MADRID – The run-up to next month’s European Parliament election has been characterized by a stifling tension between pro- and anti-Europeans. Surveys show that the two main political forces, conservatives and social democrats, are still running close (and far ahead of the rest); however the rise of populism is deeply worrying to everyone who believes in European unity – not only conservatives and social democrats, but also liberals and greens.
Parties like the National Front in France or the United Kingdom’s Independence Party could become front-runners in their respective countries, and they are not alone. In Finland, Austria, Holland, Hungary, Greece, and elsewhere, anti-European parties and more traditional Euroskeptics are benefiting from growing disillusion with Europe’s institutions, the remedies used to combat Europe’s ongoing economic crisis, and the widening division between the European Union’s north and south. Despite a rapid succession of significant steps, citizens throughout the EU sense too little improvement where it matters most – in their everyday lives.