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A sad reflection that the Social Contract in Europe might be broken, or in urgent need of repair and renewal

The atmosphere and tone of the European Union will change, and will be charged by a political battlefield on its values and principles

By: EBR - Posted: Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Of all the election results, Germany is probably the most worrying. For the first time in the European Parliament’s history, politicians with the most extreme right-wing views, harking back to the 1930s, will sit in the very Chamber that was designed precisely to avoid the resurgence of a right-wing ideology.
Of all the election results, Germany is probably the most worrying. For the first time in the European Parliament’s history, politicians with the most extreme right-wing views, harking back to the 1930s, will sit in the very Chamber that was designed precisely to avoid the resurgence of a right-wing ideology.

by Dharmendra Kanani*

The atmosphere and tone of the European Union will change, and will be charged by a political battlefield on its values and principles.

Key questions will emerge about what governments and politicians owe citizens and taxpayers, and each other; and what the latter can expect in terms of social protection, public services as well as the role the private sector will play – as market maker only or, also as a shareholder in enabling a good society?

The debate will become toxic and turn to what human rights mean, underscoring people’s sense of safety and vulnerability. What is deemed just and right will be played out in response to these feelings. Migration, rights and borders will dominate the discourse with climate change becoming the most vigorously contested issue, and rampant artificial intelligence (AI) possibly going unchecked.

It may become an EU of either values ‘or’ a market, rather than ‘and’.

The intergenerational tensions will sharpen, as will the manner and sense of how we feel we should treat each other and what we are entitled to, and most importantly of all, how we respond to climate change and AI.

The success of the right and far right is as much about the failure of the left. If there ever was an urgent call for the centre-left, and the left more broadly, to deeply reflect on what it stands for and for it to coalesce and bring forward a more compelling socially just Europe, with a Renewed Social Contract at its heart, it is now.

More than ever, the impact of the European election is being felt at the national level, and in particular in France and Germany – the two countries that have traditionally acted as the driving force of the EU – where the far-right performed very well.

The rise of the far-right vote in France has come as a significant shock, even though it may be interpreted by some as a protest vote, and the decision of French President Emmanuel Macron to dissolve the Parliament and call for a snap election demonstrates how high the stakes are between the right and left in France. Let’s now hope that the gamble he is taking does not lead to destabilising the EU.

Of all the election results, Germany is probably the most worrying. For the first time in the European Parliament’s history, politicians with the most extreme right-wing views, harking back to the 1930s, will sit in the very Chamber that was designed precisely to avoid the resurgence of a right-wing ideology. Symbolically, the demise of the Socialists in Germany is almost symmetric to the rise of the far-right.

Unlike the heroes that saved Europe from the worst far-right experiment, days after D-Day celebrations, these European election results signal a D-Day for Europe, but this time the poorest legacy and commemoration of times past. It is a sad day for Europe and those who dreamed of the EU as a project of hope, peace, cohesion, security and prosperity.

Ultimately, it will be the poorest and most vulnerable communities that are most likely to be negatively impacted by this result, through reduced action on climate change, AI and decisions on the level of public services expenditure based on the concept of a more limited social safety net. Identity politics will now frame much of the debate ahead of us. For Trump, if he’s watching, these results will come as a light relief for his rhetoric.

*Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe
**first published in: Friendsofeurope.org

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