The 2024 European elections and “mortal Europe”

Nikos Anastasiadis

“our Europe is mortal; she could die”

said French President Macron a few days ago.

This statement is typical of Europe’s situation in the new landscape marked by the competition between the United States and China for world domination. Europe seems to be steadily losing ground at all levels: geopolitical power, economy, political stability.

Elections of indifference

The European Commission spend tons of cash on information and mobilisation campaigns for citizens in the run-up to the European elections on June 9. But the reality is that there is no particular interest, let alone enthusiasm, among EU citizens for the outcome. In fact, the EU and its institutions are increasingly appearing as a mechanism that is irrelevant to the needs and aspirations of European societies, like a closed club of the powerful: the powerful in each country, and the powerful of the powerful countries even more so.

In 2022, according to the European Commission, around 100 million people in the EU, more than 20% of the population, were facing the risk of poverty and social exclusion. The economic impact of the war in Ukraine, sanctions and rising inflation led to a rapid deterioration in the living standards of working people. Across the EU, anti-worker policies are undermining workers’ rights and forcing millions of people to work in unacceptable conditions. Despite all the environmental rhetoric, the environment is still being targeted by multinationals and nature is being sacrificed in the name of profit.

Any prospect of ‘European integration’, which would mean raising the living standards of EU citizens, has been abandoned, even at the level of propaganda. The EU seems to be struggling more and more to hold itself together, in the face of constant internal conflicts.

This is the general context that leads to indifference on the part of the majority of the population. On the other hand, it is the context that favours political currents that appear to be critical of the EU.

Who will be the winner?

A few days before the European elections, the only political force showing any momentum is the far right. Unfortunately, the left of all stripes is failing to take advantage of the EU’s multiple crises to gain ground by offering the prospect of a different Europe. As a result, the various manifestations of the far right are finding room to exploit the indignation and fears of the population and turn them in a conservative direction. Using issues such as the refugee crisis as a vehicle, but also making full use of identity politics (replacing the previous propaganda about “racial superiority” with the new mantra of “cultural differences” justifying racist policies), they seem to be able to reach up to 25% of the seats in the European Parliament according to the polls.

Of course, this does not mean that they will be able to form a united group in the European Parliament yet. The far right is already divided into two Eurogroups. The “European Conservatives and Reformists” (ECR), which includes the more “moderate” parts of the far right, such as Meloni, the Italian Prime Minister, the governing Finns Party in Finland, the former governing “Law and Justice” party in Poland, etc. The second group is the “Identity and Democracy” (ID) group, which includes the more “hard-line” right, with Le Pen in France, until recently the “Alternative for Germany” (AfD), the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO), etc. There are also “independent” far-right parties, such as the party of Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán, etc.

Le Pen, after excluding the AfD (because one of their MEPs said that “members of the Nazi SS were not necessarily criminals”!), made an opening for Meloni by proposing a joint far-right group to be able to determine EU policy in the coming years. This does not seem feasible at the moment. On the other hand, the far right has already started to court the EU leadership. The President of the European Commission and member of the European People’s Party (the largest Eurogroup of conservative parties), Ursula von der Leyen, has said that she has no problem working with Meloni’s far right.

Lame ducks

If someone follows the debates of the main party candidates, they can get an idea of why the far right is on the rise. Social Democrats, Liberals, Greens and, unfortunately, to a large extent also the Left are reduced to general statements about the values of solidarity, prosperity, green growth, etc. Statements which stand in stark contrast to the reality experienced by working people and which everyone knows have no chance of being put into practice.

Politico described the two main EU leaders, Macron and Scholz, as “lame ducks” because they seem unable to propose and pave the way for a common European policy.

“Macron is going to take a serious beating in this election. The other leaders know this and sense weakness. Does he think that after this, he can dictate terms to the rest of Europe?”

writes Politico, reflecting the reality of European leaders.

But the biggest problem facing European leaders is the chasm between their views, reflecting the different interests of their respective national bourgeoisies.

France and Germany disagree on the management of the European economy, as France wants a more “expansionary” policy (Macron spoke of “doubling the size of the EU budget“), while Germany wants restrictive measures. France wants a more proactive policy against Chinese products, while Germany does not want to lose the Chinese market. On the refugee issue, all countries are trying to push what their regard as the immigration problem to their neighbours.

Meanwhile, the so-called eastward enlargement of the EU has been frozen. As the Economist writes

“A target of 2030 used to be seen as aspirational. It now looks delusional.”

Finally, all this is happening at a time when the global economy is facing extreme volatility, the EU is the slowest growing capitalist bloc, and 2026 marks the end of the period of fiscal flexibility and support packages introduced during the pandemic.

“There is a fiscal cliff looming”

in the words of analyst Lydia Korinek.

Colonial arrogance

Looking at the European Commission’s campaign advertisements, one understands that the only theme they can propagate is that Europe is “the heart of democracy”. 

There is no doubt that the world is moving towards more authoritarian regimes and more repressive measures. But the same is happening in Europe. Apart from the fact that strikes and protests in all European countries are increasingly met with police violence and persecution, we have seen the anti-democratic slide of the EU in the war in Ukraine, with news and even works of art (!) being banned because they come from Russia. We have seen the same trend in the recent protest movement for Gaza.

But apart from that, the European establishment has exploited colonies in Africa, Latin America and Asia for centuries, and exploited their wealth-producing resources with barbarity. And it continues to exploit them, not directly now, but through authoritarian regimes. So much for European capitalists giving democracy lessons to other countries…

As former Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb puts it,

[countries of the Global South] “…basically point the finger at Europe and the US and say, ‘Don’t come and lecture us about territorial integrity and sovereignty. Look at what you did during colonialism. Or, look at what happened in Iraq.’ … We are too arrogant, too paternalistic and too moralistic”.

 And the President of the Republic of Congo, Félix Tshisekedi, adds

“African leaders have long tired of western democracies’ lecturing and arrogance and are happier to work with Russia and China.”

We want a different Europe

Europe is ageing as a capitalist power and its relative position in global competition is deteriorating. The working and popular classes are paying for this slow-motion collapse with their sweat and blood.

The only way for Europe to become a cradle of real prosperity and freedom is to break the shackles of the capitalist system and move in a truly socialist direction.

The movements and the Left must set themselves the goal of overthrowing the power of capital. This goal may seem distant today, but it is the only one that can offer an alternative perspective.

By coordinating struggles, strikes and movements, with unity, planning and broad democracy, we must fight for

-The nationalization of the strategic sectors of the economy

-Democracy in the functioning of production and the state, with the establishment of workers’ and social control and management

-A united socialist Europe, because a united Europe on a capitalist basis is impossible and because any attempt at national isolationism is doomed to failure and will lead to the strengthening of nationalists and the extreme right

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