X Close

Europe’s insurgent Right won’t change anything Their elections were little more than a charade

Le Pen and Bardella campaigning last month (Chesnot/Getty Images)

Le Pen and Bardella campaigning last month (Chesnot/Getty Images)


June 10, 2024   5 mins

Depending on where you stand politically, you might view the Right-populist surge in the European Parliament as either a grave threat to democracy, or as a striking victory for it — and a major step forward in “taking back control” from the Brussels oligarchy. But both positions would be wrong. The truth is, despite yesterday’s hysteria, compounded by Macron’s decision to dissolve parliament and call an election, the impact of these elections won’t be as significant as people fear or hope.

Consider the victors: the ECR and ID groups, who made significant gains. Both blocs are made up of various Right-populist parties who are deeply divided on several crucial strategic issues: social and economic matters, European enlargement, China, EU-US relations and, most important, Ukraine. This means that, even if they succeed in pushing the European Commission to the Right, they will struggle to turn their electoral success into political influence; on Europe’s most important challenges, it seems unlikely they will vote as a bloc. But on a more fundamental level, to assume these elections will radically alter the course of the EU’s policymaking agenda, or even threaten democracy itself, implies that the EU is a functioning parliamentary democracy. It is not.

Despite the fanfare that surrounds every European election — each one tediously described as “the most important elections in the history of the European Union” — the reality is that the European Parliament isn’t a parliament in the conventional sense of the word. That would imply the ability to initiate legislation, a power the European Parliament does not wield. This is reserved exclusively for the EU’s “executive” arm, the European Commission — the closest thing to a European “government” — which promises “neither to seek nor to take instructions from any government or from any other institution, body, office or entity”.

“The reality is that the European Parliament isn’t a parliament in the conventional sense of the word.”

And this, inevitably, includes the European Parliament, which may only approve, reject or propose amendments and revisions to the Commission’s own legislative proposals. Nor is the Commission itself by any means democratically elected. Its president and its members are proposed and appointed by the European Council, which is made up of the leaders of the EU member states. Even in this case, the Parliament may only approve or reject the Council’s proposals. Hence the paradox of Ursula von der Leyen running a (comically disturbing) electoral campaign for a second term despite not actually running for a seat.

In 2014, this was supposed to be fixed: a new system — the so-called Spitzenkandidat, or “lead candidate” process — was introduced, whereby prior to the European elections, each major political group in the European Parliament would nominate its candidate for the role of Commission president, and the nominee of the group with the most seats would automatically become president. But the system never took off. Indeed, in 2019, Ursula von der Leyen herself was chosen behind closed doors by EU leaders, despite the fact that she hadn’t run in the elections, and that two candidates had already been put forward by the centre-right EPP and centre-left S&D groups. Today, that system is considered all but dead, which is why the other groups didn’t even bother to choose a candidate.

And yet, despite such democratic constraints, judging by yesterday’s results, one could argue that even the EU cannot remain fully insulated from the continent’s Rightward shift. This is true: the increased weight of the Right-populists within the European Parliament might force the Council to put forward a more Right-leaning candidate than von der Leyen.

Before we fall down the trap of predicting a Right-populist dystopia, there are, however, some important caveats. While it is true that the Commission is nominated by the national governments, and thus it may appear like the latter are in control, it is equally true that the supranational institutions of the European Union hold a huge sway over national governments, insofar as they control crucial aspects of their economic policy. This is especially true in the eurozone, where the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) can effectively enforce whatever policy they want on elected governments — and even forcibly remove them from office, as they did with Silvio Berlusconi in 2011.

This means that, in the eurozone at least, the political survival of governments largely depends on the goodwill of the EU. This is why even Right-populist parties, once they get into government — or start to think that they have a good chance of doing so — tend to quickly realign with the establishment, in the European Council as well as in the European Parliament. Take Giorgia Meloni. On all major issues, Italy’s prime minister has aligned her government with the EU and Nato — and has signalled her willingness to support a second term for von der Leyen, with whom she has developed a close relationship. In France, meanwhile, Marine Le Pen has also started to undergo a process of “Melonification” — abandoning her anti-euro platform and softening her position on Russia-Ukraine and Nato. Even if her National Rally party wins France’s forthcoming elections, all the signs suggest it won’t be the disruptive force she is promising.

There’s also another to point to be considered. On the one hand, the fact that the European Parliament, the only democratically elected institution in the EU, exercises some oversight over the Commission’s policies, might be seen as a positive development. In this sense, the bigger presence of the Right-populist parties will certainly have an impact of the legislative process, especially on highly polarising issues such as the European Green Deal and immigration.

But on the other, this doesn’t change the fact that the European Parliament remains politically toothless. The entire legislative process — which takes places through a system of informal tripartite meetings on legislative proposals between representatives of the Parliament, the Commission, the Council — is opaque to say the least. This, as the Italian researchers Lorenzo Del Savio and Matteo Mameli have written, is exacerbated by the fact that European Parliament is “physically, psychologically and linguistically more distant from ordinary people than national ones are”, which in turn makes it more susceptible to the pressure of lobbyists and well-organised vested interests. As a result, even the most well-meaning politicians, once they get to Brussels, tend to get sucked into its bubble.

On an even more fundamental level, none of this will ever change, even if the European Parliament is granted full legislative powers; for the simple reason that there is no European demos for the Parliament to represent. Such a demos — a political community generally defined by a shared and relatively homogenous language, culture, history, normative system — still only exists at the national level. Indeed, the EU remains deeply fractured along national economic, geopolitical and cultural fault lines — and this looks unlikely to change.

All this means that, while we may expect a change of direction on some issues, these elections are unlikely to solve the pressing economic, political and geopolitical problems afflicting the EU: stagnation, poverty, internal divergences, democratic disenfranchisement and, perhaps most crucially for the continent’s future, the bloc’s aggressive Nato-isation and militarisation in the context of escalating tensions with Russia. In this sense, it’s hardly surprising that around half of Europeans didn’t even bother to vote. Ultimately, the EU was built precisely to resist populist insurgencies such as this one. The sooner populists come to terms with it, the better.


Thomas Fazi is an UnHerd columnist and translator. His latest book is The Covid Consensus, co-authored with Toby Green.

battleforeurope

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

127 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
1 month ago

I think this essay is too pessimistic. On the two most pressing issues facing the EU, net zero and immigration, there is widespread consensus across the continent.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Unfortunately that consensus is not shared by the elites.

Matt M
Matt M
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I think you are right Jim. We will see the end of “net zero” and mass immigration in the next few years. They will come to be regarded as a crazy policies from the Progressive Era (1994-2024: Bill Clinton to Trump 2).

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Matt M

Net Zero, yes. Because it can not be delivered technically and it will be impossible politically when average moron (sorry, voter) realises how expensive it will be.
Mass immigration, I am not convinced.
How can you stem the flow when all major parties in uk and many other EU countries support it.
Or at least do nothing to stop it, whatever their election manifestos say.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
1 month ago

So was the UK leaving the EU a good thing? Seems to me to be. The EU is not a democracy. I couldn’t stomach living under it. The minor moves the US has made toward joining a world government (like the Paris climate agreement) make me queasy. The more local the government, the better.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

The more local the government, the better. Up to a point. I don’t think Hampshire County Council needs its own nuclear deterrent.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Possibly up its backside, but I take your general point.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

And that shows the pointlessness of Councils erecting ‘Nuclear Free Zone’ signs on their boundaries.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

To be fair, it shows how Liberal and woke they are.
And moronic and pointless and delusional as well.
Just stick to rubbish collection.

John Tyler
John Tyler
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

It might keep out the riffraff! 🙂

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

What about the threat from Buckinghamshire?

J Boyd
J Boyd
1 month ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Emphatically, yes!

Despite the pig’s ear that we have made of the last four years, at least we as a nation have the potential to put it right and control of our future.

And, although the Beeb et al try to suppress the truth, we are objectively better off than we would have been if Remain had won.

0 0
0 0
1 month ago
Reply to  J Boyd

No, it’s clear we’re much worse off and may never recover the damage done by Brexit, whatever is done now, although a daring partnership with .Russia’s complementary resources and markets could improve things somewhat.

And there’s worse. The EU’s become much more autocratic since Britain left. It’s not only that the deals we had before are no longer on the table but the Union has evolved into a monolith less and less popular with European people. How could it ever be sold to Britons?

Lancashire Lad
Lancashire Lad
1 month ago
Reply to  0 0

It’s absolutely not “clear we’re much worse off” in any accepted definition of the term “clear”, except in your own head.

T Bone
T Bone
1 month ago
Reply to  0 0

Autocratic refers to a single ruler. This might seem like a trivial point but I get the sense that anyone using the word “Autocratic” is regurgitating Globalist Establishment cliches. The correct word is Totalitarian…a word the Socialistic or Globalist types never use for some reason.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 month ago
Reply to  0 0

Yes a partnership with Russia would be better than Ukraine, think of how profitable our businesses would be (like Germany’s were!) And cheap heating bills for the poor and the rich pensioners! America would invade us though…

Mark Gourley
Mark Gourley
1 month ago
Reply to  J Boyd

Exactly
This article reminds me how right we were to vote Leave .

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  J Boyd

Yes, you are correct on constitutional grounds.
While I voted for Brexit, let’s look at reality.
We replaced European migrants with low IQ savages from Muslim countries and Africa.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew F

How disgustingly racist!

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Our departure from the EU became inevitable when we chose (wisely) not to adopt the euro.

Ernesto Candelabra
Ernesto Candelabra
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Also our departure was inevitable under the ‘ever closer union’ doctrine; you’re either on a bus going to that destination or not on that bus.

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

I don’t know. There is more than one country in the EU that has not adopted the euro, including my country Sweden. There is basically no politician that want the euro for Sweden, but there is also no politician agitating for a Swexit (opinion polls suggest only 10% oh the population wants to leave).

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 month ago

If the euro was mandatory what would Sweden do then?
And how would popular opinion change?

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 month ago
Reply to  William Shaw

That is unclear. When Sweden joined EU there was two referendums. One about joining the EU, which the “join” side won, and later one about the euro that the pro side lost. If Sweden were to join the euro there would have to be another referendum. The fact that Sweden being outside of the euro (and actually ignoring treaty obligation to join) keeps the population more friendly to the Union probably keeps both pro EU politicians and EU bureaucrats accepting the situation.

0 0
0 0
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

No, that was the best of all possible worlds. And very foolish to give it up as there’s no way back.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Why?
There are some EU countries not in Euro.

0 0
0 0
1 month ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Have you noticed those who want to rejoin the EU never want to talk about what’s going on there now, especially Von der Liar’s plans to further erode national sovereignty and confirm the EU as an autocracy run in the service of certain special interests.

If Brexiteers have had plenty of reasons for disillusionment with the ‘sovereignty’ overhyped by BoJo and others, any attempt to re-engage with Europe as it actually is will put sovereignty issues right back on the table.

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 month ago
Reply to  0 0

What “special interests” are you referring to?

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
1 month ago

I would assume that the anti-farming movement is being pushed by players who want the profits from food production for themselves. Europeans have a “romantic” view of small farmers, and their inefficiencies, that must make the corporate “suits” salivate.
And what they did to the Greeks during that fiscal crises made it obvious that the big German and French banks were running the show. The timing certainly suggests that they were trying to turn the Great Recession of ’08 into a big profit for themselves.
Then there’s the immigration mess. It’s hard to believe that this is happening by accident. Someone must have an interest in letting in lots of new people. Otherwise the EU would allow the coastal nations put a stop to it.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 month ago

Agreed, the corporations want new customers, immigrants in the main will work and buy rubbish from Amazon, whilst the natives see their real wages go down and costs up will be buying less, keeps Bezos, Zuckerburg et al just as rich.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 month ago

American private equity of course, it is already hollowing out Germany. The USA kindly cut off its cheap Russian oil supply and is now buying up its distressed (real) industries (with printed money)

Rob Alka
Rob Alka
1 month ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

I don’t know what Democracy means. I think it means not too much Autocracy, in case it morphs into dictatorship, which is usually unpleasant (although occasionally can be be a Godsend to country that is in a state of decision paralysis or unalterable incompetence.
So Democracy has something to do with having a leader than can’t lead and a losing party (aka Shadow Party) which is called “The Opposition” and sees its function as being to Oppose the government in power however sensible and progressive the proposed plan might be. All because it was title as the Opposition and took it literally..
We defend that as Democracy. Any deviation from the system is rejected as an attack on democracy.
Another clear definition of democracy is that all British citizens 18 years & over are eligible to vote, regardless of their IQ, motivations and reason for voting for one candidate over another for a variety of factors whether nationally (for the party as a whole) or regionally, or by constituency, or for one’s own residence or street/locality locality or goodness knows what.
Another definition of democracy is that the voter should be 18+. Hopefully that is in years rather than IQ. That IQ score obviously also applies to so-called grown-ups. The problem here is that the broader the IQ of voters the less likely the vote will be for a candidate of above average IQ. Which all too is a vote for a candidate who will preserve Britain’s ordinariness. Elitism is frowned upon. When the voters say “he’s of us” we are on an unstoppable journey that at best unchanged, thus maintaining mediocrity. Who would thought democracy and mediocrity are bedfellows.

Susie Bell
Susie Bell
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob Alka

Let’s hear it for ‘ordinariness’!

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 month ago
Reply to  Rob Alka

Excellent post Rob, sadly your humour is lost on the low IQ…

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 month ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

The EU is a bureaucratic tyranny; a cancerous abomination, spreading its pestilence to whatever it touches.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
1 month ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Look at the people who have been the big winners of these European Elections, several of whom were already in governing coalitions and thus on the Council of Ministers. These are the people to whose legislative will the centrists wish to subject us. Again. They were often on the Council, and always in the European Parliament, before Brexit. It is no wonder that Volodymyr Zelensky wants Ukraine to join the EU. Svoboda and Pravy Sektor would fit right in, so to speak.

Centrism and right-wing populism are con tricks to sell exactly the same economic and foreign policies to different audiences by pretending to wage a culture war. Therefore, we hear calls for some sort of post-Brexit alliance between Britain and Viktor Orbán’s Hungary, from people who were apparently unaware that Hungary was in the EU, but of course fully aware of it. In Britain, at least, centrists and right-wing populists alike support NATO, which subjects British military personnel to officers who were themselves subject to Orbán and to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. How moderate and sensible. What an expression of national pride and sovereignty.

If Ukraine ever did join NATO, then our Armed Forces would be part of an integrated command structure that placed them alongside, and sometimes even under, the National Corps, C14, the Azov Brigade, the Aidar Battalion, the Donbas Battalion, the Dnipro-1 Battalion, the Dnipro-2 Battalion, the Kraken Regiment, and possibly also the Freedom of Russia Legion and the Russian Volunteer Corps. Without formally admitting Ukraine, ways could be found of doing that, anyway. If they have not already been, then they very soon will be.

Likewise, Britain, which remains in close alignment with the legislation on which the EU’s Fascists and Nazis deliberated and voted, will be aligned even more closely with it in the next Parliament, no matter who had won the General Election. Well, of course. While pre-existing conservative phenomena have been known to ally with Fascism, usually to their own ruin, it is the liberal bourgeoisie that keeps Fascism in reserve for when it might ever face any serious demand to share its economic or social power with anyone who did not have it before the rise of the bourgeois liberal order, or to share its cultural or political power with anyone at all. EU suzerainty will be one of its many, many, many means of repressing any such challenge in the Britain of the next five, 10, 15 and 20 years.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

I usually can’t stand Fazi articles.
But his dissection of EU disfunction makes great argument for Brexit.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

I agree that the parties of the Right in Europe are disorganised. They need someone to unite them in a common cause – a Leader! Still, given that we are talking about the EU, the English word “Leader” seems inappropriate. What’s the German word for “Leader”?

Ian_S
Ian_S
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Oh let’s see … all politics diverging from radical globalist utopian social justice progressivism must inevitably mean the return of *itler — is that the naff opinion you’re driving at? Boring.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian_S

It was a joke. The thing I find the strangest about commenting on UnHerd is that many other commenters seem to not bring a sense of humour to the table.

Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

It was a joke fifty years ago, now, as Ian_s says, it’s just boring.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

If you can’t joke about the Nazis, who can you joke about?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

You are Frankie Boyle and I claim my £5

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I had to google to see who that was (I don’t live in the UK).

Ian_S
Ian_S
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Ok, I see now, but you know it can be hard to tell a joke from serious without lots of contextual cues … because no matter how silly an opinion, someone has it.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Ian_S

I tried to put in as many cues as I could.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

It’s too hard to tell from printed comments who is joking and who is serious. I too thought you were serious that the European parties on the right needed a new German Führer as authoritarian as the old one for all to unite behind.
(The title, by the way, was coined by its holder to temporarily combine the powers of both chancellor and president, and was to be retired at his death.)

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Carlos Danger

Are there people on UnHerd who would seriously put that forward as a proposition? The reason I comment on UnHerd is that my fellow commenters tend for the most part to be sensible, reasonable and educated people. On the subject of titles, I’ve just read a book about North Korea, and learned that “Great Leader” Kim Il Sung still holds a number of offices in government despite being dead. Maybe that is something future despots could aspire to.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

I do wonder if this article was sketched out before Macron called an election. While ( thankfully) the EU parliament has little power (and indeed sucks up and pacifies many would be radicals with plush salaries and nice perks ) the election also cannot be ignored , even though the parliament probably can be.
Ultimately The EU still depends on France/Germany axis and their leaders. Macron is now the most important globalist in the EU and has taken over from Merkel has the defacto leader. His back me or sack me move gives the French electorate a real democratic choice with huge consequences for all of Europe.
This is democracy in action. The movement of le pen and Moloni towards the center is also a normal democratic process. We cant simply disolve Europe now entirely. The best outcome is that national parliaments remain strong relative to EU beurocrats, net zero gets abondoned along with globalist agendas like the hate speech laws, pandemic treaties etc. And that we have a cool, calm, discussion on immigration.
Getting rid of globalists ( wef types) like Macron is the first step in my opinion

Norfolk Sceptic
Norfolk Sceptic
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

If the swing was to the Left, Globalist, (difficult to imagine, I know), it would have been an important indicator, and a sign of the times, no doubt.:)

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

You write that you are thankful that the European Parliament has little power. Do you mean in relation to the Comission, the national parliaments or both? To me that makes a big difference.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

Well, I think they have little power in relation to either national patliaments or the commision. The commisioners are nominated by parliaments though so there is a link to national parliaments there also. But to directly answer your question. I am thankful that they have little power in relation to national parliaments.

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

OK, thanks for the clarification.

David Lindsay
David Lindsay
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Just as nowhere that was governed by Spads would have any right to mock the fact that Gabriel Attal and and Jordan Bardella were barely out of school and had never had proper jobs, so nowhere with pairing would have any right to accuse anywhere else of having a pretend Parliament that existed only to serve the Executive.

The Council of Ministers can occasionally be a tougher crowd, although the rarity of that is usually because normal politics had ironed things out before they got that far, but it is true that the European Parliament passes whatever the Commission puts in front of it. So, like the British Parliament, then. Loss of a Government Bill would amount to a vote of no confidence, and therefore never happens. Unless the Government adopted it, then any Private Member’s Bill will always run out of time.

The European Parliament cannot propose amendments, but when does the House of Commons ever pass a significant amendment, whether its own or from the Lords, to a Government Bill? To the Budget, it actually cannot do so. When the Government is at risk of defeat due to rebellion on its own side, then the Opposition whips to abstain, or even to vote with the Government. And there is always pairing.

Within this, a Conservative Government has spent the time since Brexit imitating as far as possible the Monégasque National Council, which copies out the laws of France and enacts them as the laws of Monaco. That practice will become even more prevalent in the next Parliament, no matter who had won the General Election.

At the same time, the change in the composition of the European Parliament, soon to be reflected in national governments and thus in a Council of Ministers that already featured the likes of Fidesz and the Brothers of Italy, means that the power to say no, which does exist, may come to be used, as it would never be at Westminster. Legislation would be drafted so as the preclude that by suiting those who might attempt it. In relation to the Council, that already happens.

Therefore, it does indeed matter to Britain who wins European elections. It matters more than who wins a General Election for the privilege of implementing EU legislation in which no one from the United Kingdom had been involved at any stage. Our imperial masters are now to be full-throated Fascists in the proper sense of the word, as some of them already were. Some of them are literally Nazis. Yet anything less than the lowest possible obeisance to them is cranky, extremist deviation from the grownup, sensible moderation of the sacred centre ground, and most likely to be banished from public discourse by being branded “anti-Semitic”.

Centrism and right-wing populism are con tricks to sell exactly the same economic and foreign policies to different audiences by pretending to wage a culture war. While pre-existing conservative phenomena have been known to ally with Fascism, usually to their own ruin, it is the liberal bourgeoisie that keeps Fascism in reserve for when it might ever face any serious demand to share its economic or social power with anyone who did not have it before the rise of the bourgeois liberal order, or to share its cultural or political power with anyone at all. EU suzerainty will be one of its myriad means of repressing any such challenge in the Britain of the next five, 10, 15 and 20 years.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

Did Meloni do anything to stop trafficking of Muslim and African savages into Italy?
SFA.
I guess it is typical of any Italian government.
Overpromise and underdeliver.
Like So called “Conservatives” in uk.

Studio Largo
Studio Largo
1 month ago

Right on all counts. The EU is rigged, plain and simple. If more countries left the ‘ever-closer union’ it would wither away and die while the soulless, hollow technocrats running it would be left hanging.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Studio Largo

Problem is, if you are in Euro you had it.
Cost of leaving is so high, that no government can do it.
Just look at Italy and France (whatever happens in elections).

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew F

.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 month ago

” … the reality is that the European Parliament isn’t a parliament in the conventional sense of the word. That would imply the ability to initiate legislation, a power the European Parliament does not wield.” The article could have been reduced to this sentence. The European Parliament barely counts as a debating club. It is there to deceive people into believing there is a democracy and to give bribes, sorry salaries, to politicians who then act as advocates for the EU.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago

Quite right – to emphsise your final point, the EU Parliament contains representatives, yes, but they are the EU’s representatives to the people who elected them, not the people’s representatives within the EU. The difference is fundamental: they are more like PR personnel than elected representatives in the proper sense.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 month ago

A glorified House of Lords

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Indeed, though more representative than the mad old Lords, now they mostly appointees of failed prime ministers

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Yes, that struck me when I was reading the article. But why have the House of Lords or any upper chamber if it is toothless? The US has the Senate, Poland has the Senate, the UK has the House of Lords…

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 month ago

I think this article misunderstands why voters turn out to the EU election. People are supposed to vote for issues decided on a European level. The EP is supposed to be a proper parliament.
Neither of those things are true in reality.
People tend to use this opportunity to express their views on domestic issues, so these elections serve as a bellwether for the general political mood across the continent. Sooner or later that mood will translate into the makeup of the Council – which does matter rather more than the EP.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
1 month ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

You are absolutely right. It shows the mood music in many upcoming General Elections. The Council and its policies will eventually change, especially migration and its Green absurdities.

John Riordan
John Riordan
1 month ago

Depressing, but unfortunately all true.

In fact it’s a great pity this article wasn’t written a few years ago when the UK was in the middle of a rhetorical punch-up over EU membership. This article would have dealt very well with those stupidly dishonest Europhile claims that the EU is a democracy and that Eurosceptic claims to the contrary are just politically convenient lies.

I am starting to get quite nervous, to be honest, about the “aggressive Nato-isation and militarisation” mentioned above. I remain a supporter of NATO in principle, but the manner in which it is entwined with EU expansionist ambitions is not something I like or support, and it seems to me that nobody – at least nobody who also supports the EU – has learned any useful lessons lately.

The EU is in no position to be aggressive. The USA is the guarantor of peace in Europe, and the USA is simply not going to back the EU if it oversteps the mark with Russia – or anyone else, for that matter.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 month ago
Reply to  John Riordan

The USA is not the ‘guarantor of peace’ it is the instigator of war! The US is egging on Germany. Poland and France to fight it’s phoney war on Russia, they are being set up! The Russians aren’t the ‘bad guys the US are, it really should be obvious…
This is all propaganda, and it is being swallowed whole by Europeans whilst American private equity feasts on our carcasses. (Don’t say you weren’t warned)

Walter Marvell
Walter Marvell
1 month ago

Very odd. Of course the EU Parliament is powerless and the EU Empire a Soviet style anti democratic force. But as with the UKIP EU Parliament vote before the Boris election, these elections can trigger shockwaves within each nation. Macrons panicked snap election decision shows the counter revolution will always advance and play out in the individual states. Brexit was the first step. Perhaps France will be next. The opportunity is there.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 month ago
Reply to  Walter Marvell

Walter, our ‘democracy’ is an illusion, we are all controlled by US elites, they have printed phoney money, spent billions on the Military industrial complex, which all major private equity corporations have large shares in, and need to ‘create’ wars to feed this regime! Von Der Layen is their servant, and the EU too toothless and powerless to stand up to America. We need to stand up to America and run Europe for Europeans not the US. The US started the war in Ukraine and all the money is going to the military Industrial complex whilst everyone buys even more ‘ineffective’ (and expensive) American arms. This is one of the reasons why the US is not opposing the slaughter of Palestinians and Houthi’s (by Saudi Arabia) they buy lots of weapons from the US.

AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

“…the impact of these elections won’t be as significant as people fear or hope.”

Maybe yes, maybe no. Elections generally (but not always) have little impact on the Powers That Be. But a sea change of opinion by the electorate can make a difference… as in the Referendum and (eventually) Brexit.
The EU Commission may regard a more right wing European Parliament as irritating but not problematic… until more nations start talking about leaving the EU.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  AC Harper

But most can not leave EU because they are in Euro.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
1 month ago

A predictable response from the ‘left’, as ever in denial as to the undercurrents and dissatisfaction within the electorates across the EU.
This is but the beginning of the end for the mickey mouse politics and the magic money tree, but it won’t happen overnight.
Watch the #Euro .. it will be a big influencer.

Susan Grabston
Susan Grabston
1 month ago

Interesting how deeply cynical.and depressed Thomas,l F, Aris R.and Mary H have become about politics. As a believer in the 4th turning thesis, I sense the multiple elections this year push us further.into disorder.

Richard Calhoun
Richard Calhoun
1 month ago
Reply to  Susan Grabston

Agreed, this is the beginning of probably a very tortuous 5 years in politics before the present shenanigans is resolved.

Saul D
Saul D
1 month ago

I’m trying to find a good summary website for the elections which details turnout per country plus vote changes for the local parties. So far I seem to find information around the EU groupings, which seem pretty vacuous, particularly since the local parties shift around and local country differences are more interesting, and I can find records of total votes and vote share for 2024, but little in the way of election-on-election comparisons per local party in comparison with previous results. I’d prefer not to have to chase around country-by-country. Anyone know a good aggregated source?

Russell Sharpe
Russell Sharpe
1 month ago
Reply to  Saul D

Try https://results.elections.europa.eu/en. The results for each country and comparisons with the past are available there eg https://results.elections.europa.eu/en/national-results/france/2024-2029/

Saul D
Saul D
1 month ago
Reply to  Russell Sharpe

Thank you. Anything with comparative share of the vote? I saw it has turn-out (not reported everywhere yet) and share of seats, but I was really wanting to see changes in percentages for different parties.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

Good to be reminded that governments represent, and emerge from, a demos. It would be nice if this concept was in more general circulation. In a “multicultural society” the government effectively represents itself.

Jon Hawksley
Jon Hawksley
1 month ago

Confirms my view that there should not be an EU parliament or President. It should be an organization for co-operation. The European Council should exercise serious over-sight and make the bureaucrats responsible and accountable.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Jon Hawksley

Exactly. It should be a Free Trade Zone, and nothing more (as it once was).

Dick Barrett
Dick Barrett
1 month ago

I vaguely remember a bout of far-right hysteria in European parliament elections in, I think, 1989, when a party called the “Republikaner” did well in Germany. I may be misremembering this so I am open to correction.

John Tyler
John Tyler
1 month ago

Slightly off the point: I do dislike these constant references to “right-wing populists”. Populism is simply offering people what they want while keeping quiet about any policies that are more pragmatic. Our metropolitan, educated, liberal elite should pay attention to popular opinion and stop trying to please primarily minority interests. The older I get the more I admire Machiavelli for his pragmatic approach, completely unconcerned with ideological niceties. (Not quite so admiring of the behavioural norms of the day!)

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
1 month ago
Reply to  John Tyler

Popular are policies the elites agree with
Populism are ones that they don’t.
Simple as that really.

General Store
General Store
1 month ago

‘The sooner populists come to terms with it, the better’ – Enough said. No!

Myra Forster-van Hijfte
Myra Forster-van Hijfte
1 month ago

I am tired of the ‘far right’ and ‘right’ label.
I think this is old politics to a certain extend. For me it appears a choice between authoritarian, top-down regulatory politics and one of freedom and cultural values.
Is the latter ‘right’ or ‘far right’?

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago

You are correct.
These labels are the tool of Liberal Neo-Marxists to smear their opponents.
That is why woke, lefty scum in places like bbc call themselves and their supporters progressive etc.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Of course, the terms “Liberal-Neo Marxists” and “Woke Lefty Scum” aren’t smears….

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
1 month ago

No mention of the huge elephant in the room
The EU has stark choices to confront
1 . Continue being the Lapdog of USA
OR
2. Work cooperatively with China
Or
3 . Sit upon the fence of neutrality

Option 2 is by far the most sensible

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Is it the most sensible? Changing laps does not change the underlying nature of being a lap dog.

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

By far it is go study how the BRICS initiative works and in particular the recently opened HS railway in Indonesia and GO COMPARE ( but don’t use those idiots to compare JOKE ) with HS 2 to Birmingham
Should you care too then you quickly conclude that we truly now a certain word that the British applied in Singaporean
Colonial days where you referred to the immigrant Chinese labourers who build the Railways and docks for you
What’s the word it’s Coolies
The pupil has become the Master and the master not only
The Motley fool but The Cooley
Then if within your capabilities go study Confucious and if so and particularly The 12 th Anecht
You got it
Easy peasy for a open mind
But impossible for one that’s closed which just like a parachute is utterly useless till it opens

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Correct. Not only that, the US is a democracy.

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

What about keeping to work constructively with the US and avoid becoming the lapdog of China?

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
1 month ago

For you I give you a quote from H.Kissenger recently departed
But the Diplomat who had the Wisdom to open China to the West
” To be a enemy of America is dangerous
But to be a friend is Lethal ”
Think Iraq, Vietnam and Taiwan
Not to put Afghanistan into the mix

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Except Kissinger didn’t really say that. In a private conversation 1968, he said that if the US government pursued a certain line of policy, then it would be said.. and then follows the quote. So the way you quote it is quite misleading.
The US have been faithful allies of Western Europe. In what way have the US betrayed Taiwan? And it is interesting that you seems to think the US should have continued the Vietnam war.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

The Vietnam War was a mistake, but then Ho Chi Minh also make a mistake, namely being a Communist. If he had just been a straight up Nationalist, the US wouldn’t have cared that he kicked the French out.

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

I agree.

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Not to mention Giap a military genius who studied Sun Tzu
The Chinese warrior who is the Author of The Art of War
And also carefully studied The IRA and how it defeated the British Empire along with Robert the Bruce and Bannockburn
Giap then rigidly applied all the principles contained in his readings which ensured that Little David defeated Goliath

When oh When shall we ever learn

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
1 month ago

Nevertheless those words were his and his alone
Kissinger visited China and President Xi just before his death
Go read how that visit went because you shall never hear of it from Western MSM

And as for Taiwan The USA is actively letting them down by way of Kidding on that they support Taiwan and as always if and when it goes Pear shaped just as with Afghanistan and Vietnam they will run away leaving another awful mess
Taiwan without any doubt whatsoever is and always been
Chinese there not one single piece of evidence that demonstrates otherwise
Legally and by any definition
Taiwan is a Civil War that has still to conclude and as such
The only possible end game scenarios are feasible
1 China surrenders and hands Taiwan over
2 Taiwan surrenders and reunifies
3. China / Taiwan agree peacefully to Reunite
4.China militarily bring the civil war to a conclusion for once and all

Make up your mind as to which option is the best
Because the days coming that it shall be resolved
Why
China passed into Law that by 2040 that Taiwan shall be returned to the Motherland
But strenuous efforts applied to do so peacefully by negotiation
Should such fail then The full force of China and it’s people’s shall be used
Furthermore China has clearly stated and make no mistake or a stupid miscalculation regards
Their clear RED LINE
Any no matter who or how many interfere with Taiwanese re unification
Then China will immediately declare War upon any who do
And that declaration shall be one of Unconditional surrender
China shall fight to the Last man standing
China also brought into Law that in the event of Military action required to bring Taiwan back then any Chinese citizen
Mainland or on Taiwan who resist WILL be tried as Traitors
and the full power of the Law applied

Now then go and sign up to fight China great if you suicidal

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

The Chinese didn’t start to immigrate to Taiwan until the 17th century. When the Dutch arrived there it was only populated by aboriginal Taiwanese, who were culturally and biologically related to other Polynesian peoples like the people of Hawaii. They still exist as a minority in Taiwan, and today they have a special status as the indigenous people of the island.
Just as with Germany, it is the communist regime that is the real reason Taiwan think it is unacceptable to submit to Beijing. If CCP falls from power in China, there will really not be any reason not to unify. You may claim it is totally unrealistic to expect China to cease to be communist, but the same could have been said about East Germany ca 1983. And anyway the people of China is humans with the same dignity as rights as other humans. So, like us, they should not have to live in a totalitarian communist one party state.
As for the current Chinese regime, the fact that Russia have totally failed in Ukraine, have probably given them second thoughts.
As for the Kissinger quote, I never denied that he said those words. But by omitting the words around and the context, you are basically lying. It is like claiming that the Bible claims that “there is no God”, because that sentence is in the Bible (where the context is the words before: “The fools say”).

Wilfred Davis
Wilfred Davis
1 month ago

‘Ultimately, the EU was built precisely to resist populist insurgencies such as this one. The sooner populists come to terms with it, the better.’

Even allowing for some latitude in the use of language, I think ‘insurgency’ – meaning armed rebellion – is an awkward choice of word to apply to populism.

The voters are using ballots, not bullets.

And why should any electorate ‘come to terms with’ (aka accept subjugation to) a government system crafted to disdain their wishes?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

I have to disagree with the main thrust of this article.
What was the point of forming the European Parliament if it has no real political function? The Parliament has 3 main roles:
Legislative:
Passing EU laws, together with the Council of the EU, based on European Commission proposals
Deciding on international agreementsDeciding on enlargements
Reviewing the Commission’s work programme and asking it to propose legislation
Supervisory:
Democratic scrutiny of all EU institutionsElecting the Commission President and approving the Commission as a body.
Possibility of voting a motion of censure, obliging the Commission to resign
Granting discharge, i.e. approving the way EU budgets have been spent
Examining citizens’ petitions and setting up inquiries
Discussing monetary policy with the European Central Bank
Questioning Commission and Council
Election observations
Budgetary:
Establishing the EU budget, together with the Council
Approving the EU’s long-term budget, the “Multiannual Financial Framework”
This does not seem like a ‘toothless’ role, and seems to represent a channel for the new more populist MEPs to exert influence over EU policy, and in particular it seems where EU funding is allocated. And if it is so ineffective, why has Macron called a snap general election?
No, I think the UnHerd journalist, Thomas Fazi, decided on a thematic line and has failed to give a balanced perspective.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 month ago

“Right Wing populist dystopia”? Dystopias are left, and always have been. Concentration camps, gulags, barbed wired walls, and killing fields weren’t the hellish creations of the right. Typical Fazi projection.

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 month ago

That of course depends of your definition of right and left. Also, a dystopia (like a utopia), is a work of literary imagination. If you can write a right wing dystopia, it exist.

Dennis Learad
Dennis Learad
1 month ago

I can never understand why any country would want to be part of the Brussels Crooked Club(EU)? The “EU” produces NOTHING. It sells NOTHING. Profit? it makes not one penny profit. You have a government without a country.It taxes each country, it then spends and enjoys all the fruits of the individual country’s labour!!. So really in the end it is worthless, a PARASITE bleeding its hosts dry of money, it takes the countries Nationhood, its Pride and most of all its Independence, but that is easily done by this crooked institution as it only has akakistocracy government to deal with in most of the EU countries.

Carlos Danger
Carlos Danger
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Learad

Then why is the EU so popular? The British exited by a slim vote in favor but everyone else seems to be staying. No more exits are planned even by Italian and French right-wingers. Less than 30% of the EU population wants to leave, and even the most euroskeptical countries have solid majorities to stay.
Are all these people blind to the fact that they are being so oppressed?

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Learad

You ignore the fact that EU is in reality Fourth Reich.
Germany is doing well out of it (and Euro) so far.
Problem is when it starts going wrong.
Germans will not blame themselves.
Last time they blamed Jews.
Who is it going to be this time?

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Dennis Learad

I seem to recall that the EU gives money to some of its member countries. It is accordingly unsurprising that those countries at least like it.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 month ago

Is Thomas having a sad this morning? It’s a bit transparent that write that “the European Parliament is not really a parliament” only now, after this change. Was it a real parliament before? Perhaps having a central govt decide what’s best for a couple of dozen sovereign countries was not a great idea in the first place, but too late for that.
while we may expect a change of direction on some issues, these elections are unlikely to solve the pressing economic, political and geopolitical problems afflicting the EU: stagnation, poverty, internal divergences, democratic disenfranchisement 
No matter how many participated, the ‘disenfranchisement’ aspect was addressed by those who did turn out. As to the rest, no central authority can clean those up, which gets back to the earlier point regarding the hubris of this parliamentary idea. Each nation has to figure out its own solutions. Some cross-border cooperation on things is a good idea but not at the expense of national sovereignty.

0 0
0 0
1 month ago

There’s a spectre haunting Europe behind these election results, and one which won’t go away. That spectre is Russia, and I’m not referring to its supposed military menace, but to the dynamism of the Russian economy and the ways in which that’s now being run to produce benefits for the Russian people: high growth, rising real wages, sound public finances and investment in the health and education of the Russian people as well as physical infrastructure and defence.

Meanwhile EU suffers economic stagnation, enforced austerity and punitive interest rates, an extraverted economy where everything and everyone’s at the pleasure of international capital movement. The difference between such sharply different dynamics could never be dealt with by claiming Russia is our enemy, especially when such warmongering makes our dynamic worse and the Russian one better.

Europeans are starting to figure out that the way out of the mire is to follow what the Russians are doing, not fight them. That doesn’t mean we have to join up with Russia, though learning to be better neighbours would be sensible. We need to make European autocracy work in the interest of European people with the kind of transparency Putin has instituted in Russia. A huge task.

But there is a clear place to start, which is a reform of the European Central Bank and its relationships with national governments to finance new productive investment at near zero rates, as launched US industry two hundred years ago. The additional productive capacity rapidly repays credit, boosts productivity, wages, growth and revenues. Alongside the existing banking system, not replacing it, but keeping a lid on rentier interest while providing attractive opportunities for investment.

Achieving such reform of the ECB would require significant institutionzl change. But the relationship between the BOE and British government could be altered with the stroke of a pen. And open a way out of many an apparent Impasse..

Micael Gustavsson
Micael Gustavsson
1 month ago
Reply to  0 0

Transparency? From the world’s richest man who has stacked his money away abroad (se the Panama papers). Are you joking, or are you a paid Russian troll?

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

My money is on the “Troll” one.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  0 0

Learning to be better neighbours to Russia?
You Ruskiy clown.
It is other way round.
When spawn of Mongols becomes civilised, we can talk.
Now West needs to rearm.
Regan showed us how to deal with Russian scum.
The only language these savages understand is force.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Eloquently put. My views entirely.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  0 0

Yes, brilliant. How good would the EU be if it could just persuade Putin to lead it?

Graff von Frankenheim
Graff von Frankenheim
1 month ago

I agree with the author, nothing short of a coup d’etat or a putsch will drive out the undemocratic oligarchs ensconced in Brussels and for that the “insurgent right” will need the military and the domestic security people onside.

Martin Johnson
Martin Johnson
1 month ago

That last sentence is ambiguous. “Come to terms” with the EU structure and accept it, or realize what structures they have to reform/replace if they are to advance their own vision?

Ernesto Candelabra
Ernesto Candelabra
1 month ago

If the EU Commision do anything they impose law on citizens who have no means of removing them, which is quintessentially anti-democratic. On the other hand, if they do nothing, they are pointless. So they listen just to pressure groups of various kinds- ideological or commercial – and whichever vapid technocratic schemes are in vogue at the moment. It can’t last.

RA Znayder
RA Znayder
1 month ago

The implicit electoral shifts are more interesting than the power structure behind the EU parlement.
The second biggest country of union has just seen an enormous victory for the radical right. Moreover, in many countries it is known that especially right wing voters did not vote because they do not care much about the EU in the first place. However, in some of these countries, right to far right parties did win national election recently. The most important reason being migration.
If the EU is technically incapable of dealing with the problems of its member states, this might be an existential problem for the union as I suspect these member state will only radicalize further and further. Sure, Hungary and deficit countries the EU can deal with. But the Netherlands now plans to ask for an migration ‘opt-out’. And this is an important economy and major net contributor. Not to mention countries like France might do the same soon. Can the EU just say to its core member states: “no, what your electorate wants is nice and all be we can’t do it”? One way or another, I feel they have to deal with this.

Martin Smith
Martin Smith
1 month ago

‘Melonification’… ha ha very good.

Claire M
Claire M
1 month ago

This is what Jeremy Corbyn (before he flipped) and Tony Benn said years ago. People said ‘Well if you leave – a la Brexit – you will no longer be able to initiate reform from within.’ But as Thomas points out any idea of introducing a fairer more representative system has been jettisoned- and when electorates kick up and don’t vote the way the EU wants – over the treaty of Lisbon for example – they are sent back to vote again. With the drift further and further to align with corporate interests and banks (as Thomas also says here) the only country with any chance of reflecting the views of its populace- is the U.K. Not that I’m very optimistic there either. The same globalist forces run the show…

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
1 month ago

Just BS pap hit piece by a paid shill hack who really is not very good. If this was in print, the only fitting use for this article would be to line the bottom of a birdcage.

David Harris
David Harris
1 month ago

The only downside to leaving the EU is that we can no longer watch Nigel torment the hundreds of MEPs who hated us for leaving. The upside is that we may soon be able to watch him torment the ConLabLib rabble in our own parliament. Happy days…

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  David Harris

Back on planet earth, though.
Nigel will not be called to speak, unless he somehow becomes leader of the opposition.
Highly unlikely, because even the rabble of Conservative Party left after election is not going to admit that their talent pool is so mediocre that they need outsider to lead them.

Andrew Boughton
Andrew Boughton
1 month ago

Ursula is indeed comically disturbing. Destroying the Europe she claims to hold dear, along with her American bosses.

Steve White
Steve White
1 month ago

I’ll admit that I was a little excited about things in Europe,till Fazi threw cold water on it. It’s exactly because he says what he thinks is true, and he tends to be right about things he says, and that was upsetting.

Tyler Durden
Tyler Durden
1 month ago

Not enough is said about the alignment of the populists in relation to today’s geopolitical realignment of the BRICS and the NATO-supporting countries.
So the biggest current counter to the populist Right (and Left) would be peace in the Ukraine. It would symbolise a will to prevent rather than create more crisis immigration.

Robert Pruger
Robert Pruger
1 month ago

If Thomas Fazi’s principle point is that an election with a large rebuke to those in power, will change little or nothing, then those who voted for change will seek it another way. The issues/grievances won’t go away.
Elites who thwart the will of the people will eventually regret their decision as the troublesome rabble seek their revenge.
Let’s hope Mr. Fazi is wrong in his analysis.