Can the centre hold? | Eurozine

For a comprehensive and informed overview of the political situation across the EU just before the European Parliament election, check out new articles in Eurozine’s Mood of the Union 2024 series. Covering both the EU itself as well as its eastern European, eastern Mediterranean and global neighbourhoods, the articles provide some key takeaways:

1. The conjuncture favours the far-right. This is not news, but the clarity of the pattern throughout the Union is perhaps less familiar, as are its national variations. From core to periphery, national populists are benefitting from the prominence of migration, security and cost of living in the political debate. The result is an overarching sense of apprehension in the liberal mainstream.

2. Liberal conservatism’s will and ability to resist the far-right will be crucial. The Visegrád Four have much to teach Europe in this respect. The corrosion of the centre right in Hungary explains the hopelessness of the situation in the country, in contrast to Poland, where the centre right has proven resilient.

3. The war in Ukraine is the biggest factor in keeping euroscepticism in check across the EU. But while popular support for European defence policy is high, it is not unconditional. Even in the Baltics, where awareness of Russia’s threat is greatest, Eurosceptic parties are on the rise. None propose exiting the union: but their increased presence in the region is itself extraordinary and worrying.

4. More Pro-Russian or Ukraine-neutral voices in the EP would undermine liberal forces in Europe’s eastern neighbourhood, particularly Moldova, Georgia and Armenia, not to mention Ukraine itself. Because policy alignment with the EU in the region rests largely on the security imperative, backtracking on the EU’s current pro-Ukraine stance would leave liberal forces stranded and expose these countries to Russian influence.

5. On migration, the liberal centre is caught between pressure from the right for harsher and more exclusory measures and the legitimate demands of SWANA states, which are are already questioning the benefits of ‘cash for control deals’. If the centre does not alter its neocolonial mindset, any leverage it has on migration will be forfeited to the right, whose methods will be far more unbearable than anything we are currently seeing.

Look out in the coming week for further articles on the Mediterranean countries, the Balkans, Scandinavia and the Central Asian neighbourhood.

Simon Garnett

Senior editor, Eurozine

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