EU Elections Panel: Center-Right Parties Do Not Care About Democracy if They Bring the Radical Right to Power

15. May 2024.
EU Elections Panel: Center-Right Parties Do Not Care About Democracy if They Bring the Radical Right to Power 1
foto Gong

In the European Union, we must protect the rule of law, especially at a time when sovereignist and radical options are gaining strength, it was concluded at Gong's discussion on the state of democracy in Europe and the democratization of the European Union after the 2024 elections. Croatian Members of the European Parliament, as well as candidates for the upcoming elections from parliamentary parties, were invited to the discussion. Representatives from Social Democratic Party of Croatia, Platform We can!, and the Independent Platform North joined the discussion.

Professor Dario Čepo from the Faculty of Law in Zagreb presented paper "The State of Democracy in Europe and the Democratization of the European Union after the 2024 Elections", highlighting the issue that some political actors, generally from the same side of the political spectrum, have decided that democracy doesn't have to be the only game in town, as it has been since World War II.

“It is problematic that these actors have decided they can rule through various manipulations, platitudes, populism, while dulling the citizenry and discouraging them from participating in democracy,” said Čepo. He added that he actually disagrees with the frequently heard thesis in public these days that “we must fear the radical right.” Čepo believes it is problematic when “civilized right-center parties, along with some centrist parties that call themselves liberal, say that the far right is as relevant a political actor as any other and that the will of the voters must be respected.”

“These right-centrist and liberal parties should have maintained their sanitary corridor and stated that they will not cooperate with the far right, which is undemocratic and in some parts antisystemic. You cannot claim to be a liberal party or a right-centrist party interested in preserving democracy and at the same time bring a far-right party into government. If you do that, you are not interested in preserving democracy,” Čepo concluded.

Tonino Picula, a candidate from SDP and its partners, emphasized that the European Union is not a federal state, but a community of states, and in the super-election year of 2024, it is important to prevent greater evil. “Now we must prevent a worse evil, a perfect storm,” he stressed, warning about the EU and US elections, Hungary’s presidency of the EU Council, and the situation in China, which could influence foreign policy.

Gordan Bosanac, a candidate from the We can! platform, said that the EU should be viewed in the perspective of the last 70 years, where we see shifts in strengthening democracy.

“It is bad to look at a narrow window and think about catastrophic scenarios. Regarding von der Leyen's mandate, she made significant mistakes in handling the crises that hit the EU. She is in a position, despite aligning with the People’s Party, where she listened to others and pushed some things contrary to the People’s Party. That's why she receives criticism about whether she is the right candidate for the People’s Party,” Bosanac explained.

“Our role is that every country must work on itself. I would prefer to talk about the state of democracy in the country. As long as democracy is not at a satisfactory level in the country, it will not be at the EU level either. One fundamental value of the EU is lost here, which is multiculturalism,” stated Matija Posavec, a candidate from the Independent Platform North and the list of 12 liberal parties. He emphasized that lower turnout in EU elections suits interest groups, not citizens.

Picula believes that the right is gaining strength due to austerity measures and the search for scapegoats in supranational policies. A political offer has emerged that will not disappear. “Despite what they say, the right does not want to leave the Union, and moreover, they have decided to take over a significant part of EU institutions,” he said.

“The thing I see that needs protection in the European Union, related to the decision-making process, is the rule of law. The Green group has no dilemma: without the rule of law, there is no EU. If you do not play by the EU’s rules, you have no place here. This story of blocking funds has some impact, but that's not all. We advocate for the removal of unanimity in some decision-making areas,” Bosanac said.

Čepo emphasized in conclusion that democracy in Europe is weaker than it was 5 or 15 years ago. “The reason for this is that several individuals in the EU, like Ursula von der Leyen and Dubravka Šuica, care more about their careers than about creating a democratic environment for all citizens,” he stated.

Asked what the solutions are, Čepo said: “A lot can be changed without changing the treaties. The first thing is to restore the balance in the relationships between different European institutions. The Parliament and the Commission should stand up to the European Council and its opacity, using mechanisms to hinder and pressure the European Commission and the European Council to be more open. Secondly, it is essential for the European Parliament to insist that no decision can be made without them. The Parliament is an equally relevant actor in every decision, whether it is a directive or the appointment of the new President of the European Commission, and it cannot pass without the agreement of the European Parliament. The European Parliament is the most legitimate of all European institutions, and it is very simple to explain why it should prevail.”

EU Elections Panel: Center-Right Parties Do Not Care About Democracy if They Bring the Radical Right to Power 10
EU Elections Panel: Center-Right Parties Do Not Care About Democracy if They Bring the Radical Right to Power 11