This week’s elections for the European Parliament may be the most consequential in the continent’s history. On the one hand, right-wing parties and other anti-establishment “populist” movements may be poised for victories that would further upset what had once been stable assumptions about what the European Union was for: from economic integration to humanitarian values. The ongoing confusion over the United Kingdom’s relationship with the EU-27—resulting in a reluctant British participation in the election in which Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, milkshakes aside, is expected to win—in addition to Theresa May’s recent resignation after a Tory revolt, adds a further element of chaos into the mix.
On the other hand, the dangers and uncertainties facing the European Union today may not ultimately be what is most significant about these elections. Turnout for European elections has typically been relatively low, and the voters who do show have tended to vote in protest. This may no longer be the case. Emmanuel Macron has gambled much of his legacy on his ability to lead a liberal-centrist coalition on the European level, and these elections will likely be a crucial test of his ability to do so. On the left, at least one movement—Yanis Varoufakis’s Democracy in Europe 2025 Movement—is attempting to work towards creating a genuine European political party, and the future of Europe remains the principal dividing line with “left-populist” parties like Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise. Even far-right parties seem to have for the most part given up their traditional positions in favor of withdrawing their countries from the union, now seeking to transform it to their own ends. Across the spectrum, politicians have been taking very seriously the need to convince voters in their own countries that they have a plan for the future of the continent. For better or worse, these elections may be the sign of what a truly trans-European politics might look like.
In order to process the results of the European elections as they come in, we’ve put together a (non-exhaustive) series of brief reactions from a variety of national and transnational perspectives. As a preview of what’s to come, Jozef Majernik explains what’s at stake in the contest between liberal pro-Europeans and neo-Nazi extremists in Slovakia. We’ll also hear next week from scholars based across Europe and around the world on the results in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal, and Spain (and perhaps a few more…). The links will appear below as we post each piece.
Jozef Majernik on liberals and neo-Nazis in Slovakia
Art Goldhammer’s hot take on the results in France
Tom Theuns on the political fragmentation in the Netherlands
Hervier sur les gauches populistes, française et ibériques
Anton Jäger on European “post-democracy”
Cody Inglis on the state of Hungarian politics
Catherine Fieschi on how attempting to leave has brought the UK closer to Europe
Michelle Falkenbach on the implications of the Lega’s victories in Italy
Eskil Elling on the opportunities for the left in Denmark