One year ahead of the European elections, a recent Eurobarometer opinion poll seems to have emboldened mainstream politicians. European Parliament boss Antonio Tajani said that these results indicate a positive trend of EU support, despite Brexit, “or perhaps precisely because of this”.
Indeed, in many European countries, including in the UK, unprecedented grassroots movements have sprung up in support of the EU.
But during the past year elections were held in several EU countries and those results point in the opposite direction.
Recent Italian elections have opened the door to an unpredictable government of a separatist and anti-EU force in coalition with an anti-system party.
In Hungary, Orbán’s triumph delighted other nationalists but sent a chill through civil society groups and portended fresh battles with Brussels.
Czech elections brought to power an oligarch, who has been charged for fraud related to EU funding. Germany’s elections brought to parliament Alternative for Germany, and to make things worse, it is now the largest opposition force.
In France, Macron’s party should win the European Parliament election, according to a poll published mid-May by the right-wing magazine Valeurs actuelles. The Ifop poll shows 27% of people would chose La République En Marche and the MoDem, the two centre parties supporting Emmanuel Macron.
But these results hide a more worrying scenario: anti-European forces could be the real winners, making up to 37% of votes.
Seventeen percent of people would vote for Marine Le Pen and 6 % for Dupont-Aignan (who teamed up with Front National last year for the second round of presidential election). Not to mention, far-left ex-MEP Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who could secure 14% of the vote.
At the same time, traditional parties would be the big losers, with Les Républicains scoring worse than Front National with only 15% of votes, and the Socialist party a meagre 7% (10% if you add Benoît Hamon’s new party to the mix).
In Poland, the results of recent polls are contradictory. Pollster CBOS Public Opinion Research Centre in April 2018 showed that as many as 88% of Poles support membership in the EU, while only 8% are opposed.
But another opinion poll about EU membership by Selectivv Mobile House conducted in January and March this year shows that almost 30% Poles are in favour of leaving the bloc, while nearly one half believe EU membership is a good thing.
Tellingly, nearly a quarter of Poles think that a collapse of the EU poses the highest risk to Poland’s safety.
In many countries, the European elections are eclipsed by national polls. Czech political parties are focusing on municipal elections that will take place in October. Traditionally, Czechs are rooted to the bottom of the turnout rankings, with just 18.2% in 2014.
In Romania, the focus in 2019 will be more on the presidential elections in the autumn than the European ones in spring. The same goes for Bulgaria, where the municipal elections are seen as a much more important battle.
In Denmark, general elections will be held in June, one month after Europe votes. Lithuanians will go to the ballot in May 2019 twice – once for the European elections and then to elect a new president.
In Belgium, federal elections take place on the same day as Europe’s, which is good, at least more people are likely to vote.
But when all is said and done, the Eurobarometer results should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
EURACTIV’s network offices contributed to this TEE.
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Views are the author’s