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Far-right poised for gains in May elections to the European Parliament

Elections to the European Parliament will take place this May 22-25. The Council of Canadians is watching these elections because the ratification of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) requires the approval of the 736-member European Parliament (as well as the legislatures of its 28 member countries).

The Council of Canadians and allies about to enter the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France to lobby against CETA, January 2011.
Photo: The Council of Canadians and allies about to enter the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France to lobby against CETA, January 2011.

EurActiv reports, “The EU elections are expected to bring a new political balance, and a rise in euroscepticism, presenting the 28-country bloc with a new set of challenges.”

The Financial Times speculates, “The European elections offer perfect conditions for dramatic advances by the far-right, the far-left and other anti-EU groups. Weak economies, high unemployment, disillusionment with the EU and with mainstream political parties, a low turnout and proportional representation will combine to ensure that the political fringe captures more than 25 per cent of the seats in the parliament. Watch out in particular for the National Front in France, the UK Independence party in Britain, Syriza in Greece and the Dutch Freedom party – all of which could top the polls in their respective nations. The results will be traumatic for mainstream European parties across the continent. In the European parliament itself, conservatives and socialists will be forced to huddle together in the centre, to preserve a pro-EU majority.”

The EU Observer says, “Far-right, nationalist or anti-EU parties are expected to scoop a record number of seats in the European Parliament elections… Polls in 2013 indicated that most French and Dutch seats in the EU assembly could go to France’s far-right National Front and the Netherlands’ anti-immigrant Freedom Party. …Similar parties in Austria (Freedom Party), Belgium (Vlaams Belang), Italy (Lega Nord) and Sweden (Swedish Democrats) have said they will (join a collaborative effort between the National Front and the Freedom Party). …The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn from Greece is set to enter the EU assembly for the first time and its Hungarian equivalent, Jobbik, is likely to increase its number of seats. Britain’s eurosceptic Ukip party could come top in the vote… The anti-EU True Finns party is polling second and the Danish People’s Party is the third largest in the country. Even Germany has a newly formed anti-euro party, the AfD.”

This article warns, “If they attract 27 MEPs from seven different countries, they will become an official group in the EU parliament, entitled to funding and to chair committees.”

In another article specifically about the United Kingdom, the Financial Times reports that the British Liberal Democrats are “facing the loss of most of their 12 seats in the European parliament…”. The Week adds, “A wide range of pundits have made Ukip favourites to come out on top in the European Parliament elections and a Survation poll published just after Christmas put Ukip ahead of the Tories by one point, 25 to 24. (Labour led on 32 per cent but have traditionally struggled to get their supporters out in European elections.)”

The last plenary session of the current European Parliament before the elections will be on April 17.

While these are only speculative numbers at this point, and they could vary with respect to specific aspects of CETA, notably concerns over the investor-state provision, the current standings in the European Parliament in relation to their overall position on CETA could be outlined as follows:

Oppose – 93 votes

The Greens-European Free Alliance (58)

European United Left-Nordic Green Left (35)

Swing – 225 votes

Progressive Aliiance of Socialists and Democrats (195)

Non-Inscrits (30)

Support – 448 votes

Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe (85)

European People’s Party (274)

European Conservatives and Reformists (56)

Europe of Freedom and Democracy (33)

After the May elections, we will be further researching and updating this chart and with the new composition in the European Parliament determining with our allies the opportunities to derail the ratification of CETA in both the European Parliament and the national legislatures.

Further reading
Canada’s seal hunt remains an outstanding CETA issue for the European Parliament
European Parliamentary committee concerned about privacy protections in Canada given spying scandal
Europeans face investor-state challenges if CETA ratified
Quebec Solidaire seeks help of MEPs to defeat CETA
Harper government lobbies MEPs on the tar sands, European Fuel Quality Directive
Harper’s re-election in 2015 hinges on CETA, says Ibbitson
SYRIZA government in Greece would veto CETA in national legislature