There were mixed fortunes for nationalists and populists in the recent EU elections.
Anti-EU/EU-sceptic parties topped the poll in the UK (Brexit Party), Italy (Lega), France (National Rally, formerly the French National Front), Poland (the ruling Law and Justice party) and Hungary (Viktor Orban’s FIdescz), while major gains were made in Belgium (Vlaams Belang), Estonia (EKRE), Spain (Vox), Holland (Forum for Democracy), Poland (Confederation), the Czech Republic (SPD), Sweden (Sweden Democrats), Latvia (National Alliance), Croatia (Sovereigntists), Bulgaria (VMRO), Italy (Brothers of Italy), Germany (AfD) and Slovakia (The People’s Party – Our Slovakia.)
Matteo Salvini of the Lega party in Italy hopes to gather some of these parties into a formal grouping, while others will remain outside the fold or attempt to join other existing groupings.
The big losers were UKIP, Geert Wilders’ PVV in Holland, the Danish People’s Party (although it still managed 10% of the vote), Jobbik in Hungary, now down to one MEP, after a damaging split, Golden Dawn in Greece (again down to one MEP after another anti-immigration nationalist party made gains) and Germany’s NPD, which was easily eclipsed by the AFD and lost its single MEP elected back in 2014.
When (or if) Brexit happens then Wilders’ party will retain a single MEP after the UK’s seats are finally shared out.
Again, most of these parties don’t see eye-to-eye on many things and reflect their respective national traditions. And those radical nationalist parties in Greece, Hungary and Germany were ostracised in the EU parliament and were unable to form a group of their own due to their small numbers.
This new nationalism, in all its forms, has been steadily making gains since the mid-eighties when Jean Marie Le Pen’s Front National first made its European electoral breakthrough.
Some favour leaving the EU while others want to remain and reform in favour of the nation state and stand against the supranational creep of the EU’s institutional empire.
Some of them are already ruling their respective nation states (Italy, Hungary and Poland) or have reasonable ambitions to do so (France and even the UK.)
With a Green surge also apparent across most of Western Europe and the decline of the mainstream parties (particularly in France, where the decline seems terminal) the new EU Parliament will be much more interesting and influential than previously, particularly if those Brexit Party MEPs make an appearance if Brexit is delayed further or even cancelled.