EU Election --Something Good Out of Something Bad (5/27)     Print
Monday, 19 May 2014

By Jacqueline Grapin, Founder and Co-Chair of The European Institute 

The arrival of the Front National (FN) led by Marine Le Pen in first place (24.9 %) among the choices of the French electorate in the European elections is not an earthquake, but it is disturbing. 

Is France, the country of human rights and universalism, properly represented by a neo-fascist movement, particularly as it coincides with the arrival of a populist wave of Eurosceptic parties in the European parliament? The truth is that the vote is mostly a protest against the inability of the socialist and the conservative governing parties to provide the solutions to existing socio-economic challenges, and a revolt against the inability of the European Union to properly protect its citizens against immigration and wild international trade movements.  

The French want to be open to the world, but properly protected by their institutions. They are traditionally good at protests. But they are too independent individually to really aspire to an inward looking rightist solution to their problems. They just launched a warning. 

One should recognize that it may have a good effect. The number of FN representatives elected by the French people to the European Parliament (24 out of a total 751) is not such that it will make a difference in the parliament. They will even have difficulty constituting a political group as other Eurosceptic parties, for all the media attention they get, have few representatives and far from homogeneous.  They will even have difficulty reaching the minimum of 25 members representing at least 7 countries they need to constitute an official political group. The parliament will continue to be dominated by the coalition of the Conservatives (PPE) and socialists (PSE) -the very same coalition currently ruling the Republic of Germany. However Eurosceptics of all sorts will now have a place to speak up, particularly to journalists.   And this will oblige the Brussels elite, including the European Commission, to pay more attention to the basic needs and concerns of electorates. The heads of governments meeting in the European Council now will get the same message. 

In practical terms, the excellent results obtained in Italy by the new Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi (Socialist) will facilitate the dialogue with the German socialists and the CDU-SPD coalition in power in Berlin (in the European Parliament PPE and PSE will together have 403 Members out of 751, and Italy and Germany together have 163 members). 

Meanwhile, one should hope that France will recover its balance in order to get the celebrated “Franco-German engine” humming again. No one, in Europe and elsewhere, has anything to gain in seeing France weakened and dysfunctional.   The first person to understand this was obviously Mrs. Merkel: it did not take 24 hours before the German Chancellor gave a superb speech supporting François Hollande and expressing her hope (she said “belief”) that he will bring back his country in order. For that, the French President needs, among other things, to have the courage to seriously promote pro-business policies generating more employment as opposed to counterproductive demagogic initiatives.