EU leaders to ‘digest’ voter rebuff in Brussels

27th May 2014


EU leaders converge on Brussels shortly to assess the weekend’s electoral jolt delivered by euroskeptic and far-right parties. France’s President Francois Hollande has called for a reduced EU role. 

Leaders of the 28-nation EU bloc converged on Brussels later Tuesday to take stock of stinging rebukes from voters, especially in France and Britain, in the European parliamentary elections.

EU leaders were due to hold a preliminary discussion about who should get the job of  next European Commission president at their informal dinner in the Belgian capital.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose conservatives won Germany’s European parliamentary poll on Sunday, said her goal was to win back voters elsewhere in Europe through policies of growth and job creation.

Merkel described the overall results as “regrettable.”

French President Francois Hollande (pictured) whose governing Socialists were relegated to third place by France’s far-right National Front and the main opposition UMP, went on television on Monday to accuse Brussels of being “remote and incomprehensible” for many EU citizens.

“This cannot continue. Europe has to be simple, clear, to be effective where it is needed and to withdraw from where it is not necessary,” Hollande said.

He said that policies of austerity in the eurozone since the outbreak of the global financial crisis in 2008 had damaged European integration.

“Europe, in the last two years, has overcome the euro crisis, but at what price? An austerity that has ended up disheartening the people.”

French prime minister Manuel Valls promised more tax cuts for low earners but insisted that France would maintain its efforts to bring its deficit into line with EU criteria.

“Until unemployment falls, until purchasing power rises, until taxes drop, the French won’t believe us,” Valls told RTL radio.

Barroso upbeat

European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso, whose term ends in October, put a gloss on the  overall electoral outcome, saying a pro-EU camp of center-right, center-left and centrists would still have a “very solid and workable majority” in the new 751-seat European Parliament.

Parliament’s latest projections put the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) on 213 seats, with the Socialists on 190 and the ALDE Liberals on 64, followed by the Greens on 53.

Anti-EU and eurosceptic sentiment account for about 140 seats in all. To form an official Parliamentary group, parties must group together at least 25 MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) from a minimum of seven of the EU’s 28 member states.

Britain’s euroskeptic United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) won more seats than any mainstream British party. But, it ruled out an alliance with the National Front, saying the French party was too closely tied to racism and anti-Semitism.

Final results from Poland

Poland’s electoral commission released final results on Tuesday, showing the ruling Civic Platform (PO) a notch ahead of the main opposition party, Law and Justice (PiS).

Each won 19 seats, the final results showed. In percentage terms, Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s PO took 32.1 percent while PiS won 31.8 percent, the commission said.

Five seats went to the PO’s partner, the post-communist Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) and four seats went to the Peasants’ Party (PSL).

Following the Europe-wide trend, Poland’s anti-EU newcomer New Right (Nowa Prawica) party led by Janusz Korwin-Mikke surged to fourth, gaining four seats.

ipj/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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