laws, I think it’s fine to say it has a kind of state power, and that the EU is a level of state power in some ways over the member states, but importantly is created by those smaller states, as a way for them to be more powerful.

The EU project has always been a compromise between the big party groups: the social democrats and the conservatives/Christian Democrats, plus the smaller liberals. The reason there are social and green elements to the EU, as well as neoliberal and police elements, is because of this kind of compromise. The groups of the EU parliament are composed of huge coalitions of different parties, and to consistently get votes passed requires a huge majority numbering hundreds of MEPs. This is partly because discipline within the groups can be low, and partly because, as a parliament insider told me, many MEPs simply push the wrong button when voting.

So as the character of the parties elected in EU countries changes, the whole nature of EU is changing. But not like a national election which suddenly flips executive power from one party to another. Instead, the EU political direction is more like a bubbling stew which gets different ingredients added, changing its flavour.

In practical terms we can see this playing out by a normalisation of far-right rhetoric on immigration. The mainstream EU political position is already all about closing the outer border. It’s not far from this to deciding to ‘pragmatically’ cooperate with some far-right groups on these issues. “We just happen to agree” the centrist politicians will say, as though talking about an accident. This kind of leaning on the far-right will be especially useful for leaders of the EU parliament and Commission who want to get around objections by social democrats and liberals to measures that are racist and limit civil rights. And, more insidiously, it can be used as way to whip MEPs and their groups into going along with racist proposals—because if they don’t agree to compromise on slightly less racism, the vote can always be passed with far-right support anyway.

The thing to watch next is how the new EU Commission will be elected. It’s become more of a government and less of a simple bureaucracy in recent years. Ursula von der Leyen of the centre-right will be looking to get that big majority of hundreds of MEPs to re-elect her as president. I’m sure she’d rather do it with just the 401 members of the grand centrist liberal/social democrat/Christian democrat coalition, but last time over 100 of her allies rebelled and didn’t vote for her. If that happens again she’ll fail to get elected. So watch carefully for any appeal to far-right MEPs as individuals or in groups; for example talk of “European values”, or the importance of stopping asylum seekers. Watch also for ways that von der Leyen’s centrists use her ability to reach out to far-right extremists as a whip to make the social democrats and liberals fall in line and vote for her, while swallowing talk of European christian (white) values.

What we’re seeing isn’t anything as simple as a far-right takeover or power-grab against the EU institutions, it’s a slow-motion fascistisation of the EU, as centrist politicians seek short-term ways to survive, and do so by throwing marginalised people to the wolves of the far-right.

~ Loukas Christodoulou

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