The results of European Union (EU) parliament election give clear signs of the sun setting on the Union. The polls show major setbacks to the moderate right parties and social democrats, advocates of the concept of e European Union. Conversely the polls have given major gains for the far-right forces and populist parties both championing racial politics.
The biggest party in the EU parlilament was the European People's Party (EPP) led by those including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In the new parliament, the party won 182 seats, down from its earlier 216. The Social Democratic alliance led by the Labour Party has lost its strength from 185 to 147. The alliance led by Britain's ruling Conservative Party, which had 70 seats, has 11 less seats this time. It was with a mutual collaboration of these three coalitions that EU pushed forward its declared policies so far.
But not any more. So much so that, even to grab control of the major portfolios of the 571-member EU parliament, this broad alliance will have to seek the help of other parties including Liberal Democrats. On the other hand, radical right parties including ENF, led by Matteo Salvini of Italy, Britain's Nigel Farage's Freedom and Direct Democracy Party have amassed 100 seats between them. With the far right, who have even by now become a crucial force in several European coutnries and parliaments, tightening their hold in EU parliament also, there is little doubt that it will change the political map of the continent.
EU was the recipient of Nobel peace prize in 2012. The world viewed its winning the prize as a recognition of EU's immigration/refugee-friendly policies and efforts during six decades to protect human rights. After all, this body of nations had a legacy of hosting thousands of people who were forced to leave their motherland due to either natural calamities or war and military occupation. In the process, what EU kept alive was the dream of a borderless world in place of the emotional theme of hyper-nationalism. But Europe now has turned into a region where the voices heard loudest are against immigrants and refugees. The Union has sunk into a mind-set of narrow nationalism, re-establishing those once-erased borders.
And behind this dangerous change was the far-right movements of respective countries. They content that the refugee/immigration-friendly policies have increased unemployment and extremism in the country. This contention, with the clear hue and odour of of plain racism, is unfortunately gaining currency. They ultimately challenge the very concept of European Union. And that was the genesis of Britain's decision to exit (Brexit)from the Union. And it was because the racial chauvinists got that deep a hold in the region that the group led by Nigel Farage was able to clinch the Brexit vote, despite the opposition by two major parties of the country.
And in the election held now, the party that won most votes in Britain is Nigel Farage's Direct Democracy Party. In Britain alone, it secured 33 percent votes and 29 seats. The situation is the same in Germany where Merkel's Christian Democratic party went down in vote share by 8 per cent, although it maintained its dominance. Extreme right Alternative Party won 4 per cent more votes. In France, the racist party of Marine Le Pen, the National Rally secured more votes than the ruling party En Marche. In Netherlands and Italy too, such extreme parties dominate. It has to be noted that these are the countries enjoying the highest seat share in the EU parliament.
As the extreme parties fill the Union parliament, EU rulers will have to dilute many of the stances they have been following so far. Two years ago, it was when such an 'infiltration' happened in German parliament that Merkel had to compromise on her refugee-friendly position. Germany, which had in 2015 alone accepted nine lakh refugees, has now almost closed its borders, not out of fear of the immigrants, but fearing the hate campaign and violence by those like the Alternative Party.
The elections now make it clear that this situation is going to spread all over the continent. The radical groupings that have so far been functioning in their own countries, morphed into an unofficial alliance following a conference held in Italy in April. As a result, European Union Parliament is set to hear anti-immigration voices rooted in racism. With that, the very idea of a European Union will become a misnomer. These are times when political parties, whose stock-in-trade is frenzied nationalism, rule the roost. What is happening in India is nothing different. But here, a similar phenomenon is getting ready to swallow a whole continent. Is the political observation that Hitler's ghost is still there in Europe, proving right?