The European Union (EU) election took place in May 2014. The results show how the Union is divided over its very existence. Alongwith the low turnout, which has been taking place throughout all the previous elections, this time the anti-EU parties got a substantial number of votes all over the EU. This shows that the anti-EU sentiment within the EU societies is on rise.
Generally the turnouts are low in the EU elections and this time it was only 43.1%. Out of around 388 million eligible voters, only 172 million voted in this election. It is hard to predict what the rest of the population, atleast the ones eligible to vote, perceive of EU. Many argue that not turning out to vote is a very clear indication that they are not concerned much about the existence of the EU itself.
The EU reached into its current status through evolution throughout the 20th century. After the Second World War, Europe became very vulnerable in every aspect, especially in terms of economy. Therefore, the region required collaboration to save their existence from inside weaknesses and from outside entities. In 1952, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was established to eliminate the possibility of further wars among its six member states by means of pooling the national important industries. In 1957, these member states established the European Economic Community (EEC) for economic co-operation and the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) for co-operation in developing nuclear energy. Later, European Community (EC) was formed in 1967 under the Merger Treaty, which later turned into European Union in 1993 under the Maastricht Treaty. Throughout this evolution of the EU, the number of its members reached to 28 European states.
The vision of the EU was perhaps the creation of a single united entity like the United States of America by turning the member states into federations at some point and turning the EU into a single country. However, from the very beginning, the very existence of the EU has been opposed by many Europeans within the EU. Such opposition sentiment is sometimes hyped in the name of each member states’ sovereignty and sometimes such opposition accused the EU of being a German imperialism. Such opposed mentality is now in politics and surprisingly dominated to some extent the EU election of this year.
The anti-EU parties have gained substantially in this election because of a number of reasons. There is a lack of trust on the EU’s capacity because of Euro economic crisis that continued for a while and also because of the continued high unemployment. Moreover, the austerity measure adopted by the EU to deal with the Euro economic crisis is seen with heavy suspicion by a substantial number of EU populations, while the portion of population that actually benefited under this measure so far is not good in number. Another reason of such a result is the growing sentiment within the European society against the EU’s immigration policy. Moreover, the capacity of the EU Parliament in making laws and decisions is highly criticised by many, including the UKIP, a nationalist and anti-EU sentimental party, which has gained the highest percentage of vote in the UK in this EU election. The Chairman of the UKIP said BBC that the EU Parliament is a joke since it has no power to make law.
One of the major reasons behind the rise in anti-EU sentiment is the heavy promotion of nationalism inside the member states. There has been active propagation in the EU societies against the EU itself by the ones who wish to hold onto their national legacy and pride more than being a European. Marine Le Pen, whose far right National Front (France) won this EU election, told supporters that people no longer want to be led by those outside their borders, by the EU commissioners and technocrats who are unelected, and that they want to be protected from globalisation and take back the reins of their destiny.
Many political analysts and other professionals living in different member states of the EU have been propagating the fact that the political existence of the EU facilitates the process of enslaving the rest of the Europe by the Germans.
“The eurosceptic label covers the parties of both right and left, many of whom object to the EU for very different reasons. The radical left denounce Europe as a free-market promoting friend of high finance, while the far right objects to a loss of national sovereignty and bureaucracy,” said McDonnell, a political science fellow at the European University Institute in Florence.
Speaking particularly of the Euro economic crisis, a socialist sentiment has been roaring in the European societies caused by the thought that such crisis is the result of the existence of capitalist system in their society. Atleast many Europeans recognise this being the reason. When a particular system fails to provide a secured life style, the other systems tend to take over the existing system. The fall of the Soviet Union is a good example before us, where capitalism took over communism because of the failure of the communism. And now, a substantial number of Europeans, who perceive that capitalism has failed, are turning to socialism. The rise of socialist sentiment played a very important role in this EU election alongside the nationalist and anti-German sentiment.
Moreover, a strong EU would tend to grab the eastern European countries into its orbit, leaving Russia, which certainly wants to extend its grip on the eastern Europe, without having any influence over the region. The existence of a strong EU is, therefore, a headache for Russia. Many western analysts have already pointed their fingers at Russia for being involved in the weakening of the EU through pouring in anti-EU sentiments in the European societies. The clear picture of the conflict of interests between the EU and Russia could be seen in the ongoing crisis over Ukraine.
The results in this European election reflect a revolutionary cry. It reflects anger on, and rejection of, the European Union project. Therefore, it seems the existence of the EU is facing question at the moment.
In reality, a divided Europe is a weaker Europe, since separately no single member state can counter the U.S., China, India and Russia in global stage, especially in terms of economy. However, with a united effort, and being a single entity, there is every possibility that the EU would be an economic power having its voice heard in the global stage, and not otherwise.
Bahauddin Foizee is an international affairs analyst, and writes on Middle Eastern, greater Asia-Pacific & European geopolitics. Also a campaigner for environmental and social awareness, Bahauddin Foizee occasionally writes on environment and refugee issues.