EU Parliamentary Elections – The Challenges

3 min read

Although it is a cliché, we have to agree that the past couple of years, or even a decade, have been really turbulent regarding the challenges facing Europe. It is a banality as well that the modern western citizens have free access to information on every level. The wide media coverage on every aspect of the events around us shows and brings debates and problems to our living rooms. Disinformation campaigns, fact checking services on every social media surface, platforms rise and fall. Even without any problems would be hard to find wisdom or articulate a sane and earnest opinion, but considering the last couple of years in Europe it is even harder. In the shadow of the upcoming European Parliament Elections in June 2024 many perceptions seek attention, many are marginalised.

Common political knowledge is the left and right wings battle over political power which is supplemented with parties from the centre or/and green ideology. But that was the past, today’s Europe requires a different point of view. It is not even true anymore – like in 2019 – that the EU supporters fought against the anti-EU establishment which dominated the mainstream media coverage. Despite the fact that these trenches still exist, the focus has changed to challenges and conflicts which influence our society in various ways.

According to the article of Mark Leonard (ECFR) and Ivan Krastev, the current election will be dominated by the ones who “own the crisis”. And we had to admit, we have been in crisis management mode in the last 5 years. Even before that Europe was struggling. Where are the times when EU leaders visualized a leading role for the old continent on economic, geopolitical and human rights level? As the largest, richest and most developed market area of the world we had a bright future ahead. But along the road something went wrong, starting with the financial crisis in 2008, followed by the migration crisis, subsequently the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine caused uproar. Not to mention the climate change hovering over all of us, making us less resistant to face challenges. The problems have broken down ideas in which we all believed: no more wars in Europe, our health systems work perfectly, multiculturalism is beneficial and our children will have a better life than we do – just look at the apartment prices! No wonder that studies say 6 out of 10 people feel anxiety and that the things are going on in the wrong direction.

Research also shows that all five crises mentioned above have their own publicity and focus groups, distributed by complex attributes regarding location, gender, age and level of education. For example the younger generation and the more educated people are worried more about the climate change or the financial crisis, while less educated voters are interested in migration issues or the war in the East. Climate activists try to better protect the environment and care about biodiversity, while the anti-migration protesters fear for their cultural and national sovereignty. These people are more likely to vote for the right and far-right parties which could be seen in many countries in Europe.

These topics raised question in every European country, but looking on the map we see different approaches too. Germany – what a surprise – is the only country, according to the article, whose citizens are interested in migration crisis as a top challenge, while in France climate change was the hottest topic. Italians and the citizens of Portugal are concerned about financial issues, in Great-Britain, Spain and Romania the COVID pandemic raised more questions in the society. Estonia, Poland and Denmark felt the ongoing war as the greatest threat to their future.

Despite the fact the we cannot put relational signs between these topics, all of them breached the level of interest, experts say the main line of conflict will occur regarding the migration and climate change topics. These two are the most prominent subjects, and also the most dividing. It is hard to believe that the war in Ukraine will not be as decisive as we thought, on the other hand it is understandable that the western part of Europe – the average citizens – are losing interest in that matter. Hard to say, but it is too far from their home, while migrant gang members wander around their neighbourhood every day. These voices were heard in many countries, right wing parties are on the rise, and even if most of the experts count on similar result as five years ago at the EP election (EPP and S&D on the top), the third place could be achieved by the Identity and Democracy, pushing Renew Europe off the podium. European elite have to address these issues, cannot play it down like in the past 10 years, when those who did not support migration or just raised some rational questions were stigmatized with racism. The result is on the verge. It is healthier to see topics like migration actually discussed not just dismissed like populism. Populism can be useful, because it reflects people’s needs, and altogether this is the reason of politics and democracy. Listen to the citizens, hear their voices and sometimes convince them to make the harder choice – like in climate change issues – on the other side do not push an agenda which is not advantageous to any social strata or simple does not work. But extremism is not only a problem on the right as the leftist activist are getting more violent and dedicated to the cause for example concerning to green topics, which actually raise awareness but make lose sympathy.

Among all these problems media has a crucial role. Which platform to promote, which one to ban or even to discredit? Actually the best way would be to simply report the facts to the viewers/listeners, but it is long gone. Every side has its own platform and while mainstream media still tends to favour liberal – wishful – ideologies, a more practical down-to-earth agenda also begins to reach the main discussion.

Modern politicians should be aware as well that there are no direct walls between ideologies anymore, conservative parties support free market agendas while socialist governments reduce welfare spending. This is of course confusing, but also provides the possibility to react to every problem or threat without limitation. This is a great opportunity for the elected members of the European Parliament, and also a huge responsibility.

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