Europe holds ‘most important’ EU vote

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Europeans start voting on Thursday in four days of elections to the EU parliament that will influence not just Brussels policy for the next five years but, to some extent, the very future of the Union project itself.

A picture shows a detail of a statue near the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

In 2014, nationalists hostile to the EU doubled their presence in the assembly, topped the poll in Britain and won a referendum there that yanked out one of the bloc’s biggest members. Almost.

Five years on, polls show eurosceptics gaining again. But Brexit is yet to happen, and may not; Brussels’ enemies will still struggle to top 20%; and the far-right goes into the weekend hit by scandal over its Austrian flagbearer’s videotaped collusion with a supposed Russian oligarch’s niece eager to buy favour.

Others who want to halt or reverse federalist trends if not scrap the European Union altogether, also face headwinds. Some who are tasting national power must also face disillusioned supporters – notably Italy’s co-rulers the League and 5-Star.

The European project is facing a list of challenges, including unprecedented transatlantic slights from a U.S. president who fetes Europe’s populists, border rows over migrants and an economy hobbled by public debt and challenged by the rise of China.

But parties seeking collective continental action on shared issues such as trade, security, migration or climate change should still dominate the chamber, albeit with a smaller overall majority.


Europeans are preparing to remember events that shaped the Union – 75 years since Americans landed in France to defeat Nazi Germany and since Russian forces let the Germans crush a Polish bid for freedom; 30 since Germans smashed the Berlin Wall to reunite east and west Europe.

But memories of wars, hot and cold, have not sufficed to build faith in a united future. Jean-Claude Juncker, the Luxemburger who will be replaced as EU executive head after the election, warns of a rising tide of nationalism, not just on the fringes.

Mainstream parties pushing closer integration of the euro currency economy are struggling to capture the imagination of a public jaded with political elites.

Describing it as “undoubtedly the most important” since the first such election in 1979, centrist French President Emmanuel again Macron flourished the standard he has raised for Europe, calling on Thursday for cooperation from conservatives, socialists and Greens to face down a caucus of anti-EU forces.

“In today’s world we need a stronger, more united Europe,” Macron told Belgium’s Le Soir newspaper. Asked if he believe his opponents destroy the EU, he replied: “Of course.”

He need look no further than home turf to see the threat. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally hopes to top the French EU poll, again. And she is delightedly telling voters that she will find many more allies to block what she calls a “rush to federalism”.


Matteo Salvini’s League may pip the Christian Democrats of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the bloc’s power broker beset by nationalists to her right, to become the biggest single party in the 751-seat chamber.

Right-wing ruling parties in Poland and Hungary, defying Brussels over curbs to judicial and media independence, will also return eurosceptic lawmakers on Sunday.

Slideshow (4 Images)

The anti-EU Brexit Party could also finish in first place in Britain – though the circumstances surrounding the election there are verging on the absurd. Britons will kick off the voting on Thursday two months after they were supposed to have left the EU. They will be choosing 73 MEPs who cannot be sure of even taking their seats in July.

The results should be clear by late on Sunday, ushering in weeks of bargaining, among parties to form a stable majority in the Parliament, and among national leaders to choose successors to Juncker and other top EU officials.

While many Europeans may remain indifferent to the doings in Brussels, governments in Moscow, Washington, Beijing and elsewhere will be watching closely for signs of political weakness, or strength, in the world’s biggest economic bloc.

Editing by Andrew Heavens


more recommended stories

  • Saudi-led coalition intercepted a Houthi drone launched toward the kingdom – SPA

    CAIRO (Reuters) – The Saudi Arabia-led.

  • Trump says ‘not talking boots on the ground’ if action taken against Iran

    WASHINGTON/GENEVA (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald.

  • Thousands mourn officials killed in Ethiopia coup attempt, priests urge unity

    BAHIR DAR, Ethiopia (Reuters) – Thousands.

  • Trump-Xi meet, Iran tension to overshadow G20 summit in Japan

    TOKYO (Reuters) – Concerns over trade,.

  • Two U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan

    KABUL (Reuters) – Two U.S. service.

  • U.S. sanctions put telecoms firms off Cuba, internet task force says

    HAVANA (Reuters) – U.S. sanctions on.

  • Longtime Trump aide Stephanie Grisham will succeed Sanders as press secretary

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Stephanie Grisham, communications.

  • Factbox: EU leaders prepare for another fight over who gets bloc’s top jobs

    BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Union’s.

  • Austrian court clears way for U.S. extradition of Ukrainian tycoon Firtash

    FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash.

  • Russia says military plane in Venezuela to service equipment – Ifax

    An airplane with the Russian flag.

  • Seven migrant deaths reported in ‘extreme heat’ at U.S. border

    (Reuters) – Authorities in Texas reported.

  • Trump puts sanctions on Iranian supreme leader, other top officials

    WASHINGTON/RIYADH (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald.

  • Supreme Court to hear insurers’ bid for $12 billion in Obamacare money

    (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court.

  • Italian ‘cocaine king’ makes midnight escape from jail in Uruguay

    MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) – An Italian mob.

  • Iran says U.S. cyber attacks failed, hints talks are possible

    JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia/LONDON (Reuters) – Iran.

  • Pompeo visits Saudi Arabia as U.S. prods Iran for talks

    RIYADH (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of.

  • Beyond the rainbow – Same-sex weddings are mainstream 50 years after Stonewall

    (Reuters) – Kimberly Bailey, owner of.

  • Thousands in Costa Rica celebrate in first pride march since gay marriage ruling

    Thousands take part in the annual.

  • Indian authorities recover bodies of seven climbers from mountain, one still missing

    MUMBAI (Reuters) – Police on Sunday.

  • Ethiopia’s army chief, three others killed in failed regional coup

    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s army.

  • Istanbul votes in mayoral re-run, in test for Turkish democracy, Erdogan

    ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Millions of Istanbul.

  • Southeast Asian leaders meet, expected to discuss Rohingyas, South China Sea

    BANGKOK (Reuters) – Southeast Asian leaders.

  • Ethiopia’s army chief of staff has been shot – PM’s aide

    ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s army.

  • Exclusive: White House’s Kushner unveils economic portion of Middle East peace plan

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House.

  • Sudan’s main opposition coalition says it has agreed to mediator draft agreement

    CAIRO (Reuters) – Sudan’s main opposition.

  • Myanmar orders internet shutdown in conflict-torn Rakhine state – telco operator

    YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar authorities ordered.

  • Iran says it will respond firmly to any U.S. threat as tension spikes

    DUBAI (Reuters) – Iran said on.

  • U.N. rights chief Bachelet urges Venezuela to release prisoners

    MAIQUETIA, Venezuela, 22 Jun (Reuters) –.

  • Kim, Xi agree to grow ties whatever external situation – North Korean media

    North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

  • Kim, Xi reach consensus, to develop relations no matter the international situation – KCNA

    FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim.

  • Black-clad, anti-extradition protesters flood streets of Hong Kong

    HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of.

  • Trump says he aborted retaliatory strike to spare Iranian lives

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald.