The triumph of Marine Le Pen ’s National Front (FN) at the first round of the French municipal elections on March 23rd is a profoundly worrying phenomenon for France and for Europe.
Supporting strong anti-EU and anti-immigration policies, the FN won for the first time since 1995 the mayoralty of a town in France’s industrial north, and in six other towns they won between 28% and 40% of the votes.The increasing strength of Le Pen ’s populist party shows that there is a high possibility that it might win the European elections in May.
The chances that populist parties might gain a significant portion of seats in the European Parliament are not remote. In Italy for example, Beppe Grillo’s Party, The 5 Star Movement, has currently reached a support of 25.3% in the surveys, while the Democratic Party is at 30.5%.
Mme Le Pen ’s continuous ascent should serve as an alarm bell not only for France, but also for the other European countries. In fact, the spread of populist parties, mostly EU-skeptics focused on the abandonment of the common currency and on strong protectionist measures, is diffusing all across the Old Continent.
From the UK independence Party in Britain, to the Finns Party (Perussuomalaiset) in Finland, and from the Dutch right-wing Freedom Party of Geert Wilders to the Coalition of the Radical left in Greece.
These movements represent a concrete threat to a greater European integration because they are the political expression of a common disenchantment.
Many Europeans share a discontent with the austerity imposed by Brussels and with a European Union that feels more and more remote and very intrusive at the same time.
It seems that even though the European Union has been long established, there is still not a shared sense of ‘Europeanism’ and this is probably the biggest challenge for Brussels and for the supporters of the Union in the next decades.
As Massimo d’Azeglio might say, “We’ve made Europe, now we have to make the Europeans”.