Right turn: On the European Parliament elections 

The far-right parties have done unexpectedly well in EU elections

Updated - June 13, 2024 10:14 am IST

Published - June 13, 2024 12:10 am IST

Even before votes of the European Parliament elections were counted, they had delivered their first shock, with French President Emmanuel Macron dissolving France’s National Assembly. The results, which have given Mr. Macron’s Renaissance party a shocking loss to the far-right National Rally party in the European Parliament, led him to take the risky gamble of calling for fresh elections, due to be held on June 30 and July 7. While Mr. Macron hopes to force the French voter to give his party a majority in Parliament, it could well deliver him another loss, damaging his own presidency, which at present lasts until 2027. Although the final count (still provisional and being counted in many of the 27 EU countries) is expected to give the centrist party coalitions a majority of the 720 seats in the European Parliament, the results have given far-right and ultra-nationalist parties a boost in Germany, France and Austria, delivering a jolt to the ruling parties, while confirming support for Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right “Brothers of Italy” party. In addition, the Green parties have also been dealt a blow. As EU President Ursula Von Der Leyen cobbles together a coalition for another term in office, more than the vote count, it is the issues that led to the surge in support for ultra-right parties that will require study. These include a backlash against immigration, inflation and economic slowdowns, and a pushback to environmental reforms that are compounding losses. In a speech kicking off the campaign for her European People’s Party — it remains the single-largest in Parliament — she warned that “European values” were at stake in these elections. “Our peaceful and united Europe is being challenged like never before by populists, by nationalists, by demagogues — whether from the far right or the far left,” she said, pointing to challenges from within Europe and Russia’s war in Ukraine.

For the world, the European vote may change little in terms of policy direction. Even so, it is important for New Delhi to look more closely. Concerns over immigration are widespread, and will require the government to control illegal immigrants leaving India’s shores, while negotiating better terms on mobility agreements to facilitate more jobs for Indian professionals and workers. The EU has been India’s third largest trading partner, and any protectionist shift in posture in Europe now could derail the sensitive India-EU Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement negotiations. Divisions within the European Parliament over conflicts that include Ukraine and Israel will not affect New Delhi directly, but a larger trend of fragmentation and disunity in the EU would affect the international order. The EU-India summit is now expected in early 2025, when India will seek closer engagement on all these issues. More immediately, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who leaves for Italy’s Apulia on Thursday to attend the G-7 outreach, will meet his European counterparts and the EU leadership, where they will take stock not only of the European Parliament elections but also the Indian elections, that threw up an unexpected result.

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