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Home / Press review / Archive / Press review | 08/06/2009



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Europe has voted

Europe has voted


From last Thursday to Sunday the citizens of the 27 EU member states cast their votes for a new European Parliament. The voter turnout was relatively low, but the trends are clear to see. In many countries right-wing parties gained a larger share of the vote while national governments were punished. » more

With articles from the following publications:
NRC Handelsblad - Netherlands, Turun Sanomat - Finland, Der Standard - Austria, Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland, Népszava - Hungary, La Repubblica - Italy

NRC Handelsblad - Netherlands

In the Netherlands Geert Wilder's Party for Freedom (PVV) won four mandates in the European Parliament for the first time. The big losers in the elections were the parties of the grand coalition, in particular the Social Democrats. The liberal daily NRC Handelsblad comments: "This is an indication that there is considerable voter support for the ideas of the PVV, which are against Europe, against Islam and play up to people's xenophobia. This is a fact the other parties will have to live with. It will be difficult for them to win back these voters without renouncing their own liberal or social principles - partly because the PVV's victory was a major one and also because of the simple fact that the great majority of the Dutch population, 83 percent, decided not to vote for this party. … Will the election result now lead to the conclusion that the Balkenende government must resign, as the leaders of the PVV and the liberal VVD have already demanded? The answer is no. These were European elections." (08/06/2009)

Turun Sanomat - Finland

The right-wing True Finns party increased its share of the vote by 9 percent in comparison with the 2004 European elections. Its leader Timo Soini won more than 130,000 votes. The daily Turun Sanomat writes that this hardly comes as a surprise: "The True Finns have won their expected victory in the Finnish European elections. As the pollsters had predicted, the doors of the European Parliament have opened to the anti-Europe leader Timo Soini. Although this represents a historic performance its practical meaning remains a curiosity. Soini, who is continuing in the best tradition of Vennamo populism [after populist politician Veikko Vennamo] showed with his campaign that it's possible to whip up enthusiasm among the forgotten people even without European masters and solely on the strength of rhetoric. Not even his plans to spend only a brief spell in the European Parliament and return to domestic politics in time for the next general elections could hinder the avalanche of votes he received." (08/06/2009)

Der Standard - Austria

The daily Der Standard comments on the victory of the right-wing Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and the independent EU critic Hans-Peter Martin: "More than one third of voters cast their ballots for populist parties and their top candidates during the Austrian EU elections. The FPÖ doubled its score, although it failed to live up to the results forecast in the surveys. With the undying support of [the daily] Kronen Zeitung, Martin had no trouble defending his third place. Not many of his voters will know what he stands for, what his political programme is or who occupies the second spot on the party's electoral list. Clearly it is enough in this country to enjoy the confidence of [Kronen Zeitung's publisher] Hans Dichand, to fulminate against the EU and to blaze along the campaign trail with a light bulb in your hand. ... Voter turnout didn't plummet as expected, a fact due in part to the Europeans from other countries elegible to vote here, as well as naturalised Austrians for whom voting is not a right to be taken for granted." (08/06/2009)

Gazeta Wyborcza - Poland

The liberal Gazeta Wyborcza considers that the seats in the European Parliament won by Euro-sceptics and extremists do not yet pose too great a threat: "In the new European Parliament, extremist groups and politicians will be represented who used populist and often anti-European slogans in their campaigns. The so-called traditional [centrist] parties are finding it increasingly difficult to reach people, and are becoming distanced as a result. In addition, the programmes of the European Social Democrats are very similar to those of the Christian Democrats, and simple people aren't able to see the dissimilarities. For this reason a growing number of people vote for people who stand out, because they talk plainly, use populist language and reach the masses with their message. ... Extremist parties are no novelty in the European Parliament - they were also present in previous legislative periods. ... But if the traditional parties start to match their programmes to the anti-European trends a real threat will emerge." (08/06/2009)

Népszava - Hungary

The left-leaning daily Népszava comments on the surprising election result of Hungary's right-wing extremist Jobbik party, which won three seats in the European Parliament: "The dramatic advance of the radial Right must come as a hard blow for every democrat in Hungary. The just under 15 percent of the vote that Jobbik was able to win in the European elections [with a voter turnout of 36 percent] is an ill portent for all those who want a Hungary based on democracy and human rights. … Those committed to democracy need to urgently reflect on what has gone so terribly wrong in Hungary in the past few years. … Hungary has received a mighty slap in the face from hundreds of thousands of voters. We can only hope that this will shake those who see themselves as democrats into action. If not we face huge problems: rapidly spreading racism, self-administered justice and a trend towards a police state." (08/06/2009)

La Repubblica - Italy

The left-liberal daily La Repubblica comments on the transformation of the political panorama in Europe: "The moderate Right has paradoxically been able to land a victory on two fronts: where it is in government, for example in France, Italy and Germany, the message of a calm force that is able to soothe the fears of voters has won the day. And where it is in opposition, like in Spain and the UK, it won the protest votes of those who blame the government for the economic crisis. … The success of the right-wing extremists and opponents of Europea in Holland, the UK and Austria … is the other side of the coin. Here the fear of social upheaval … turned into anger, hostility and the desperate demand for a moral and ethnic 'order'. And the way this type of xenophobic and racist delirium often goes hand in hand with a deep hostility towards the European project, which in many cases is the only effective protection against ultra-nationalist and anti-democratic tendencies, should give us food for thought." (08/06/2009)


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ABC - Spain

European elections: Crisis of Europe's Left is the most important outcome

"The most important aspect of the European elections that ended yesterday is the serious crisis affecting Europe's Left," the conservative Spanish daily ABC writes: "The Left was defeated in the most important countries where it is in government, as was the case in Spain and Portugal, or it was badly thrashed, as in Austria, or it was simply humiliated, as in the UK and Hungary. And where it is in the opposition - in Italy or France - or wants to be an alternative, like in Germany, its losses were also crippling. … The European People's Party has emerged strengthened from this election and become the most important European group: with its current members it holds 300 of the 736 seats. It is now up to it to put a halt to the growing Euroscepticism." (08/06/2009)

Dagens Nyheter - Sweden

European elections: Pirate Party sails on the wind of the copyright debate

In Sweden the biggest surprise in the European elections is that the Pirate Party was able to gain a foothold in the European Parliament. Its calls for free online copying and a fundamental reform in copyright law ensured it a strong performance, above all among young voters. The Stockholm daily Dagens Nyheter comments: "The advance of the Pirate Party comes in the middle of the worst economic crisis in 70 years. … Its success derives from issues other than jobs and the economy. The Pirates are sailing on the wind of the fierce debate over supervisory laws and personal integrity, as well as the ruling on the file-sharing website Pirate Bay. The established parties have reacted far too late to people's concerns about the encroachment of the state on personal integrity. They are also at a loss to explain how modern copyright laws could be made compatible with the copying of data files on the Internet. " (08/06/2009)

Berlingske - Denmark

European elections: Denmark votes against the trend

Denmark went against the trend in the European elections. At just under 60 percent, voter turnout was higher than in the last elections. Voters cast ballots on the question of Denmark's royal succession at the same time. With the socialists emerging victorious the biggest winners were to be found on the left-hand side of the parliamentary spectrum. The Copenhagen-based daily Berlingske Tidende writes: "Once again the election campaign followed the 'Denmark against all the others' motto, because we are so convinced that everyone else in the EU can learn a lot from us but we can learn little from them. … If we believe the many promises made by all the parties, we have now sent 13 Danish MEPs to the EU Parliament who are utterly determined to bring Danish aspects into the European debate, improve contact with Danish voters and take a more active part in Danish political life." (08/06/2009)

De Morgen - Belgium

Common sense and compromise have triumphed in Belgium

In Belgium the regional parliaments were also elected on Sunday. While in Dutch-speaking Flanders the centre-right parties won, in French-speaking Wallonia the Socialists emerged as the victors. For the first time in decades the right-wing extremist party Vlaams Belang suffered major losses. According to De Morgen despite the division of the country a great sense of relief prevails: "The most important conclusion in these elections is that politics has landed a significant victory against anti-politics. For all the howling about 'post-hunters', 'compromise-makers' and 'the establishment' it was the traditional political parties who between them convincingly managed to attract the lion's share of the votes. In times of crisis Flanders has elected leaders, not adventurers. Common sense, not radical slogans. … Mutual respect, not sterile tirades of abuse. This alone merits a deep sigh of relief." (08/06/2009)

Le Quotidien - Luxembourg

A deserved victory for Luxembourg's consevatives

The daily Le Quotidien comments on the landslide victory for the conservative CSV party in the parliamentary elections in Luxembourg: "The CSV and particularly its leader have scored a swift and uncontested victory. This was thanks to the efficient campaign, a programme which didn't promise voters the moon ... and particularly the aura of the party's chairman. Jean-Claude Juncker remained true to himself. Travelling the country on his 'Juncker on Tour' he was like a star whenever he came on stage. He never hesitated to give his all, and he conveyed his ideas with a heartfelt honesty unparalleled among the country's politicians. Today ... the CSV is the strongest party in the country. And there is no longer a strong opposition." (08/06/2009)

Eesti Päevaleht - Estonia

Success of Russian party is punishment for power elites

At the same time as the European elections were held in Latvia local elections also took place in which the Harmony Centre party of the Russian-speaking minority, which describes itself as a left-wing party, achieved very good results. The daily Eesti Päevaleht asks whether talk of a shift to the left is justified: "This question is of particular importance when one considers the current situation especially in Latvia. But to find a real answer we must bear in mind that the main intention of voters when casting their ballot was to castigate the current power elites, even if in doing so they effectively brought about a shift to the left. … Harmony Centre has indeed won the votes of many Latvians who are weary of the false promises of the Latvian-speaking parties, but the [conservative] Civic Union also made headway, and at the cost of the corrupt Fatherland's Union." (08/06/2009)

Delo - Slovenia

Why Gordon Brown does not resign

The daily Delo analyses the possible reasons why British Prime Minister Gordon Brown does not resign despite repeated setbacks: "He probably hopes the financial market and the economy will soon show signs of recovery and that his own public image will be righted. Possibly he believes he is a good leader, and definitely better than his charismatic conservative challenger David Cameron. But perhaps he remains in office because he stood in the shadows long enough as finance minister, an entire decade, and now wants to enjoy a little limelight. Although while in the background he enjoyed the reputation of being a serious, intelligent, reflective man who acts on the long-term, now he is struggling with the pitiable image of an unpopular prime minister with huge bags under his eyes and extremely tough political luck. But perhaps during the time when he was still in the shadow of Tony Blair - which a growing number of Britons are now yearning for - he was attributed with too much wisdom and not enough ambition for power and glory." (08/06/2009)


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To Vima Online - Greece

Grigoris Nikolopoulos on conservative Europe

Europe is more conservative than the US and unable to face the challenges of the present, writes columnist Grigoris Nikolopoulos in the daily To Vima: "The major problems Europe faces are directly connected to the ideological system of the ruling conservative governments. They are tied up with immigration, growing social and economic inequalities and pollution of the environment. How can a government or a European Commission that believes in the self-regulation of the markets overcome the economic crisis? … How can such a Europe deal with the wave of immigration if it follows a nationalist logic? How can it reduce pollution and impose the use of renewable energies if it depends on oil companies? Why should [Commission President José Manuel] Barroso and the other conservatives focus on social problems and inequality when their only goal is the prosperity of companies?" (07/06/2009)

Diário de Notícias - Portugal

João César das Neves on the success of the European project

For João César das Neves Europe remains a successful project despite the large number of people who abstained from voting in the European elections. Writing in the Diário de Notícias he argues that to boost Europe's success politicians must realise that the economy is the only factor that links EU countries: "Europe is the last thing Europeans are worried about today. And this appears to have been the case yesterday [Sunday] too, given the low voter turnout. … Unfortunately European institutions form part of the indifference … rather than the success of the project. The great accomplishment of the founders of the European Economic Community was that they understood that the only thing that can unite different nationalities is the economy. And even today the economy is the only reason why neighbouring countries want to join the EU, and others copy them. … But this fundamental truth, which is confirmed with each new EU accession, is easily forgotten in EU cabinets. There people live the dream … they conceive the ideal. … And this is why despite the enormous level of abstention and the fiasco with the constitution and the [Lisbon] treaty the Eurocrats persist with their plans for a super-structure that no one understands. The actions of the EU leaders make Europe into a problem rather than the solution to the problems." (08/06/2009)

Corriere del Ticino - Switzerland

Gerardo Morina on nation-oriented thinking in Europe

Gerardo Morina comments in the liberal Swiss daily Corriere del Ticino on voters' clear disinterest in Europe, identifying a tendency among Europeans to think along national lines: "Once more voters were characterised by their low enthusiasm for European issues. ... This almost complete indifference not only corroborates a widespread chronic behaviour, it also results from three factors closely linked to the elections. The first is that these EU elections took place during the worst social and economic crisis of the post-war era. The second factor has to do with a perceived crisis of values, visions and leaders. The third factor is decisive however, and played the biggest role in these elections. Without exception, they were dominated by an overwhelming interest in the national dimension. In part this was because local elections were held concurrently with the EU elections in several countries, and overshadowed the significance of the EU institutions. If it becomes the norm to hold EU elections at the same time as local votes, the national votes cold well smother the European elections and have them all but disappear. If that happens, as also seems to be the case this time around, it means that ... the concurrence of the state as a political and geo-political entity and of the nation as a cultural or ethnic entity leaves no room for other horizons." (08/06/2009)


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Rzeczpospolita - Poland

Polish oil company wants to prevent a silent takeover by Russia

Investors may no longer repeatedly acquire small share packages in the Polish oil company PKN Orlen. The move is meant to prevent unknown investors from acquiring a controlling majority in the company. Up to now investors' names must only be revealed when they acquire more than 5 percent of the company shares. The measure could prevent a silent takeover of the strategically important enterprise by Russia, writes Rzeczpospolita: "Notwithstanding the crisis and their debts, Russian firms are still interested in expanding abroad. Russia buys what it can, whatever the price. Much ado was made of the takeover of a 20 percent share package belonging to Austria in Hungary's largest oil company MOL by the Russians. The Russian companies have not stopped buying into other countries. While there's nothing wrong per se with this, it should happen in a civilised way." (08/06/2009)

Die Welt - Germany

Karstadt throws itself at Metro

The German companies Arcandor and Metro are holding talks about a possible merger of their department store chains Karstadt and Kaufhof. Arcandor has warned of insolvency if the German government refuses to grant an emergency loan of 437 million euros. The conservative daily Die Welt writes: "The merger could finally tackle overcapacities on the market. Merging the two department store chains will cost jobs, there's no doubt about it. But presumably the jobs that remain in the new company will be more secure than in a permanently ailing Karstadt AG under Arcandor. Karstadt's mother company will hardly be able to say no if it doesn't want to risk losing everything. Because you can't start making demands if you can't even pay your rent." (08/06/2009)

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