Bratislava meeting exposes EU far-right contradictions

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BRATISLAVA

French and Slovak nationalists team up. Slovak populist party Sme rodina (We are a family) hosted the members of the far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom movement in Bratislava.

France’s National Rally chief Marine Le Pen opposed the idea of a ‘Frexit’ and said there is a need to change Europe from the inside. The Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and Greek New Right also joined the meeting, while Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini sent a video message.

They all agreed on a common fight against migration, oligarchs, liberals and the European Commission. However, it did not take too long for rifts to emerge.

In its programme for the EU elections, Le Pen’s party criticises past EU enlargements, as well as the free movement of capital, goods and persons. It also takes a swipe at the absence of internal border controls, the “very low wage costs” of Eastern European workers and social benefits to immigrants in France.

Speaking alongside Le Pen, Sme Rodina’s candidate in the EU elections Ľudovít Goga defended “the right to social benefits for Slovak citizens in other (member) states” and “maintaining free movement of persons, services, capital and workforce, the primary condition of economic development and job creation in Slovakia”. (Pavol Szalai, EURACTIV.sk)

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BERLIN

German voters prioritise environment. 34% of German voters believe that climate protection is the biggest challenge for the EU’s future, closely followed by migration (32%), a YouGov poll covering eight EU countries has showed. According to the survey, in the other seven countries (France, Italy, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Hungary, Belgium), migration came first.

In all countries, a majority of respondents said EU membership was beneficial for their nations, with Germany and Poland scoring the highest (70%) approval rate. (Claire Stam, EURACTIV.de)

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PARIS

EU elections kick off. The official EU elections campaign was officially launched on 13 May in France and will end on 25 May at midnight, when the French will choose their 79 MEPs from a record 34 lists of candidates.

Monsanto files. Bayer appointed an external law firm to investigate Monsanto’s secret file classifying politicians, scientists and journalists in France, based on their positions on pesticides. Although there is no indication that it is illegal at the moment, Bayer said, “following an initial review, we understand that this initiative has raised concerns and criticism. This is not the way Bayer seeks dialogue with society and stakeholders. We apologise for this behaviour.”  (EURACTIV.fr)

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MADRID

Podemos want socialists. The leader of the leftist Unidas Podemos party, Pablo Iglesias, said on Monday he was convinced that the winner of the elections, the socialist PSOE, will govern “together” with them and won’t negotiate with centrist Ciudadanos (Citizens), EURACTIV’s partner EFE reported. Iglesias said Podemos and PSOE would start negotiations right after the EU and regional elections in Spain, set for 26 May. (EuroEFE.EURACTIV.es)

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WARSAW

Passive EU member. Elżbieta Bieńkowska, the EU Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, has said Poland is currently a passive EU member.

“Poland needs to get out of the passivity trap; at the EU level, we are passive contrary to what the government says at home. Poland cannot find partners, build alliances, it is passive and mute.” According to her, taking into account the number of current challenges, “Poland should be one of the EU leaders, as it once was.”(EURACTIV.pl)

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PRAGUE

Russia will influence EU elections. Foreign disinformation campaigns, particularly from Russia, are seeking to influence the outcome of the upcoming EU elections by taking advantage of the current divisions in society, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova warned on Monday.

“We cannot allow the election results in even one member state to be distorted by manipulation,” Jourova told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland (RND). (Ondřej Plevák, EURACTIV.cz)

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BUCHAREST

Neck and neck. A new poll shows a neck and neck race between the centre-right PNL (EPP) and the socialist PSD, scoring 26.1% and 26.4% respectively. Alliance 2020 USR-PLUS got 20.1%, while Pro Romania, the party of former PM Victor Ponta, ranked fourth (8.5%), followed by ALDE (part of the namesake EU group), with 8.2%.

Article 7 warning. The EU Commission has warned Romania that it will “trigger the rule of law framework” over concerns regarding judiciary independence and the weakening of anti-corruption legislation. The EU executive said the recent changes to the Criminal Codes “risk creating a situation of de facto impunity for crimes, including corruption crimes.” (EURACTIV.ro)

>>Read more: Romania’s Schengen perspective in jeopardy over rule of law

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ATHENS

40 lists. 40 lists of parties and coalitions will ultimately take part in the EU elections, according to the Greek supreme court’s final decision, while nine more were cut from the ballot. The EU elections in Greece coincide with municipal and regional elections, meaning that most voters will have to vote in four different polls. (Theodore Karaoulanis, EURACTIV.gr)

Tsipras attacks. In an interview with ALPHA TV, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras predicted a neck and neck race in the EU elections between his leftist Syriza party and the conservative main opposition New Democracy party (ND-EPP), which still leads the latest polls. But the gap has significantly narrowed to just 6%. Tsipras questioned the validity of the polls and said ND chief Kyriakos Mitsotakis won’t remain the leader of the party ahead of the national elections next November. (Sarantis Michalopoulos, EURACTIV.com).

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NICOSIA

Sea Turkey. Turkey launched a major naval exercise yesterday, in a show of force that comes amid mounting tensions over its plans to start fossil fuel drilling off Cyprus. “We urge Turkey to show restraint, to respect the sovereign rights of Cyprus in its Exclusive Economic Zone and refrain from any illegal activity to which the EU will respond appropriately and in full solidarity with Cyprus,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said. (Theodore Karaoulanis, EURACTIV.gr)

>>Read more: Tensions mount over Turkey’s drilling off Cyprus

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SOFIA

Lowest life expectancy in the EU. Bulgaria has the lowest life expectancy in the EU (74.8 years). The EU average life expectancy for men is 71.4 years, while for women it is 78.4 years, according to Bulgaria’s National Statistical Institute. (EURACTIV’s partner Dnevnik).

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ZAGREB

Collapse of shipbuilding. Following a long-running debt crisis, a court opened bankruptcy proceedings for Croatia’s largest and oldest shipyard. “As of today, Croatia will no longer have a shipbuilding industry,” one union chief said, adding that the state abandoned it. All 1,118 workers will be fired.

Foreigners to buy farmland. In June 2020, a seven-year moratorium on the sale of state and private agricultural land to foreign nationals and foreign legal entities, which was negotiated under Croatia’s EU membership deal, expires. It could be extended for an additional three years, but no such request has been filed with the EU Commission as of yet, Croatian daily Večernji list reported. (Željko Trkanjec, EURACTIV.hr)

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[Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos, Sam Morgan]

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