There are many who support the idea that the growing influence of Europhobia over European citizens is not an achievement of the far-right and populist leaders but a failure of the Europe’s mainstream politicians – a consequence of bad politics around Europe, particularly in Brussels.
Last week, we witnessed two examples.
One was the ‘Grillo adventure’ with ALDE. The other was revelation of an ‘under the table agreement’ between the two bigger parties of the European Parliament at first, the Christian democrats and the Social democrats, and which the Liberals also joined.
The first case concerns the leader of Italy’s populist Five Star Movement (5SM), Beppe Grillo, who gave the aroma of an operetta. On January 8, the former comedian announced to his party his proposal to quit the EFDD group in the European Parliament in order to join the much larger ALDE.
After three days of speculation, Guy Verhofstad, the leader of ALDE, who is also a candidate for the presidency of the European Parliament, kindly rejected Grillo.
In the end, Grillo’s group lost two MEPs. One moved to the Greens and the other to the far-right group. The rest of the MEPs were welcomed back to the EFDD by Nigel Farage.
What matters for the European family is not, of course, the zig-zagging of a populist leader, but the fact that the leader of ALDE did not react immediately after the announcement of 5SM’s intentions on January 8.
By waiting so long to react, ALDE’s leader made it possible for the Europhobes to speculate about “dark agreements” and conspiracy theories. It also fuelled other arguments by those who consider politicians to be cold calculators without ideas and programmes to bind them.
The second example is probably more serious because it directly strikes at the need for transparency in European affairs. Transparency is not only imperative in the financial affairs of the Union, but in politics as well.
What we learned from the leader of the EPP, Manfred Weber, is that the three groups in the European Parliament (the EPP, the S&D and ALDE) signed an agreement in 2014 for cooperation concerning the election of the President of the European Parliament and the support of efforts of the European Commission. The initial agreement was signed between EPP and S&D and a day later ALDE signed as well.
According to what EPP’s secretary revealed, they agreed that the President of the Parliament should be a Socialist for the first term and a Christian democrat for the second.
The existence of such a secret agreement came to light after the other two leaders, Martin Schultz of the Social democrats and Gue Verhofstad of the Liberals, did not honour their signatures and their groups were thrown at an electoral campaign for the European Parliament Presidency.
But why was all this secrecy necessary? Why was it necessary to sign a document which any politician in any European region would carefully avoid?
Wouldn’t it be better to openly declare the alliance against the far-right and populist efforts inside the European Parliament? The motives for a large coalition against the far-right would be self-evident and in no need of explanation.
By acting behind closed doors and in secrecy, the Parliament’s pro-European forces provided the anti-systemic far-rigtht with an opportunity to “fight the establihsment”; ultimately, that is a disservice to Europe.