How do we face extremists in the EU Parliament?
The recent elections witnessed the rise of Eurosceptic, anti-EU, anti-immigrant, populist, reactionary and even neo-Nazi parties in several EU member states. Their MEPs will have to respect the fundamental values of the EU, but how binding is this, really, asks Mose Apelblat.
Mose Apelblat is a commentator and former European Commission official.
How many of these far-right MEPs will sit in the next Parliament is difficult to calculate. It depends on their political opinion, which varies even within the same party. One figure floating around before the election was 20%, which would mean 150 MEPs out of 751.
This is obviously an exaggeration, even if all MEPs from the French Front national (FN; 24 seats) and the British UK Independence Party (UKIP; 24 seats) would be counted.
Who else makes up that 20%? The Danish DPP (4 seats), the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV; 4 seats), Jobbik from Hungary (4 seats), Golden Dawn from Greece (3 seats), KNP from Poland (4 seats), Lega Nord from Italy (5 seats), NPD from Germany (1 seat), FPÖ from Austria (4 seats), SD from Sweden (2 seats), the Finns party from Finland (2 seats) and Vlaams Belang from Belgium (1 seat).
However, to describe all of these parties as merely Eurosceptic is to be nice to them.
While concerns about the impact of free movement and immigration are legitimate and tend to rise in times of financial crisis and austerity, some parties combine their anti-EU rhetoric with racism against Jews, Muslims and immigrants from other EU member states. It becomes really serious when outspoken neo-Nazi parties such as Jobbik and Golden Dawn are getting a foothold in the parliament.
Luckily all these parties are too divided to form any voting block or political party group in the European Parliament. To form a political party group with the benefits that follow from it would require a least 25 MEPs from at least 7 member states.
But it’s bad enough that we now can expect an increase in racism and intolerance in the parliament. Its meeting rooms will be misused for extremist propaganda. Let’s also not forget that the German Nazi party wasn’t elected by a democratic majority. The Nazi party received 2.6% in the first elections and did not receive more that 37% of the vote in the last elections in 1932.
Unfortunately, the EU cannot ban the entry of any party which has been legally voted in national elections. There are different election rules in the EU member states, and EU doesn’t interfere in them as long as elections are seen as free and fair, and comply with common standards.
In some countries, extremist and racist parties which threaten stability and democracy are banned. Democracy needs to defend itself against the forces who want to destroy it. Golden Dawn was outlawed in Greece, not because it’s an extremist political party, but because it was considered a criminal organization. The Greek Supreme Court, however, cancelled the ban.
If member states want to allow undemocratic parties running in their elections, it’s up to them. What can the European Parliament do to prevent its venue from being disgraced by MEPs who don’t share the European dream and the European values and only are interested in obstructing EU and disintegrating it from the inside like a fifth column or Trojan horse?
One measure, copied from some national parliaments, would be to oblige all MEPs to swear an oath of allegiance on a holy book called the Treaty on the European Union (TEU), which includes the Charter on Fundamental Rights, or, if they are secular, a pledge without reference to any religious source. Some countries require new citizens to swear an oath of allegiance to their constitutions.
The current rules of procedures of the European parliament, though quite extensive, only require the parliament to verify the “credentials” of newly elected members. MEPs are also obliged to submit an income and asset declaration. But nowhere can be found a requirement of commitment to the values which are underpinning the European project.
In contrast, commissioners have to take an oath, where they undertake to be completely independent in the performance of theirs duties, and neither seek nor take instructions from any government or from any other body.
However, the rules do prescribe that members’ conduct shall be characterized by mutual respect, be based on the values and principles laid down in the basic texts on which the European Union is founded, respect the dignity of Parliament, and not compromise the smooth conduct of parliamentary business, or disturb the peace and quiet of any of Parliament's premises.
The Treaty states that the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of people belonging to minorities (Article 2). These are the values one would expect any MEP to acknowledge by an oath or pledge at the opening of the parliament.