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Europe swings right, what are you gonna do about it?

Italian Hanze-student Marco Siciliano is worried about the current rightward trend in European politics, but he won’t have a chance to vote for the European Parliament tomorrow. He decided to instead write about what’s at stake tomorrow.

The ballot boxes are opening tomorrow. The last few days, I wake up seeing the headlines of newspapers and magazines about the European elections growing in size and importance. I’m a chronical latecomer: the deadline to submit the documents to be eligible to vote for the Dutch candidates has expired more than a month ago and return flights to my home country show prices that are hardly affordable for a student on a budget.

Realising that, like many other international students, I won’t be able to share my vote, I thought about sharing my voice on the matter instead. Even if, based on my article, only one peer decides to go out and vote, I will have made peace with the fact that I won’t be able to.

How do the EU elections work?

This year, 720 Members of the European Parliament will be elected. What you need to remember is that each elected MEP will also join a European group that aligns the most with the national party that the soon-to-be MEP belongs to.

For instance: if you are going to vote for a member of the Partij Van De Arbeid (Dutch Labour Party), the same person (if elected as an MEP) will join the EU Parliament in the Party of European Socialists (S&D).

Although understanding completely the agenda of the groups in the Parliament requires some investment of time, below you can find attached the manifesto of some of the parties that will compete in these elections:

The current rumours are reflected in the poll predictions of POLITICO. These highlight quite a clear trend: the centre-right EPP is expected to hold the majority of elected MEPs, with the S&D holding a second place, while the liberals of Renew Europe along with the hard conservatives of ECR will be sharing a third place. Dulcis in fundo? The far-right group Identity and Democracy (ID), with no presented manifesto, is expected to score a record of elected MEPs.

The question that students must answer is whether we want to be indifferent to this political trend. These might be the most decisive European elections of the last decades, and yet, the unawareness of college students like me on the matter fosters the danger of having to deal with future measures with which we will potentially disagree but still must respect.

The feeling of indifference is not even that condemnable though. Thinking that the EU is still upholding the same democratic values it has been founded on is a matter of debate. After all, even the president of the commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has never been elected by European voters, but rather chosen behind closed doors after the candidacy of Manfred Weber, the winner of the 2019 EU Parliament elections, was blocked by Emmanuel Macron and other government leaders.

Regardless of the feeling of Euroscepticism backed by the concerns of a distorted democracy, the Old Continent has the power to determine the outcomes of several global dynamics that are currently at play, some of which I will elaborate on below.

Wars and conflicts

The International Court of Justice has recently demanded a ceasefire to Israel’s military operations in Rafah, clarifying that additional killings and incursions will represent an implied act of genocide. It was followed by the official recognition of Palestine as an independent state by Ireland, Norway, and Spain on May 28th (now 143 countries recognize the latter’s sovereignty) which sounds like a formal kick in the retrocheeks of selective moralism, hitherto expressed by major Western powers.

Although it’s unlikely that unified solidarity among states will be reached after the elections, we can expect the new MEPs to work towards more commonalities in the foreign policy of Europe, especially in regards to the ongoing war in the Middle East. On this topic, EU Matrix tries to foresee where each party will side in the Israeli-Palestine dispute by taking into account the voting behaviour of the governing politicians in each European country.

It appears that the centre-right alliance EPP (European People’s Party) alongside the ECR (European Conservatives and Reformists) are expected to share more sympathy for Israel in the dispute, whereas the S&D (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) and other left-wing parties will support the Palestinian cause.

Ukraine and Russia

The emerging European foreign policy in regard to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict carries no less importance. There is optimism after the recent approval of the Ukraine Facility measure of the European Council as well as the ongoing discussions to allocate Russian frozen foreign reserve funds to strengthen aid for Ukraine.

Nevertheless, several right-wing parties such as the AfD (Alternative for Germany), recently expelled by the European group Identity and Democracy, and the PVV (Partij voor de Vrijheid) in The Netherlands report scepticism towards more financial aid sent to Ukraine as well as resentment for sanctions towards Russia. This stance finds its extreme in the recent attempt of Victor Orban’s Hungary to block financial aid towards Ukraine, defining a substantial chunk of European powers that will eventually risk hindering future economic support, humanitarian aid, and military supplies for Ukraine.

Rest of the world

Current times are defined by uncertainty on multiple fronts. The new face of the EU will have to deal with more than two wars destabilising the geopolitical balance of the world. From the concern of military presence of China and Russia in Africa to the threatened stability of the Sahel. Let’s not forget about the ongoing conflicts in Yemen, Myanmar, Sudan, and Congo. The new Parliament will reveal whether the EU will remain faithful to its liberal values of democracy or will change towards a more cynical approach.


Immigration secures a solid high relevance as a topic for the soon-to-be MEPs as well as for their political campaign. What’s certain in the atmosphere surrounding these elections is that populism sticks to immigration as much as hagelslag does to butter on Dutch toast.

The correlation between popular support of radical right-wing parties with migration and unemployment has been recently analysed by a group of lecturers and researchers of Political Behavior at the University of Madrid. This paper sheds light on a social dynamic that sounds quite familiar: the higher the presence of unemployed migrants in a country, the higher the likelihood that workers belonging to the low and middle class will vote for populist right-wing parties. It doesn’t come as a surprise then that governments opposing the EU have conspired to send war refugees to undermine the political stability of the Old Continent (as happened with Lukashenko’s weaponized migration in 2021).

What’s at stake at these elections is also going to be the extent to which the EU parliament will deal with the recent lack of impact on immigration policy of The Council and the European Commission. In July of last year, Ursula Von der Leyen together with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, stipulated a ‘comprehensive partnership package’ with Tunisia’s president Kaïs Saïed. Amongst all the pretty words of mutual support, the European agreement would have financed Saïed with more than 100 million of euros to halt the flow of migrants departing from the Tunisian shores. The result? More than 150 thousand migrants have reached the coasts of Italy in 2023, 61% of which originating from Tunisia. Furthermore, Saïed has not really proven to boast a remarkable ethical profile in its approaches to deal with migrants and asylum seekers ( see Tunisian authorities’ violations of migrants’ rights).

Nowadays, the elected members will have to discuss the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, which aims at reforming and introducing the rules to manage the reception and relocation of asylum seekers. Obviously, different alliances in the Parliament have different ideas about the New Pact.

As reported by Euronews, the ruling EPP sides for tripling the controls at the Frontex, favouring the deals made with migrants’ countries of origin to halt them, while working on policies that compel those countries to take back the same migrants. The political group S&D advocates for strengthening the borders while ensuring decent reception conditions for the migrants and promoting integration policies for asylum seekers in the European labour market. The Greens call for more cooperation and shared responsibility amongst EU states on managing and relocating the flow of migrants. Amongst the implementations suggested by the same political group there is the introduction of special visas to support victims of natural disasters, as well as the opposition to ‘unethical deals’ with presidents of migrants’ countries of origins. The ECR, in contrast, opposes the option of relocation mentioned in the New Pact, advocating for stronger border infrastructures, for the externalisation of migrants’ management, and for naval blockades in the Mediterranean Sea.


What we are called to elect are the members upon which the EU will test its values of transparency. The latter wasn’t really amongst the starring characteristics of Europe in recent years. After all, the Qatar gate bribery, in the form of suitcases filled with thousands of euros, remains quite fresh as a memory in the minds of the European citizens. Moreover, the investigations of the independent platform Follow the Money, reveals that dozens of MEPs have been recently involved in scandals, most of which were left unpunished. As a matter of fact, in the last five years, the Parliament tried to reclaim millions of euros from several MEPs who allegedly misused their monthly allowance (which is supposed to cover costs of their staff, agents, service providers, daily expenses, etc…).

In her last book (see Who’s watching Bruxelles?), the journalist Lise Witteman points out the presence of MEPs owning shares of large companies while being involved in the legislation influencing the sectors to which those companies belong. Lise further highlights the risks of favouritism encouraged by the current legislation, where EU lawmakers aren’t allowed to employ family members as assistants, but there is no rule preventing them from hiring their partner(s) or relatives of their colleagues.

Climate crisis

At the centre of the agenda of several political groups is the European Green Deal. The latter includes multiple sustainable reforms, but the key figures are about planting 3 billion trees, lowering emissions by more than half by 2030, and becoming the first carbon-neutral continent by 2050.

Widespread discontent in multiple EU countries has not gone unnoticed.

Increased competition due to imports (see Poland farmers protest imports from Ukraine), heavier regulation, and raising prices are the most common perceived injustices implied by the green transition driving protests from farmer unions.

Manifestoes from the EPP, the S&D, and RE express general solidarity for the Green Deal. The Greens advocate for greater investment, including an intention to regulate AI that doesn’t hamper the environment, and siding for a Europe that uses its influence to encourage greener initiatives beyond the continent boundaries. Conversely, the ECR calls for a revision of the deal, defining the discussed green policies as ‘over-ideological’ while siding with farmers and promoting the commercial availability of internal combustion engines for years to come.

This article has been an attempt to summarise some of the topics at stake in the new European Parliament and the position of some of the predicted winning alliances.

How far can a ‘right-wing’ Europe go is a question that will eventually be answered in the next five years. A period that for students like us symbolises a transition from university towards the job environment, from early adulthood to maturity, carrying consequences upon which we cannot refrain from being influenced.

Photo: Marco Siciliano (c)