Era-defining elections loom as EU celebrates Europe Day

As the bloc’s institutions celebrate French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman’s presentation of the eponymous declaration 74 years ago, MEPs air their concerns over the union’s future political makeup one month before the June elections.

As the EU institutions marked the bloc’s founding with Europe Day on Thursday, the union is also preparing for its future as it heads to the European elections, scheduled for 6-9 June.

The bloc’s achievements were celebrated in member state capitals on 9 May — the anniversary of a historic speech by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman, which led to the foundation of the economic and political union.

Citizens were invited to visit EU institutions to celebrate the occasion, with European Parliament buildings in Brussels, Strasbourg and Luxembourg opening their doors to the public.

The celebrations came as the union continued preparing for one of the most important elections in its history.

The June elections will be held in times of continuous crises on the continent, facing war in Ukraineclimate emergencies, and fundamental questions about the reach and purpose of the bloc itself.

The 27-nation union of 450 million people will choose 720 MEPs to serve them over the next five years.

‘Existential fight’ on the horizon

Carlo Wolter, an 18-year-old German, said he will cast his vote because he belongs to the the next generation of European constituents shaped by policy. “Our opinion counts for what should happen in the future,” he said.

The results of the European election will also indicate whether the continental political drift will match the rightward swing seen across the globe, from Argentina to Indonesia and Slovakia.

Member of the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt at EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday, April 19, 2021.
Member of the European Parliament Guy Verhofstadt at EU headquarters in Brussels, Monday, April 19, 2021.AP

“It will be an existential fight,” said Guy Verhofstadt, a former Belgian prime minister and outgoing free-market liberal member of parliament. 

“Extreme right-wing parties are clearly influenced by Russia, by China. [They] don’t really want to strengthen Europe. They are a recipe for a weak Europe. And a weak Europe will be destroyed,” he said.

Italian MEP Nicola Procaccini (Brothers of Italy, ECR) said the current composition of the European Parliament swings too far to the left, but he believes “moving to the right” is possible.

“The centre right movements are going forward,” Procaccini said.

The geopolitical developments in recent years have additionally prompted discussions among the European member states to re-evaluate defence efforts.

“It is not individual member states which will protect the people,” Verhofstadt said.

“We absolutely need a European defence union to protect ourselves against Russia, for example, and certainly in a world where maybe [former US President Donald] Trump is coming back in the White House.”

(Source: Euronews)