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A Coalition with Vox Would Give Eurosceptic Governments the Weight Necessary to Paralyze the EU

Bernardo de Miguel

7 mins - 21 de Julio de 2023, 07:05

European institutions and all the EU capitals, particularly those with a Eurosceptic government, are closely watching the elections in Spain. In the case of Brussels, the elections of 23 July threaten to unravel for the first time in EU history the broad majorities that underpin EU policy if a Eurosceptic party such as Vox enters the government of a country of Spain’s stature. On the other hand, the chief Eurosceptics, led by the Italian Georgia Meloni, are rubbing their hands gleefully at the possibility that a political shift in Spain will allow them to add the necessary votes in the Council of the EU to block any initiative of the Commission and impose their dream of putting the brakes on European integration.

EU member states with governments that are reluctant or opposed to further European integration (Italy, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Finland) now account for 27.49% of the vote in the EU Council – a percentage far from the 35% threshold needed to block agreements by qualified majority, which are the most common. 

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But if a coalition of the PP and Vox were to swing Spain to the side of Meloni, Kaczynski, and Orban among others, the Eurosceptic alliance would have 38.09% of the votes, above the minimum necessary to dynamite any initiative of the European Commission. In certain votes, they could even count on Sweden, where the conservative government depends on the parliamentary support of the extreme right, which would raise the percentage further to 40.42%. And more reinforcements may come. Elections will soon be held in the Netherlands, where after the withdrawal of the liberal prime minister, Mark Rutte, the far-right and agrarian populist parties are expected to rise strongly. The Dutch vote accounts for almost four percentage points in the Council.

The European ultra-conservatives, grouped around the ECR formation presided by Georgia Meloni, do not hide the fact that the elections of 23 July are a historic opportunity to move from a subordinate role in a European Union dominated by pro-European forces (conservatives, socialists, liberals, and greens) to become one of the axes of power in the club, with the potential to disarm part of the community construction and renationalise policies such as energy, environment, migration or foreign and defence

Meloni herself has burst into the Spanish electoral campaign to ask for a vote in favour of Vox. A Spanish government with the Eurosceptic extreme right inside “would propel a change in Europe”, said the Italian Prime Minister last week. “The hour of the patriots has arrived”, she encouraged to stand up to the supporters of European integration whom Vox accuses of being “globalists” at the service of obscure international interests.

This rebalancing in favour of the centrifugal forces keeps the community institutions on edge, which have always counted Spain among the partners in favour of unquestionable progress. The tables could turn if the Popular Party (PP) of Alberto Núñez Feijóo chooses to elevate Santiago Abascal’s party to the category of government partner. In that case, three of the five most populous EU countries (Italy, Poland, and Spain) would have far-right politicians in positions of power and with the capacity to set or influence the agenda in Brussels. 

Vox’s electoral program is clearly aligned in its European chapter with the positions of countries such as Poland or Hungary, both of which have been prosecuted for alleged violation of the fundamental values of the Union (based on Article 7 of the Treaty), with funds suspended and, in the Polish case, with several multimillion-dollar sanctions for contempt of the judgments of the European Court of Justice.

“The institutions of the European Union have taken a derivative of dissolution of the sovereignty of Member States and submission to environmentalist lobbies and radical ideologues”, accuses Abascal in Vox’s program for the elections. Vox advocates are vying for “another vision of Europe”, which would involve negotiating a new Treaty of the Union to renationalise competences. 

The possible government partner of the PP also defends the primacy of national law over European law, a doctrine that would destroy the legal security of the EU and whose application has already cost Warsaw immense fines. And he insists that national governments must regain “protagonism against the bureaucracy of a European Commission that nobody elects and nobody can control”, despite the fact that the current Commission, like the previous ones, was voted by the European Parliament. Von der Leyen’s team, in particular, was approved by 461 votes in favour, 157 against, and 89 abstentions in a Parliament where Vox’s own European group is present and occupies 66 seats (four of them of the Spanish formation).

Poland and Hungary have been trying for years to boycott EU initiatives, but their obstruction capacity is limited and has only become a reality in areas where, like the other partners, they have the right of veto, particularly in resolutions on foreign policy. 

When the government of Mateusz Morawiecki or that of Viktor Orbán have stood in the way of plans considered vital by the EU, other governments have sought formulas to circumvent them, even threatening to go ahead without them by means of ad hoc extra-EU formulas or offering them more or less innocuous concessions. This is how, for example, the disputes over the recovery fund and the regulation on the conditionality of the funds, both of which were approved despite resistance from Warsaw and Budapest, were resolved. The regulation, to make matters worse, has been released with Hungary, which has the structural funds blocked because of its loopholes in the rule of law.

But the EU is losing the strength to discipline partners embarked on an authoritarian drift as far-right or Eurosceptic parties gain shares of power in capitals and, therefore, in European institutions. With Meloni’s victory last year in Italy and the entry this year of the ultra-nationalist party, The Finns, into the Finnish government (including the vice-presidency and seven ministerial posts, some as significant as Finance, Economy, Interior, Justice or Trade), the countries with governments or coalitions opposed to European integration now account for 122 million inhabitants – more than a quarter of a total of 447.7 million

Hans Kundnani, a researcher at the Chatam House Centre in London, even considers it feasible that the extreme right-wing parties will become dominant in the EU and that, instead of destroying it as some of their programs promise, they will mutate its nature to transform it into a sort of bastion of defence of European civilization, which they consider threatened.

Kundnani points out, in an article recently published in IPS, that this possibility has gained ground thanks to the rapprochement of the European People’s Party (EPP) towards some of the postulates defended by the far right on migration, identity, or Islamism. “The compromise between the centre right and the extreme right is producing a kind of ‘pro-European’ version of the ideas of the extreme right,” concludes the researcher.

And in this advance of far-right positions in the EU and Spain, the results of the elections of 23 July are a fundamental piece for a coalition government with the far right would clearly reinforce the possibility of blocking this type of formations and potentially could drag the EPP towards positions far from traditional Christian democracy, which would endanger its collaboration with other pro-European forces and, consequently, the whole scaffolding that has sustained the Union for the last 70 years.
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