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Aggressive populists to reshape EU politics by obstruction

Media Contact

Rebecca Valli

This week, voters from the 28 European member states will cast their ballots to elect new representatives for the European Parliament. While electoral campaigns differ within each country, observers have pointed to the rise of populist, right-wing parties across Europe and their commitment to “reform” the European system from within.

Mabel Berezin

Mabel Berezin

Professor of Sociology at Cornell University

Mabel Berezin, professor of sociology at Cornell University and author of “Illiberal Politics in Neoliberal Times: Cultures, Security, and Populism in a New Europe,” says that, once voted in, nationalist parties could now reshape EU politics by obstruction.

Berezin says:

"By the end of Sunday evening, the last day of voting in the European Parliamentary elections, the headlines will likely focus on the now understood fact that populist parties across Europe are poised to gain as many as 30 percent of the seats, not enough to control the Parliament but certainly enough to block legislative initiatives.

"None of this should be surprising. Populist parties have been on the move since 2015. But what is new is the presence of an aggressive right-wing party, the Lega in Italy, who under the leadership of Matteo Salvini is rallying the parliamentary group of the Europe of Nations and Freedom under the banner of a ‘Europe of Common Sense.’ In contrast to 2014, populist or euroscepticparties now want to ‘reform’ Europe from within.

"No group really ‘wins’ the European Parliamentary elections, or national parliamentary elections for that matter either. In multi-party groupings, coalition building around legislative issues is the name of the game. A large grouping of cross-national populist and nationalist parties could reshape what Europe means simply by obstruction. No matter what the outcome next week, it creates a huge shift in the perception of who defines Europe and what Europe is."

Mona Krewel

Visiting Assistant Professor

Mona Krewel, assistant professor of government at Cornell University and an expert on European politics, says that the upcoming elections are all but boring.

Krewel says:

"Although European elections are usually known as a dull affair due to their low and dropping turnout as well as the media’s and the parties’ lack of interest in them compared to national elections, the importance of the 2019 European elections cannot be underestimated. 

"Europe’s future is at stake with eurosceptic parties possibly making significant wins and forming a new joint group in the European Parliament, which would allow them to unpleasantly interrupt EU business in the future. At the same time, the elections are overshadowed by the Brexit chaos in the UK and can partly be considered a proxy for a second referendum.

"Beyond that, in Germany the elections will be a tough test for Merkel’s grand coalition. If the Social Democrats is defeated again, the voices within the party who push for going into the opposition to regain voters’ trust will become louder again."

Cornell University has television, ISDN and dedicated Skype/Google+ Hangout studios available for media interviews.