European Parliament Elections: What Has Invited Right-Wing Surge?

In elections for the European Parliament, the legislative body of the European Union, radical right-wing forces that proclaim the policy of putting their own countries first have made major gains. It is inevitable that pressure to modify EU immigration policies and environmental regulations will intensify.

In the elections, the three main pro-EU groups, including the centrist European People’s Party, won 400 out of the 720 seats, maintaining their majority.

Meanwhile, right-wing forces won more than 20% of the seats, the largest number ever for them. Environmentalist parties, which made great strides in the last election five years ago, lost a significant number of seats.

The right-wing forces have criticized the EU for not taking sufficient measures to deal with problems such as rising prices following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the influx of immigrants and refugees. There is no doubt that these arguments have been accepted by voters.

There was also strong opposition to progressive environmental regulations, such as those for decarbonization, because the policies were ideologically driven and lacked consideration for the increased economic burden on citizens.

The EU should analyze the background behind the popular will expressed in the election results and develop solid policies that will help solve issues.

Of concern is the fact that right-wing populist forces, which have called for leaving the EU and xenophobia, have made great strides in France and Germany, both of which have promoted EU integration.

In France, the right-wing National Rally party won more than twice as many seats as the ruling coalition led by President Emmanuel Macron. Following the crushing defeat, Macron dissolved the lower house. This illustrates the enormous impact of the election results on his administration.

In Germany, the right-wing Alternative for Germany won more seats than any of the three ruling parties supporting the administration of Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

In countries where right-wing forces have surged, there may have been simmering discontent that political leaders and elite bureaucrats have set forth policies that prioritized coordination with the EU, and that have resulted in putting excessive burdens on the lives of citizens.

It can be said that a similar pattern is seen in the United States where support for former President Donald Trump, who proclaimed his “America First” policy, has spread.

Europe has had human rights, respect for diversity, and democracy as its basic principles. There is concern that Europe will turn inward, which would adversely affect the international order.

The possibility also cannot be ruled out that right-wing forces will call for a review of sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine in the future.

Before the elections, allegations came to light that Russia had provided money to members of the European Parliament. A situation must be avoided in which the unity of EU members will fall into disarray over its policies on Russia, which would benefit Moscow.

Japan has emphasized cooperation with the EU as a partner with shared values. It is hoped that Tokyo will support the EU so that it can work steadily on its policies.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 12, 2024)