Trans-Europe Express: Bye bye, political parties

Sent out every Friday at noon, Trans-Europe Express gives you an insider's view of the most important coverage from across the EURACTIV media network, its media partners and much more.

BYE BYE, POLITICAL PARTIES

France has just done something that was once considered impossible: electing someone under 40 as its president, without the support of an established political party or campaign experience.

Emmanuel Macron is the first political novice to become president since the beginning of the Fifth Republic in 1958. One could argue De Gaulle had never been elected before becoming president – but the comparison stops there.

Now, En Marche! is about to help the collapse of traditional political parties. Here is how:

Parliamentary elections are coming in June and France’s parties have already started their campaigning the old-fashioned way. Friends and family of local politicians tend to inherit a candidacy, or Paris sends someone who has been a good little soldier to the party’s chiefs.

But En Marche! has already warned it will be different. Yesterday, the movement announced most of its candidates, after having them screened and interviewed by a special commission.

And it is different.

95% of the candidates were not MPs before, and 52% have no experience in politics at all. Half of them are women.

And Macron’s movement has not even bothered to field the full 577 candidates, even if it claims 19,000 people sent in their résumés to be an MP.

Even François Asselineau’s small Union Pour la Republique found 577 candidates. But for En Marche! the number so far is just 428, as it waits for people from the right to join.

En Marche! said that former Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls did not meet its criteria, as he has already been elected three times as an MP. For this fresh force in French politics, three times is plenty. But it is not running a candidate against him.

The party has even made a funny catch in the Doubs department: Frederic Barbier, Pierre Moscovici’s replacement as an MP, who will try to keep his seat under En Marche! logo.

With France’s Socialist Party, your file has to be approved by a commission before you can join. The way Macron’s organisation works is totally different. It doesn’t even ask people to pay to be a member. They subscribe online.

En Marche! is doing what Cinque Stelle, Podemos, Syriza, and Ciudadanos have already done: shaking up the political landscape. But, in this case, from the political centre, and in under a year.

As the dusty old political parties prepare to square off in Germany, perhaps the election would benefit from a similar breath of fresh air.

The Inside Track

Velvet Revolution, part II? Thousands gathered in Prague and other Czech cities for protests against Vice-Prime Minister Babiš and President Zeman, claiming they’ll continue to demonstrate until both politicians resign.

Never mind the poverty. Serbia is on the path to recovery, according to the Commission’s Spring 2017 European Economic Forecast. However, the reality for Serbians is still tough, despite 3.6% growth and a public debt predicted to fall under 70% GDP in 2018.

Gotta startup somewhere. When Nokia lost the smartphone race against Apple, its R&D centre in Oulu, a high-tech hub of 250K in northern Finland, weathered mass layoffs. Nokia has since rebounded and returned jobs to the area.

Socialist majority. According to a new survey, a majority of Spanish voters would vote for leftist parties if an election were held tomorrow. The Partido Popular would still come first, with 31.5% of the vote, but the Socialists would come second with 19.9% and Podemos 19.7%.

Hybrid warfare. The bi-weekly Bojovník [Warrior] of the state-funded Union of Anti-Fascistic Warriors has been spreading pro-Moscow news and opinions for three years, sourcing from Russian websites and conspiracy portals. Slovakia’s Interior Ministry has initiated an investigation.

Smooth operator. It is hard to believe that a private university may lead to the expulsion of a member state. If the European Commission is going to support the opposition against Orbán, it is not going to help regain its credibility among member states, Balász Jarábik told EURACTIV Czech Republic.

Keeping Europe pure. Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó vetoed the European Consensus on Development, which outlines a strategy of “well-managed migration and mobility” to stimulate economic growth. Szijjártó said it is “unacceptable” that the EU thinks that immigration is “a positive thing”.

Poland is taking over. The EU is going Warsaw on refugees, Polish government spokesman Rafał Bochenek said. Pointing to a Civic Platform party announcement that it is now “against accepting illegal immigrants to Poland”, Bochenek stated that Beata Szydlo is winning the migrant relocation debate.

Criminalising refugee advocacy. Targeting NGOs such as Medecins Sans Frontieres, an Italian prosecutor, Ambrogio Cartosio, told Italy’s Senate Defence Committee this week that aid organisations were smuggling refugees into the country and that the mafia is involved.

The government flu. The European Commission has endorsed Romania’s decision to temporarily suspend exports of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine to the rest of the EU, following a serious measles outbreak in Romania, worsened, in part, by the previous government.