22, (Xinhua/GNA) - Between May 23 and 26, some 427 million eligible voters
across the 28 EU member states will vote to fill 751 seats in the European
With less than
two days until the vote begins, campaigns for competing visions for the future
of the EU are in full swing.
European parliamentary election takes place in a climate of deep uncertainty
about the stability of the Union and the direction of the European project.
In the wake of
Brexit, support for the EU among citizens of the remaining 27 countries is at
an all-time high.
At the same
time, so-called Eurosceptic parties are predicted to make the greatest gains.
Since the last
European elections in 2014, immigration and anti-immigration sentiment have
touched every corner of the EU, and while research shows that concerns about
immigration have fallen, following sharp drops in the volume of both conventional
migration and refugees seeking asylum, the issue of immigration remains high on
the political agenda for some European nations.
nationalists blame the EU for the 2015 surge in refugee arrivals. Federalists
argue only European cooperation can control migration.
issues of economic growth and unemployment top voters' lists of concerns in
countries hit hardest by the socio-economic woes of the last five years, but
are less of a priority for citizens in countries that fared better.
It seems the
only thing that voters from all 28 nations can agree on is the need to tackle
climate change, the issue has shot up in voter opinion polls to become the
standout issue of the 2019 elections.
With over 200
natural disasters, predictions of global heating of between 3 and 4 degree
Celsius by 2100, and widespread reporting that the Earth is officially
experiencing a sixth mass extinction, 2018 has lifted climate breakdown and
ecological crises to the forefront of voters' concerns.
Europe-wide survey of EU voters, 43 percent of respondents agreed that
"combating climate change and protecting the environment" was an
issue they wanted to see given priority in electoral campaigns. Among the
survey respondents who considered themselves "very likely" to vote in
the upcoming election, climate and ecological crisis emerged the single most
important across Europe as a whole.
the Green political group to gain control of five seats in the European
For the German
green party, the 2019 European elections could be a chance to build a momentum
that culminates in the party reaching the critical mass required to form part
of a coalition in the next German national election.
Greens, it is important to convert good poll results into electoral
success," Cerstin Gammelin wrote in Suddeutsche Zeitung this May.
has been on the up for months; a decent European result will boost the party as
it fights regional elections that offer the promise of coalition power."
issue is a greater priority in Sweden than anywhere else, with 79 percent of
Swedish respondents highlighting it as a crucial issue for the 2019 elections.
It is also the
top issue for German voters and the second most important issue for French
2018, 15-year-old Swedish student Greta Thunberg began skipping class on
Fridays to sit outside government buildings, accusing her country of not
following the Paris Climate Agreement.
young people all over Europe have been striking from school on Fridays to
demonstrate in the streets.
The Schools 4
Climate action has contributed to creating a global student protest movement
aiming at driving world leaders into action on climate change, and in the
process has raised the urgency of the issue in the minds of many EU voters.
issues have been around for a long time," said Nicklas Kallebring, opinion
analyst at international market research firm IPSOS, in an interview with
Swedish newspaper DN, "but they have been lifted the last year by drought,
fires and the demonstrations of young people."
and growth" is the most-cited in Italy, according to the most recent
the issue remains a major political priority for the nations which have endured
the greatest economic turbulence in recent years - Greece, Ireland, Spain,
Portugal, Italy, Cyprus, Croatia, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Slovakia
unemployment" is the most-commonly listed primary issue for voters in both
Spain and France.
In France, both
the far-left and far-right parties are campaigning with policies of economic
Lemarie of French newspaper Le Monde writes that far-left party La France
Insoumise supports "solidarity protectionism" for the European Union,
and has even proposed a "kilometric carbon tax" - the further the
product is shipped, the more it is taxed.
support at carbon tax at the EU border, while the two most popular French
parties, Macron's centrist liberal En Marche and the Republican Party (LR),
support U.S.-style protectionism that favors European and French products and
awarding of public contracts.
and right-wing populism have gained sway in national politics across Europe,
these ideologies and their proponents are expected to influence overall results
in the European elections.
political groups in the European parliament are expected to do well in 2019,
with Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) and Europe of Nations and
Freedom (ENF) projected to gain four and 25 seats respectively.
numbers for the far-right EFF represent the highest gain for any political
group, both in relative and absolute terms.
Mark Leonard, a
seasoned EU observer and director of the European Council on Foreign Relations
(ECFR) has said that "anti-European parties are gaining strength and could
paralyze the EU."
A recent study
by ECFR predicts such groups will do well in this year's European elections,
enabling them to "frustrate activity, undermine the security and defense
of Europe and ultimately sow discord that could destroy the EU over time."
What will the
impacts of this influence be on Europe as a whole? Success in the European
elections could be used by Europe's nationalists as springboard for success in
national elections, the ECFR says.
greatest impact on the elections might be on a wave of national elections in
Denmark, Estonia and Slovakia this year, which could bring nationalists to
power as coalition partners, frustrating the work of the European Council."
In Italy, a
nationalist-populist coalition which took power on an anti-immigration platform
after last year's Italian election.
One of the
coalition parties, the right-wing League party, has formed an alliance for the
upcoming European elections with far-right parties in Germany, Denmark and
Finland: Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Finns Party and the Danish People's
Each of the
far-right parties campaigning in the European elections shares a stance hostile
issue has lost significant attention since the last European elections in 2014,
and is still trending downwards as a priority compared to 2018, for Italy it
ranked on equal footing with economy and growth, with 62 percent of Italian
voters responding that the issue was an election priority for them.
Some 50 million
Britons can vote on May 23, although there is a chance that the 73 lawmakers
they elect may not get a chance to sit in the European Parliament.
election in Britain is seen by many as a referendum on Brexit, an opportunity
for voters to be heard on the issue as the debate continues on how, and
whether, to leave.
The UK is
legally obliged to participate in the European elections, unless it approves a
Withdrawal Agreement by May 22 - unlikely given that there is now less than 24
hours left before that deadline.
brand-new Brexit Party was launched just two months ago, but is topping
European election opinion polls at around 30 percent and higher. Nigel Farage's
previous party, UKIP, is credited with pressuring the UK government into
holding the Brexit referendum in 2016.
With Brexit now
scheduled for Oct. 31 at the latest, some EU analysts have argued for a delay
in key parliamentary appointments, including the next president of the European
Commission, to avoid calling into question the legitimacy of both the president
and the approval process.
London-based think tank The UK in a Changing Europe, should a candidate be
approved or rejected by a slim margin, the 73 British MEPs could be decisive in
determining the outcome.
background of a drawn-out Brexit, EU sentiments among citizens of the other 27
EU nations have polarized.
exit has emboldened some Eurosceptic campaigns, the expected surge in votes for
Eurosceptic parties contrasts with a higher-than-ever approval rating for the
An estimated 61
percent of Europeans believe their country's membership of the EU is a good
thing, and 68 percent said they believed their country has benefited from EU