Turkey’s AKP chose the losers in the Euro Parliament
The European Parliament elections represent a victory for Euroskeptics. Non-affiliated lawmakers, who are mostly Euroskeptics, won 105 seats in the European Parliament. This means that the Euroskeptics have gained an extra 72 seats compared to the previous elections. But I don’t think we need to ring alarm bells either about the European project or about Turkey’s bid for European Union membership.
First of all, were we to expect different results amid continuing economic hardship for millions of Europeans and a much-criticized “disconnect” between EU institutions and voters? Of course not.
Yet, those who still have faith in the European project are still in a majority at the European Parliament. The European People’s Party (EPP) has 213 seats (having lost 61 seats), while the Socialists and Democrats have 190 seats (having lost 5 seats).
While the non-affiliated members make up a big group with 105 seats, this does not mean they will come under one umbrella. Some Euroskeptics, for instance, don’t have an issue with immigration in the same way as France’s Front National (FN) does. While some are from the far-right, some are from the far-left.
Italy’s anti-immigration Lega Nord, Dutchman Geert Wilders’ far-right Freedom Party (PVV), Austria’s Freedom Party (FPO), Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and, possibly, the Swedish Democrats (SD), are expected to discuss together the formation of a new far-right faction with the FN’s Marine Le Pen. But it remains to be seen whether they will meet the necessary requirements to form a group, the requirements of which mean they have to be made up of 25 MEPs from at least seven member states.
Let me add here that the European Conservative and Reformists, the group that Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) joined after losing its patience with joining the EPP, was among the losers in the latest elections. It now has 46 seats, having lost 11 seats.
Although the powers of the European Parliament have been boosted, it is still member states - and the key members among them like Germany and France - that are shaping the European Union’s policies.
The European Parliament elections provide a venue for electors to send warnings to mainstream parties. They are able to take the risk of voting for extremists in an institution that has no direct influence on their lives. Would they vote in the same way if it had been a national election?
Meanwhile, the consequence of a rise in the extreme right or the extreme left is that those who are discontented with the mainstream parties but still against extreme parties become motivated to go to the ballot box next time, in order to curb the rise of extremists on either side of the political spectrum.
As for Turkey; so, we have a European Parliament that is more Turkey skeptic! Not a big deal. There are so many other hurdles to Turkey’s accession process that the European Parliament remains rather miniscule next to them.
So, European capitals will be less favorable to Turkey’s accession talks due to the rise of the Euroskeptics! Well, there is already such a lack of enthusiasm and support among even those favorable to Turkey that becoming less favorable won’t make much of a difference.
At any rate, we have a government that is not interested in a speedy accession process, and is therefore rather indifferent to the fluctuating levels of support it receives from European capitals.
What is more worrying is the effect that extremists will have on the stances of mainstream parties regarding xenophobia and Islamophobia. Whereas mainstream parties should strongly raise their voice against these two dangerous trends, they tend to lay low, fearing that they might lose votes. This in turn fuels further xenophobic and Islamophobic tendencies. Mainstream parties’ weak stances not only negatively affect immigrants and Muslims in Europe, but also provide fertile ground for radical groups outside of Europe - especially for radical Islamists - to recruit more supporters.