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Monday, April 18, 2011

The EU's walls of Jericho moment?

The exact consequences for the eurozone of the True Finns' success in yesterday's Finnish elections remain unclear. The result makes it the third largest party, securing 39 seats in the 200-strong parliament with 19% of the votes, close behind the National Coalition Party (NCP), which received 20.5% of the votes (44 seats in Parliament) and the Social Democrats which won 19.1% of the votes (42 seats). To put this into context, they polled only 4% in the last national elections.

With performance better than the 15 or so percent expected on Friday, a seat within the new coalition government is now a distinct possibility. Finnish television Yle quotes the party secretary of the victorious National Coalition Party saying that a government consisting of the three major parties is a "strong possibility", with the NCP’s Jyrki Katainen as Prime Minister.

Formal coalition negotiations are due to start on 27 April, which could make it very difficult for Finland to sign up to a bail-out package for Portugal, as that requires the approval of Finnish Parliament. True Finns leader Timo Soini has re-stated his opposition to the Portuguese bail-out package following last night’s election results. “I don’t believe that the package that is there will remain”, he told Yle last night. The Social Democrats want Portugal to restructure its debt rather than seek a bail-out, which is an additional factor in all of this. However, let's not also forget as with all politicians, Mr. Soini wants to be in government - he wants powers - so it's possible that he might compromise on the party's tough 'no more bailouts' position. What's clear is that when it comes to the EU Soini and Katainen occupy two different planets.

Regardless, it's clear that a new brand of "triple A" populism has emerged in the creditor eurozone countries, whose voters are voicing strong opposition to the "we'll keep the euro together at any price" doctrine that they have been fed by EU elites up to now. As we've noted before, such anti-euro sentiments are now picked up by nationalist parties from Vienna to Paris, feeding into the mix of anti-incumbency, pro-independence and most often, strong anti-immigration sentiments.

As we also noted before, the "far-right" label is inappropriate as a generalised term to describe the various parties currently occupying this space around Europe - they're all different in their make-up, roots and emphasis with some a lot nastier than others - and the True Finns simply isn't a "far right" party. What's clear though, is that they all push a heavily nationalist agenda, and they all fish in more or less murky, anti-immigration waters.

But in relation to the eurozone specifically, what's so significant about this election is that it's changing the parameters of the debate. In Austria, Netherlands, Germany and France, the established parties have managed to keep strong anti-euro, anti-bail-out forces outside the realm of government. The Dutch government rely on the opposition parties to circumvent Gert Wilders' Freedom Party, for example. If the True Finns make it into government - and chances are that they will - 'triple A populism' will have become part of the mainstream conversation, in a mainstream European country.

The guiding principle of European integration has always been 'build the institutions and the facts of life will follow'. In the realms of eurozone bail-outs, as well as in the contentious domain of immigration, this guiding principle is now being tested to its limits.

As Gideon Rachman points out on his blog today, the EU is in "deep trouble". Someone (a certain Mr T. Blair), in a speech to the European Parliament, said in 2005:
"It is time to give ourselves a reality check. To receive the wake-up call. The people are blowing the trumpets round the city walls. Are we listening? Have we the political will to go out and meet them so that they regard our leadership as part of the solution not the problem?"
That was six years ago. It's a most unfortunate irony that EU leaders, in their misguided efforts to stamp out 'nationalism' via over-building institutions and attempting to superimpose an artificial identity from above, are now contributing to the rise of the very currents they were professing to fight.


Anonymous said...

Furthermore, it is ironic that those who express their disdain towards "nationalists" are the very same people who are obsessed with pushing a flag, an anthem, and an identity (with grotesque examples of vanity such as the "House of European History") with an entirely 19th-century mentality, who consider that blindly supporting certain institutions makes you a "good European" and that criticizing them makes you a "bad European", and who are hell-bent on building an identity worthy of the craziest nation-building efforts of bygone eras. The Euro-federalists are every bit as nationalistic as the nationalists they decry.

Ivo Cerckel said...

True Finns, Wall of Jericho, and Euro Freegold

Posted by Ivo Cerckel on April 19th, 2011
This is my attempt at answering the question posed here:

The EU's walls of Jericho moment?
Open Europe blog team
On Monday, April 18, 2011
At 4:28 PM

Ray said...

The rubbishing of the True Finns has already started, with people comparing them to the BNP etc. Hopefully this will encourage the UKIP to step their assault, and start courting those Eurosceptics in Parliament to maybe have the guts to go with their principles rather than just protect their job and income. A half way measure to reassure those dithering is to allow them to take the Tory whip or Labour whip for non European votes.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand why OE refer to new parties as "populist" as that implies they construct policies solely to attract support. However most of them have been around for some time with strong elements of their current policies all that time.

You could not seriously suggest, for example, that UKIP adopted anti-EU policies just to get votes from the 50 per cent of more who want a different relationship Wight our neighbours. UKIP have always had that policy.

I am also confused by references to anyi immigration policies being "murky". Why even the PM now seems to admit there is a problem.

Unknown said...

“As much as taxpayers in rich countries don't like to pay for other governments' mistakes, voters in poor countries also don't like being told what to do by people they never elected and can't vote out of office." --- That applies to the UK as well as anyone else. A referendum to stay in this corrupt, inept, dictatorship is long overdue here. If the result was "Yes" -- fair enough but we all know that is very unlikely, don't we?

David Wilford said...

The sooner this cesspit of corruption collapses and non elected idiots have to find a real job, the better off we shall all be. Let the French pay for their inefficient agricultural policies and may the Germans finally wake up and say "enough is enough, we are not paying for the rest of Europe any longer".