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Sunday, May 18, 2014 11:18 AM


Rise of the Eurosceptics; Unholy Alliance Scorecard


Eurosceptics are on the rise in the UK, Italy, France, Finland, and even Germany. The problem is they have no united voice. Here are a couple of recent articles that discuss the situation.

The National Post reports Europhobes gain clout: Xenophobic, right-wing and anti-EU parties catch on as elections near

Mr. Farage, leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), sips his pint of beer with the smile of a man on track to win the biggest share of British votes in elections this month for the European Parliament — a parliament Mr. Farage wants to abolish, along with the entire 28-nation European Union bloc.

“The whole thing is a monstrosity,” he said. “We want our country back. It’s been sold out.”

Increasing numbers of voters agree with him — not just in euro-wary island nation Britain, but across the continent.

Polls suggest Euroskeptic parties could take between 25% and 30% of the 751 European Parliament seats in May 22-25 elections. In Britain, Mr. Farage’s UKIP — which advocates UK withdrawal from the EU and has never won a seat in the British Parliament — has pulled ahead of the Labour Party into first place. The Conservatives, who lead Britain’s coalition government, look likely to finish an embarrassing third.

Euroskeptic parties rail against the EU red tape they say enmeshes farmers and businesses, and against the open borders that mean French and British workers must compete with jobseekers from Poland or Spain.

Their message appeals to right-wingers opposed to immigration and worried about national identity and growing Muslim communities. But it also echoes left-wing concerns about the power of banks and big business.

In Greece, the country worst hit by the financial crisis, opposition to the EU stretches from the Communist Party and left-wing Syriza to right-of-centre Independent Greeks and neo-fascist Golden Dawn.

Such animosity may be expected in beleaguered Greece or ambivalent Britain, which is not among the 18 countries using the euro. But countries that have been among the strongest supporters of the union are also seeing a surge in skepticism.

Finland’s Finns Party became the third-largest force in the national parliament in 2011 and has pushed mainstream parties into a more critical stance on Europe with its call to restrict immigration and claw back some powers from the EU. It doesn’t want to leave the bloc, but it strongly opposes bailouts, saying richer countries have done too much for ailing eurozone members.

In Italy, the anti-establishment Five Star Movement led by comedian Beppe Grillo is polling about 25% of the vote ahead of the European elections. Mr. Grillo argues Italians have subjected themselves to European control in exchange for membership in the single currency and has said Five-Star will push for a referendum on leaving the euro.

Add the 5% or so likely to be won by the regional anti-immigrant Northern League, and almost a third of Italian votes will go to parties hostile to the EU — a remarkable development in a country that has long hitched its star to Brussels.

Even if euroskeptics win big, the demise of the EU is not imminent. The European Parliament will remain dominated by two big blocs of the centre left and centre right. The euroskeptics’ influence is likely to be limited by their relative inexperience and the huge differences among them.

Alliance for Germany has criticized UKIP’s populist, anti-immigrant tone and insists it won’t team up with the British party. Parties seeking electoral respectability steer clear of far-right forces like Greece’s Golden Dawn or Hungary’s Jobbik. Mr. Farage has rejected an alliance with the Netherlands’ anti-Muslim Freedom Party or France’s far-right National Front.

Whatever the election outcome, euroskeptic parties are having an impact. Parties that were once on the political fringe have managed to sway national politics — notably in Britain, where Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum on EU membership in 2017.
Germany's Youth Rebels Against EU

The BBC reports Germany's Youth Rebels Against EU
Euroscepticism is taking hold even in the country at the heart of the European project. And one of the continent's chief Eurosceptics, British politician Nigel Farage, has become an idol to some young Germans - to the consternation of many others.

Germany's Junge Alternative (JA), or Young Alternative, may be dissidents - a Eurosceptic youth movement determined to overturn Germany's long-standing pro-European orthodoxy - but they are very conservative ones, advocating a crackdown on immigration and crime.

In fact their stance has earned them a particularly bad rap from the national press. In the short year since the group's launch last June, the JA have repeatedly been accused of being "too far right", politically regressive and anti-feminist.

The organisation is linked to the country's first Eurosceptic party in decades, the Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD), or Alternative for Germany, which wants the euro broken up.

But it remains an independent movement and even the groundbreaking AfD regards it as something of an unruly offspring. The organisation is linked to the country's first Eurosceptic party in decades, the Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD), or Alternative for Germany, which wants the euro broken up.

But it remains an independent movement and even the groundbreaking AfD regards it as something of an unruly offspring.

The youth organisation invited Mr Farage to speak at a conference in Cologne in late March.

Mr Farage's appearance sparked a deluge of negative headlines and soured relations with AfD chief Bern Lucke who called the move a "sign of poor political tact".

"There are significant differences between the AfD and UKIP," he said.

Mr Lucke has repeatedly sought to distance himself from right-wing populism ahead of the European elections, where his party is expected to reap around 7% percent of the vote.

If successful, the AfD will need to join a pan-European faction in order to make its voice count.
Unholy Alliance Scorecard

  • UKIP led by Nigel Farage will not unite with National Front led by Marine Le Pen in France. Greece’s Golden Dawn,  Hungary’s Jobbik, or the Netherlands’ anti-Muslim Freedom Party.
  • Germany's AfD party will not unite with UKIP
  • Germany's JA wants to affiliate with AfD and UKIP but may have to choose between the two.
  • Beppe Grillo's 5-Star movement does not seem interested in an alliance with UKIP or the National Front.

What Does it Mean?

The next European parliament will be the most fragmented ever. Don't expect it to accomplish much of anything.

On the other hand, look for center-left and center-right blocs to align, if only for the purpose of stopping the fragmented groups of Eurosceptics from achieving any real power.

Meanwhile, absolutely nothing in the EU has been fixed or will be fixed. At some point, this simmering stew will boil over in a major way.

Yet, UK prime minister David Cameron insists he will be able to get EU treaty changes passed for the benefit of Great Britain. It's absurd, and he likely knows it.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com

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