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These are the most important things

These are the most important things

Everyone is talking about a far-right wave in the European Union elections. These can have consequences.

The short version

European Parliament elections are underway.

The Dutch are all done:

An opinion poll conducted on election day shows that the pro-European red and green parties on the left received the largest number of votes. But right-wing populist Geert Wilder's party is on the defensive after a huge advance. Both sides in the Netherlands interpret this as a victory.

Everyone is talking about a right-wing populist wave. What could that mean?

Here are four important points. But first:

New background

EU election campaigns are about different things in different countries. It could be about anything from snuff to security.

But the background is different than it was five years ago:

  • There is a war in Europe.
  • People suffer from bad advice.
  • The climate crisis appears more urgent.
  • Moreover, migration remains an important issue for the European Union.
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– There is more discussion about security and defence. The same applies to climate and environment. At the same time, we see a potential setback for those who want to take climate action. For example, farmer demonstrations show that there is resistance to the costs of environmental measures, says Nicholas Aylott, who heads the Europe program at the Swedish Foreign Policy Institute (UI).

He says that this opposition is particularly the far-right parties. But more traditional parties also see the possibility of voting in opposition.

What if the far right wins?

1. Support Ukraine

But could the elections have consequences for support for Ukraine?

– The matter is not of direct importance, because it is the member states that decide in the first place. But the result could send a signal to national governments about what is popular and what is unpopular, Aylott says.

For example, many far-right parties oppose sanctions on Russia and appear to be pro-Russian. Think tank German Marshall Fund He writes that the new parliament could have an impact on EU aid to Ukraine since it is involved in adopting budgets. It also has the ability to determine which countries could become new members of the European Union.

Meanwhile, many far-right leaders, such as Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, have been clear in their support for Ukraine. Experts like Independent Kyiv I spoke, so I don't think there will be any major change in EU policy towards Ukraine.

The Rhodes bushfires were seen by many as a warning about ongoing climate change.

2. Climate setback?

The European Parliament has significant influence on climate policy. The think tank wrote that climate and the environment in particular are the areas most affected if far-right parties achieve strong growth in this year's elections. European Council on Foreign Relations Earlier this year.

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The European Union, which has a very ambitious climate policy, could face a setback, they wrote. Green parties are suffering. Far-right parties complain that climate measures affect most people.

The danger is that they will try to dismantle some of the more ambitious climate plans, says Nicholas Aylott.

The comprehensive package would ensure that the EU more than halves its emissions by 2030. Not surprisingly, there has been a backlash, says Stig Scholst, acting head of the Zero Environment Foundation.

But I think the risk that EU climate and energy policy will stall or roll back is overstated. Schgolst says that even if far-right parties get 20-25%, there will still be a wide majority for the policy that was followed.

A Flemish party organized a farmers' demonstration to demand changes to EU agricultural policy.  Farmer demonstrations have characterized many countries ahead of the EU elections.

3. Is politics affected at home?

Although voters will send politicians to Brussels and Strasbourg, the elections are also seen as an important signal to national governments. It may have internal political importance.

In Denmark, for example, Mette Frederiksen's broad coalition government has struggled in the polls. What do voters say now? In France, too, there is a great deal of excitement about the success of Marine Le Pen's party, National Samling. How successful will it be in the upcoming presidential elections?

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni belongs to the far-right Sons of Italy party.  Will Christian Democratic MP Ursula von der Leyen work with her to be re-elected as President of the European Commission?

4. The battle is in the middle

The composition of the European Parliament also has an impact on who becomes President of the European Commission. Today's president, Ursula von der Leyen, wants to continue. It is a Christian democracy and therefore belongs to the traditional right-wing parties. Before the elections, questions were raised about whether these parties would cooperate with the far right.

– I think the most interesting thing about this election, if you look at it overall, is the growth of the far right and how big it is. And perhaps more importantly: What are the broad right-wing parties doing? Aylott asks: What situation have they ended up in?

When polls close in Italy at 11pm on Sunday night, we'll get the facts.