Cesáreo Rodríguez Aguilera del Prat
Brexit, Salvini, Vox, Visegrad… The European stage isn’t worth making fireworks just before the 26-M elections.
The fear of the establishment was a great boom of the extreme right. Indeed, the extreme right has done better than five years ago, but it has not had the expected result. The European community establishment exaggerated the danger? It’s possible. But, in any case, if they had won 30% of the votes to the European Parliament they would have become a blocking minority, which is what they wanted. They have been very far, only 23%.
End of the establishment?
The European community establishment has basically been a game of two, or two and a half. The distribution of the big positions has always been cooked by the socialists, the popular and the liberals. This has not been broken, but it has been weakened, because socialists and popular have lost the absolute majority. In the context prior to the elections, the crisis with Hungary and Poland cannot be left without mention. The EU’s reaction to Hungary and Poland has not been as firm as it could have been, but it has not been soft. On the one hand, the procedure of article 7 has been activated (which allows a State to be deprived of the right to vote, and which will not end because final unanimity is lacking), which is a discredit for the Polish and Hungarian governments. And the EU has an even more powerful second instrument, which are the structural funds. If the tap is closed, Hungary and Poland will notice it a lot.
Has Brexit been especially decisive in this scenario?
The most interesting of Brexit is that the EU has been, in general, capable of maintaining a common position. Which, a priori, was not so obvious. British politicians counted on divisions in the community bloc. However, surprisingly, the 27 have acted in unison. In the end there were small differences on the issue of deadlines, but the EU, when it reached an agreement with Theresa May, said that this agreement can be clarified, specified, but not touched. This position has proved serious and immovable: we regret that the United Kingdom is going out, we respect this decision and we have reached an agreement after two years of negotiation. The ball is thus returned to the side of the United Kingdom and the British politicians of the two great parties have been shattered. No one knows what will happen. Boris Johnson has won the leadership in the Tory party. He is from the Trump school, unpredictable, a turbulent demagogue… But as prime minister he will be obliged to be somewhat more pragmatic: no one can predict what will happen on October 31. A tremendous Brexit is unlikely, among other things because British financial and industrial powers are not for that. It is possible that before October 31 the Parliament will be dissolved and elections will be called.
The polls took the political pole well?
The polls were wrong in two things. In the participation, which they presumed again as very low, of just over 40%. It has exceeded 50%. It is the first time, since 1979, that participation rises. This was not planned. The polls were also wrong in estimating the vote of the ultra-right. All polls pointed to a great triumph of the ultra-right. Precisely the fear of the ultra-right is what has mobilized the more or less Europeanist voters who did not always vote and this time they have done so. The radical rights strategy has failed in part, because Salvini’s project was to unify European Conservatives and Reformists, Europe of Nations and Freedom, and Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy into a single group. Kaczynski’s group has no interest in merging with Salvini and, therefore, remains apart. Farage’s has disappeared, because as he wants to leave, he has had no interest in reproducing his parliamentary group. And Five Stars has also been distanced. Salvini and Le Pen have incorporated Alternative for Germany. Not bad. They have become the fifth parliamentary group of the Parliament, but their strength has been limited.
What is the reason behind the rise of liberals, a thing that was intuited, but without much relevance?
Liberals have grown for a very simple reason, thanks to France and Spain. That is, to Macron and Ciudadanos. The other European liberals are, more or less, as they were.
How was the fhoto-finish of the six major countries, 72% of the European population?
In Germany, the Great Coalition has received a small punishment, and the great winners have been the green ones: the progressive vote has opted for them and the ultras have remained more or less as they were. In France, with the collapse of historical parties, post-gaullists and socialists are irrelevant. French politics is dominated by Macron and Le Pen. The surprise: the greens. The European green ones look great. In national elections they get modest results, but when the European elections come, instead of voting socialists and ex-communists they vote green. The British were not counted, but they had to vote. And the one who has won, which is Farage, hasn’t even done a program. However, the three clearly Europeanist parties added have been better than him. The Tory party has sunk, with four MEPs. In Italy the terms have been reversed. The 5-Star Movement won 33% with the national elections and the Salvini League stayed at 17%. Now exactly the terms have been reversed. The Democratic Party has endured. In Spain, the traditional parties (PSOE and PP) have endured, Ciutadans does not get the sorpasso, and Podemos goes back. In the case of Poland, the confrontation has been bipolar, because an alliance was tried against Kaczynski and he has barely managed to win. A third liberal party, Wlosna (Spring), took off the alliance and gave Kaczynski the victory.
And the European Parliament?
More complex, more fragmentation. To constitute a
majority, two are no longer enough. It will take three or four, something that offers
more playing capacity to liberals and greens, and sometimes for decisions to be
voted, to a part of the radical left. The EU is slow by definition, but in
three days they have agreed to elect the big positions. We would have to ask
whether, for example, Germany will remain bolted in this obsession with deficit
and austerity. This is unsustainable. Then they complain that people vote
populist. If you don’t regulate the financial market and don’t redistribute, what
can you expect? Juncker said cynically: “We know what we have to do, but
then we don’t know how to win the elections”. Green is in fashion: climate
change, energy transition … And the wear of the old left opens a path of
opportunity to environmentalism. They have been very good in Germany, France,
the United Kingdom, Nordic countries…
What about the big immigration horror?
Europe needs more immigrants than the present rhythm of arrivals, but it is very easy to do demagogy by associating crime and immigration. In addition, it turns out that the arrivals by means of ships and boats are a minority; however, it is the one attracting the most attention. The matter is magnified and governments do very bad pedagogy. But since give right-wing parties have electoral panic on the extreme right, they give up.
And the great pending issue of federalism?
Europe is not a state. Hopefully one day it will be, but much is missing. The United States of Europe would be a very important power, but national governments, for now, make it impossible. But with this new composition of Parliament, avenues of change can be opened. Parliament will become a more relevant institution with more pressure capacity. And if the United Kingdom ends up going out, it can paradoxically favor European integration. The United Kingdom has been the major anti-federal obstacle to the European Union.
And what about Catalonia in all this?
Puigdemont is a wave of nationalist populism. His friends in Europe are disturbing. And he is making anti-Europeanism prone to authoritarianism. The vote to Puigdemont to the European is the vote of the tantrum, the one that most bothers. Insisting on the nonsense of the ‘We will do it again’ is incomprehensible. Europe is a community of law, not just a market. And it will never break the law.