'Nationalism and xenophobia' on rise ahead of European elections

BRUSSELS Wed Oct 30, 2013 12:07pm EDT

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso looks on at a news conference after a Tripratite Social Summit ahead of an EU leaders meeting in Brussels October 24, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso looks on at a news conference after a Tripratite Social Summit ahead of an EU leaders meeting in Brussels October 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Yves Herman

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso has warned against nationalism, xenophobia and racism ahead of European Parliament elections next year, when anti-EU and protest parties are expected to do well.

Opinion polls months ahead of the vote, which takes place in all EU countries on May 22-25, suggest candidates on the far left and far right will gain support as voters express frustration with Europe after three years of financial turmoil, contracting growth and job losses.

"We have to be honest that the crisis and the rise in unemployment is an occasion for populist forces to become more aggressive and gain some votes," Barroso, a former center-right prime minister in Portugal, told Reuters in an interview.

"What we don't like is the discourse that is sometimes behind anti-European slogans, a discourse that is promoting what I call negative values, things like narrow nationalism, protectionism and xenophobia. That is a concern.

"We should not forget that in Europe, not so many decades ago, we had very, very worrying developments of xenophobia and racism and intolerance. So I think everybody that has European principles should be worried about some of these movements."

Barroso did not mention any parties or movements by name. But polls suggest right-wing parties with strong positions on immigration could do well in several countries, including Britain, France and Finland.

In Britain, the UK Independence Party is predicted to come first or second in the elections, although a lot can change with seven months still to go before the vote.

In France, Marine Le Pen's far-right National Front has pulled away from the two mainstream parties and according to one recent poll is expected to win the election.

Besides the right-wing forces, there are far-left or protest movements in Greece and Italy that have strong popular backing, as well as single-issue parties such as Germany's anti-euro AfD that are expected to secure representation in the 760-seat European Parliament, the EU's only directly elected body.

Mainstream politicians and political analysts say it is too early to predict with any precision how many seats the anti-EU and protest parties will pick up, but broad estimates suggest it could be anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of the vote.

While they would be unlikely to act as a block in parliament, since they come from opposite sides of the spectrum and often have narrow, national-based issues on their agenda, some form of coordination among the larger far-right parties could end up disrupting decisions in parliament.

At the same time, Barroso said he was confident the mainstream political parties would remain largely dominant in the new parliament, and urged them to speak out for European values if they were to keep extremists in check.

"The pro-European forces...need to take the lead, not give the initiative to extremist forces, and explain in a rational and reasonable way what Europe brings," he said.

"That is why we are asking the so-called mainstream parties to have the courage to get out of their comfort zone, to think that today, at a time of crisis, we cannot take the European Union for granted."

(Writing by Luke Baker; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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Comments (6)
G-3 wrote:
Nationalism and protectionism exist independent of racism. The Nationalist Front and UKIP are hardly extremist, but I guess nowadays if you want to discredit anything, just shout racist!

Oct 30, 2013 1:15pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
puchurro wrote:
I think these politicians use the term “Xenophobia” to wrongly label “taking care of your own”. ANY time immigrants come in and start accepting jobs for super low wages and eroding the employment base (and tax base) it’s bad for the locals. I don’t care what color, race, nationality, sexual preference, religion, creed, whatever they are. It’s a straw-man, race-card arguement instead of addressing the facts. Here, politico, let me explain for your simple mind: Jorge has a small construction company. He needs another guy to do job site clean-up, a non-skilled hard labor job. He can pick a local and pay 19 Euro an hour + benefits, or an illegal immigrant and pay him 10 Euro an hour and no benefits, then pockets the profits.

Oct 30, 2013 1:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
onlyif wrote:
not sure how those ‘xenophobic and racist’ right-wing parties are going to form a coalition… if they are indeed ‘xenophobic and racist’… can you imagine Golden Dawn and Le Front National getting to together, or even UKIP throwing their lot in with either of them… hardly

It’s good to see the current EU poltical class worrying about the advancement of anti-EU parties…they should be!

The funny thing is these politicans do not realize just how improant sovereignty is… and that LOTS of people prefer that over the utopian attempt to create a PAN European identity.

The Soviets tried to create the ‘new soviet man’…

The EU is attempting to create a ‘new European person’…

Once again the people of Europe are beholden to a bunch of academic/politicans who know what’s best for the people of Europe… so much so that anytime a country votes AGAINST the EU… they just re-run the vote until the people vote correctly…

Il Duce the lot of ‘em!

Oct 30, 2013 9:10pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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