The Politics of Europe Get Complicated

Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.

In May, 2019 throughout Europe, elections will be held to send members to the European Parliament.  Like elsewhere, these politicians are distinguished into distinct parties and form voting blocs.  There are currently eight such parties represented in the European Parliament, but four are of particular interest.  The first is the center-right European People’s Party best represented by Germany and Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union.  Next is the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, and finally the Alliance of Democrats and Liberals for Europe (ADLE).  The recent decision by French President Macron to ally his domestic En Marche party with the ADLE has the potential to thrust them into second place in the European Parliament.

Enter the proverbial fly in the globalist ointment in Europe in the form of Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, considered the most powerful politician in Italy.  In a recent visit to Poland, he met with several leaders including the Prime Minister, Interior Minister and, most importantly, the leader of Poland’s most powerful party- the PiS- Jaroslaw Kaczynski- the ruling party in that country.  He has proposed an alliance of populists throughout Europe to counter the pro-globalist parties near and dear to Macron of France and Merkel of Germany.  PiS is currently a member of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) in the European Parliament.  The ECR is particularly vulnerable to a loss of power since they are expected to lose 18 Conservative Party members from Great Britain after Brexit.  If so, then PiS essentially loses any grouping in the Parliament and will be left in the cold.  They are unlikely to join the European People’s Party since their main domestic opposition- the Civic Platform- belongs to that group.

Thus far, Salvini has convinced French and Dutch parties to join his growing coalition.  These are the parties of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (formerly known as National Front), and Geert Wilders’ Party of Freedom in Holland.  If both Poland’s PiS and Austria’s ruling Freedom Party were to jump on board, he would have about 150 members of the European Parliament, making them the third largest group in that body with considerable political leverage to affect legislation.

Hungary’s ruling party- Hungarian Civil Alliance- under Victor Orban continues to remain allied with the European People’s Party.  Thus far, they have run interference against the European Union to expel Orban over his immigration policies and refusal to adhere to orders from Brussels.  As a powerful grouping in the Parliament, it has shielded Orban from expulsion.  Therefore, although he has welcomed the “Rome-Warsaw axis” as a check on the globalists, he is disinclined from officially joining Salvini and others.

Regardless, last August Orban met with Salvini in Milan and they promised to form an alliance against the pro-immigration policies proposed by France and Germany.  They have other allies in this fight: Poland, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia.  Said Salvini at a joint press conference at the time:

Today begins a journey that will continue in the coming months for a different Europe, for a change of the European Commission, of European policies, which puts at the center the right to life, work, health, safety, all that the European elites, financed by Soros and represented by Macron, deny.

Apparently undaunted by the efforts of Italy, Hungary, Poland and others, Germany and France have basically doubled down on European integration.  On January 10th, there were reports that both countries were prepared to sign the so-called Aachen Treaty.  This would create cross-border “Eurodistricts” of shared hospitals, electricity, water and environmental projects, etc.  To some, this would be a model and petri dish for further European integration.

Aachen itself is highly symbolic.  It was the seat of the throne of Charlemagne and both Germany and France have fought over and shared it over the centuries.  Among the things in the treaty are coordination of German and French business interests, economic policies, both countries speaking with one voice in Brussels, and getting Germany a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.  Expected to be signed soon and immediately ratified in both countries, it smacks of Macron’s desire to make the two countries and the EU bigger players on the international stage, even in military matters.

However, the treaty faces major opposition in both countries.  Marine Le Pen, who remains powerful in France, has dismissed it as a diktat from Berlin.  The recent yellow vest protests in France also have rocked that country and part of it is opposition to this treaty.  The recent increase in the gas tax in France may have been the spark for the sometimes violent protests, but this treaty is the underlying fuel.  Likewise, in Germany, the AfD, which gained power in their parliamentary elections, stands opposed to any future integration, especially with Macron’s France.

In fact, standing in the way of an all-out Salvini-led power grab in the European Parliament is Germany’s AfD which has been highly critical of Italy’s financial management.  They have reminded Italian leaders that it is the EU itself that props up their economy.  They have criticized Italy’s commitment to a welfare state saying that their socialist dreams are not truly populist and realistic.  Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurz echoed these sentiments recently.  He claims that the Italian budget submitted to Brussels ensures future debt and Austria will not pay for the debt of another nation.

In the end, this may just be a pipe dream for the likes of Poland and Italy forming an axis to counter the ruling Franco-German axis in European politics.  However, there is certainly a potential to create a major schism in Europe between the Europhiles like Germany and France, and the Central European Eurosceptic factions in Poland, Hungary and now Italy.  A gasoline tax in France may be the boiling point now, but immigration is the underlying cause of the schism.  As long as Europeans look around and see their continent look less and less like Europe, there will always be an Orban, Salvini, and Kaczinski.  If the Europhiles want to unite the continent, they must first look to their immigration policies.  How Europe turns will be determined in late May and the world will be watching.