Ukraine’s foreign policy of the past five years might be under a big question after the May elections to the European Parliament. Taking into consideration various predictions, Euroskeptics might have unprecedented success. A coalition, which they plan to create after the elections, might be the first largest group of the European Parliament, overtaking the current leader – European People’s Party (EPP).
The European elections of May 23-26, which would cover 28 countries and more than 426 million voters, would determine the balance of power in Europe. After all, politicians who want to strengthen the EU, for example, allies of French President Emmanuel Macron, are fighting for influence, and, on the other hand, those who do not see any sense in the European Union and advocate strengthening the role of individual states, in particular, like Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban.
Polls and political processes in Europe give political scientists the reason to predict that the next European Parliament would be more fragmented because traditional political parties would suffer significant losses. At the same time, Euroskeptics can get about a third of the seats.
It is assumed that if right-wing populists do realize their plans to unite into a new faction — the European Alliance of People (EAPN) and they will be joined by MEPs of the Hungarian Fidesz and the Polish Law justice, the Alliance might become the largest group in the new parliament, confidently overtaking the current leader – conservative EPP. Such a demarche by the Hungarians and Poles is very real.
Italian famous Euroskeptic Matteo Salvini began his unifying tour of Europe from his meeting with Orban in August 2018.
In January 2019, the Deputy Prime Minister of Italy held a similar meeting in Warsaw with Yaroslav Kaczynski, after which he tried to convey to Europeans the main message - “Rome and Warsaw will work on the creation of a “new Europe.” According to him, Europe, which will be formed after the May elections to the European Parliament, will significantly exceed the current one.
Let's summarize the first results. So, as early as next month, a new and most numerous political group will emerge in the European Parliament, which will unite under its wing European deputies from the German Alternative for Germany, the Italian League, the Danish People’s Party, the True Finns, the Austrian Freedom Party, as well as Estonian right-wing populists.
In addition, French National Front of Marine Le Pen and Freedom Party of Geert Wilders declared their readiness to cooperate with the new Alliance. Orban and Kaczynski might support the “integrators.”
So, German AfD has 2 out of 96 mandates in the European Parliament. MEPs of this party often visit Russia and the Moscow-controlled regions of Ukraine. Despite the ban, they have repeatedly been to Crimea and officially declared that it is Russian. They were observers in the Russian elections, and naturally, no violations were found. They also called for the lifting of the sanctions and promoted the Kremlin’s Nord Stream – 2 project.
According to Tagesspiegel, MEPs from AfD have been at least twelve times in Russia, Crimea, and in occupied Donbas in 2018.
Italian Northern League party, which now has 5 out of 73 seats in the European Parliament, is also the leader among European visitors to annexed Crimea. Crimean authorities invite the representatives of predominantly northern regions and supporters of right-wing nationalist forces to participate in economic forums or in familiarization tours. They say that they just want to be engaged in open business, and Crimea is “isolated” by Ukraine, not Russia.
In addition, in March 2017, this Italian party entered into a cooperation agreement with United Russia.
Matteo Salvini, the leader of Northern League, when occupying the post of vice-PM of Italy, has repeatedly publicly stated that he considers the annexation of Crimea to be legal, and called the Revolution of Dignity “a fake.”
Another ideologue of the unification of Euroskeptics across Europe is odious Marine Le Pen. Her National Front has 16 of the 74 seats in the European Parliament. Although, unlike its Italian counterpart, it should be considered a more balanced politician.
At the same time, in January 2017, she expressed regret that the “referendum” in occupied Crimea was not “accepted by the international community.” She assured that after the Russian troops entered Crimea, the “referendum showed the consent of the people to join Russia.”
The politician called Ukraine’s rule at the peninsula “an administrative issue of the Soviet times,” adding that Crimea “was never Ukrainian.” As a presidential candidate, Le Pen said that if she won, she would initiate France’s withdrawal from the European Union and improve relations with Russia. Some media assure that her party is sponsored by Moscow, but she denies it. It is noteworthy that during the annexation Le Pen never visited the Crimea.
As for the Freedom Party of Austria, now it is represented in the European Parliament by 4 out of 18 deputies from Austria. Since December 2016, the party (as well as Northern League) has been connected with the “United Russia” cooperation agreement.
Its members, like the above-mentioned political forces of Europe, recognized the Russian Crimea and repeatedly visited the annexed peninsula, calling on European politicians to visit it in order to see peaceful life there. In addition, in their opinion, Austria should develop traditionally good relations with Russia and the party is ready, as a neutral mediator, to promote the lifting of EU sanctions.
Finally, Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, which has 4 of the 26 MEPs in the current European Parliament, was one of the initiators and organizers of the very “consultative and corrective” referendum on the approval of the Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine in April 2016.
Its leader Geert Wilders has repeatedly declared his intention to “fight Russophobia.” According to him, one should propose “a counterbalance to the hysterical Russophobia that prevails everywhere.” Russia and the Netherlands share common interests, even though he himself personally does not agree with everything that happens in Russia. Wilders also condemns those politicians who broadcast "false images of enemies."
Summing up, it becomes quite obvious that strengthening the data of political forces in Europe promises absolutely unprofitable dividends for Ukraine. Creating a large coalition of Euroskeptics will certainly affect the overall normalization of relations between Russia and the European Union. As a result, we should expect a review of the sanctions, the removal of the issue of the Russian annexation of Crimea from the agenda, freezing of Donbas conflict and further strengthening of the energy monopoly of Moscow in Europe.
But on the other hand, we note that neither for Marine Le Pen, nor for Salvini, nor for Jörg Moiten, the creation of this united coalition will not be an easy task. Why? Yes, because each of them has ambitions.
Firstly, it depends on who to become the leader of this block. Considering the historical competition between France and Italy, it is unlikely that someone from the representatives of the Euroskeptics of these countries would easily agree to give the number one position.
Secondly, one should not exclude that Washington, which also has its interests in Europe, might have interfered or had already intervened in the process of forming the Alliance.
Thirdly, the strength of the Union of Poles and Italians is very doubtful, because, despite the unified position on the migration crisis, there are some differences between countries in other matters, including in relations with Russia.
Finally, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz announced that he no longer wants to cooperate with Freedom Party, whose leader was forced to resign because of a corruption scandal and suggested that the federal president hold early elections as soon as possible...
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