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Europa United’s Atakan Uzun poses a bold question in the wake of the recent European elections – is this the time for more cooperation in the European parliament between the major political blocs or does the new parliamentary setup make this even more impossible?

The rise in populism has dominated world politics in recent years which came about after several crises that the EU were unable to sufficiently deal with. These crises include the global recession, the Eurozone and migration crises.

In the global recession, EU countries and the world economy sank into its biggest crisis since the Wall Street Crash in the 1930s. At that time, it led to the rise of Nazism and Fascism in Germany and Italy. Similarly, but not to the same extent, after the global recession made its presence known, the rise of populism hit Europe just as the global crisis hit the continent, in both cases like an earthquake. The Eurozone crisis was caused by the global crisis with several EU countries including Spain, Ireland, Greece, Italy and Portugal losing sovereignty over control of their finances. This was because all these countries had to plead with the EU and the IMF to grant each country a bailout to rescue failing economies. These bailouts crucially came with harsh austerity imposed amongst member states across Europe. This led to the rise in populism across Spain with the rise of the Vox party as well as Podemos to some extent. The migration crisis was caused by the Arab Spring crisis in Syria which escalated heavily in 2014, leading to the influx of migrants to European shores and borders. Countries such as Hungary felt the migration crisis more than most other EU member states due to the influx of migrants. Recently, after the European elections, EU parties such as the S&D as well as ALDE, now known as Renew,  talked about meeting up in order to cooperate in the next European parliament over the next five years.

A recent Vox party rally

This poses the question, should EU blocs such as the S&D and the newly formed group Renew work together in order to defeat populism?

The recent meetings of groups in the European parliament, including ALDE and the S&D, has posed the question on whether more EU parties that have common interests like ALDE and S&D work together as a single voice to defeat the populist movement within several EU groups in the European parliament. One may argue, that if EU parties worked together to defeat populism, they would be able to act as one voice and would increase the chances of the federalisation process of the EU. The overall aim of the populist movements and parties together, whether they are united or not, is to undermine the EU and its structures. Part of this is to undermine the further federalisation process of the EU though mechanisms such as the Lisbon Treaty or at times of crisis such as the Fiscal Treaty. A clear example of this is Nigel Farage who has nurtured his political career within that movement to bring Britain out of the EU. He opposed the Lisbon Treaty and has since said that the EU imposed a second Lisbon Treaty referendum on Ireland because it didn’t get the result that it wanted in the first instance. However, to some extent, this is not true because many aspects of Lisbon Treaty I are different to aspects of Lisbon Treaty II. Overall, if EU parties reconsidered its different goals, they could cooperate together as one movement against the populist movement.

If EU parties, as a single movement, put aside all their own political agendas and views, worked together against the populist movement in the European parliament, they would be able to destabilise the populist movement. The biggest weakness of the populist movement is that it is not a united front. While it will always have strengths, the biggest weakness that will always hinder further progress of populist movements is its disunited approach. For example, after the victory of Matteo Salvini and the Lega party in Italy in March 2018, they joined the most Eurosceptic grouping at the time, the EFDD. However, after a few months, Salvini decided to pull Lega out of the EFDD and set up his own breakaway group, the ENF. This contributed further to the weakness of the populist movement because they weren’t able to be fully united in one bloc in the European parliament, rathermore they were mixed up with several parties. One of the biggest populists all over Europe, Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz party are not member of either of these groups, they are a member of the ruling bloc, the EPP. EU parties against the populist movement should capitalise on this weakness by uniting together as one movement against the populist movement.

The EFDD logo

If EU parties worked together as one movement, they would be able to cooperate on many issues such as the migration crisis. This would decrease division within the European parliament and would ensure the depoliticisation of the EU. EU parties working together would also be able to cooperate on laws cracking down on populists who undermine the rule of law. On several occasions in the past few years, the EU has been too soft on countries such as Hungary and Poland, letting them go unpunished. The Hungarian government of Orbán, last year, tried to undermine the rule of law by interfering in the judicial process by appointing their own judges. The EU decided to invoke Article 7 which could have led to the suspension of Hungary and Poland’s voting rights but action was never taken further. Hungary has also undermined the Acquire Communitaire, part of the Copenhagen Criteria by disrespecting basic human rights. They did this by declaring homelessness as illegal in an attempt to decrease the influx of migrants into Hungary. If EU parties decided to work together as one movement against the populist movement, they would be able to defeat the populist movement by cracking down on member states which undermine basic human rights.    EDIT THIS GUYS !!!! IT WAS MENTIONED IN THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE – KEN

The Future Of The EU?

It is hard to say what the future of the EU is with the continuing free rein that the populist movement has within the European parliament. EU groups must work together against the populist movement to defeat the movement that has undermined the movement of the EU in the last decade or so. People such as Nigel Farage have been allowed free rein within the European parliament without any consequences for the last 20 years. EU parties must capitalise on the populist movement’s biggest weakness, which is that it never has a fully united approach because they all have different aims. Before negotiating with further countries to join the EU, the EU must iron out the current issues that they face within the European parliament in order for it to return to the glory days of the EEC where many member states were on-board with further integration and there was minimal opposition.

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Atakan Uzun
A young Irish based blogger who is studying BSc Government and Politics at UCC, Ireland. Part of the Europa United social media team.

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