Monday, June 8, 2009

European Winds Of Change

Gordon Brown faces ouster threat

By Cassandra Wood

Love it or loath it the European Union is a reality. You can bury your head in the sand and pretend that it doesn't exist, or you can engage and try to change things. This was the opportunity to do this by making your vote count - sadly that didn't make a difference to the 57% who failed to vote! For those who managed to get past what I can only describe as voter apathy there were certainly some surprises in store. While America moves towards the left Europe, on the whole, has moved towards the right.

Germany, France, Italy and Belgium already have right leaning administrations in place. Now a shift to the right as well in both Spain and the United Kingdom where opposition right parties gained the upper hand and took the major portion of votes and seats. Although there may not have been dramatic changes in the governance of the European Parliament there have been significant ripples that will be a loud and sometimes raucous voice in the halls of Brussels and Strasbourg - these come from the emergence of the far right parties in such countries as Holland and the UK.

The BNP in the UK and Geert Wilders PVV (Freedom) party emerged onto the scene, gaining their first ever seats. Although these two parties only represent six seats out of the 736 seat strong Parliament they will gain strength by joining with other far right parties such as Vlaams Belang in Belgium, Fronte Nationale in France etc. For most of these parties the agenda, though oft times mildly disguised in other agendas, are essentially operating an anti-immigration agenda. They are essentially a reaction to what they see as over liberal administration that allows immigration into the countries at such a level, and with scant controls in a way that facilitate the subversion of the the culture and fabric of their nations to the extent where they give a significant threat to the indigenous population. Fear mongering? Maybe. However, something has happened in countries like Holland, once the bastion of liberalism in Europe, to make the people say enough is enough.

Of course murders of Pym Fortuna and Theo Van Gogh fed into the feeling of a country who were at odds with a population to whom they had given refuge. This is not an isolated country, it is a growing concern through many countries and the EU elections have given them a voice. All feel that the growing power within the EU Parliament will eventually erode the sovereign rights of the various nation states and impose centralised control under things like the Lisbon Treaty.

In the UK the beleaguered ruling New Labour Party saw even more crushing defeats, being beaten overall into third place behind Conservatives and UKIP (United Kingdom Independence Party). This defeat followed their resounding defeats in the Local Government elections last Thursday when they lost control of their strongholds, allowing control to go to the Conservatives.

Why the defeat? Well, it could be the disastrous economy, it could be the sleaze that emerged over the MPs expenses, it could be the lack of controls over things like immigration and profligate spending (need I mention handouts to failed bankers?) - it could be any number of things. Gordon Brown faces defeat at the hands of his own party, and perhaps, just perhaps, the people think they lack leadership! Many feel he should fall on his own sword and leave with some dignity, others want to keep him around and wait till they have maneuvered into a position to further their own agendas.

It would be nice to think that what has happened in the EU elections will bring about change. My cynical side says no but my optimistic side hopes for a better and brighter future for Europe. Whether in our own individual Governments or in the EU Government there has never been a time when we have needed to look for our strength and capitalize on it. Surely the whole point of belonging to any coalition is that it gives you additional strength.

(For further details of EU wide results go to


Anonymous said...

Whilst making a big splash in the press in The Netherlands and despite talk of a 'politcal earhtquake' I really am not sure what Geert Wilders success in the European elections will mean in terms of any change. Even by joining forces with other members states right wing parties it's hard to see them having much influence.

It is, however, a lesson in whats happens when a populace gets complacenet to the point of apathy or even feels disenfranchised from it leaders..these groups will sieze their chance when offered.

There has been a real change of mood in recent years in what was always thought of as 'liberal' Holland, it's a real feeling that you can taste here. The influence of the christian parties cannot be ruled out of the equation but it has also in part to with the host peoples perception of the growing population of immigrants with far differeing ideals to the indiginous population.

We are entering interesting times, the next few years will be challenging for any political party to manage the fine balance that has been brought about by the demographics of mass immigration versus the interests of the host population.It can be seen in several, sometimes surprising areas of europe, Sweden for example is said to be now paying the price for its overly liberal immigration policies, this country is however in no way unique.

At a time when close coperation is needed not only between communities within individual member states but also cross border within the EU it does seem a pity that Brussels and Strasbourg seem more remote tna ever to most citizens within the EU. This is going to be a growing issue in the coming years and it will be interesting to see how it will be tackled.

Anonymous said...

It's a shame more people didn't get out to vote. Those that did vote are sending a message 'we've had enough!'. I hope this is heard in America as you see what kind of 'change' we received. Although I am not familiar with the EU political parties, I am familiar with VOTING! VOTE it may be the only right we have left.

Anonymous said...

I can subscribe to Cassandra's analysis, but have the following comments to add :

Where many would have expected a shift towards the left in a situtation of severe economic crisis, the opposite has happened. To me this would signify that the people actually trust the political right better to steer us through this economic crisis, than they trust the political left. Angela Merkel's good result in Germany can be seen as an example of this, with the opposition's socialist SPD party scoring one of it's worst results ever.

All in all, the socialists/labour faction in the european parliament has lost a lot of votes, whilst the political (moderate-)right has made signifant gains. When comparing seats in the european parliament please bear in mind that the UK's and Chech's conservative parties are leaving the christian-democrat EPP faction to set up their own faction. To get the total number of votes of the moderate political right add up EPP + liberals (for US readers : republicans) + UK&Chech conservatives. Add to that the far right parties like Wilder's PVV, italy's Lega Nord, UKIP, belgium's Vlaams Belang and you have an impressive numbers of votes in the European parliament.

But the socialists are still needed for a majority in the European parliament so nothing much will change ; Barroso will probably continue as EU comission president.

Anonymous said...

The only significant difference I can see is a growing resistance against Turkey joining the EU. Actually I believe that my EU vote makes very little difference, but since my opposition to Turkey entering the EU is so great, that issue alone will determine who gets my vote.

My opposition to Turkey is for cultural, political and economical. Turkey with it's 70million people would immediately become the second most powerful country in the EU (after Germany) and they won't hesitate to use this power (as was already demonstrated when a successor to NATO's secretary-general had to be chosen). Although there are other countries with a very low per capita income, the fact that it is such a populous country would make it the equivalent of Eastern Germany joining (West-)Germany, but then on a scale 5 times larger. Everyone in EU paid for Germany's reunification through much higher interest rates because of Germany's huge borrowings on the international market. I supported german reunification but I cannot see any compelling reason to do the same with Turkey. The fact that future pipeline through Turkey might supply the EU with gas to lessen the dependancy on Russia is simply ludicrous because it would amount to 5% or less of the annual EU gas consumption. Basically it is the US pushing for Turkish membership : to reward them for military services rendered and on top of that it would guarantee that EU can never speak with one voice and will remain an economic giant free-trading space based, but a loose collection of political midgets easily 'persuaded' by the USA. This weakness and US pressure is the only reason I can see why there still is a majority of governments in favour of Turkey joining the EU. Letting Turkey join would not 'force us to solve our immigration/cultural problems', it would just force everyone to admit that where we haven't been able to solve similar problems on a much smaller, i.e. national, scale we won't be able to solve it on a supra-continental scale either. It would have been the first time in history where an previously unsolvable major problem would have been solved by making it 5 times bigger.

Would the USA allow Mexico to join as 51st state? Would Bush and Obama have tried to push that through if Mexico was muslim on top of that? I don't think so. If Mexico joing the USA is a bad idea, then Turkey joining the EU is certainly a bad idea.

I am hopeful that with the UK's conservatives most likely getting into power next year, Austria's, Sarkozy's and Merkel's opposition we can block Turkey's entry. A privileged partership status, with access to free trading areay would suffice for me.

With regard to voter turnout : I think that 43% is quite a good turnout. I live in a country (Belgium) where there is a legal obligation to vote, resulting in ill-informed voters without any clear convictions selecting a candidate for the most irrelevant of reasons (for instance, a couple of well-received appearances on game shows), mostly based on the likeability of the character, not his political view points.

I strongly support the Euro and I am very pro-EU in principal but hate the democratic deficit of a body of who can take decisions of which everyone says : who the hell is in favor of this? It seems to have a 'dynamism' (more like muddy landslide down the crevasse) of its own.