| by Victor Cherubim
( May 29, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) Many in Sri Lanka and abroad would associate the word “direction” with the pop group boy band “One Direction” or known internationally as 1D. This English-Irish, social media powered phenomena, since the release of its album; “Midnight Memories” in 2011 is plumbed in only “One Direction, Up”.
The same may be said of the United Kingdom Independent Party, known as UKIP in British politics. It is “The” up and coming anti-European Union party led by Nigel Farage, which has “created such an upset” by winning UK’s 24 MEP seats in the recently conducted European Parliament elections, in addition it has captured 161 new English Borough Council seats from the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal parties. it has changed the direction of party politics not only in UK, but also in Europe. by shattering the confidence of the main political parties.
European Union leaders, stunned by a massive Eurosceptic protest vote in the recent elections in the 28 EU states have agreed on Tuesday 27 May, 2014, to seek a package deal of appointments to top EU jobs with an economic agenda to win back public confidence
The Rise of the Right
Campaigning from their nations’ withdrawing from the EU and with one voice in curbing immigration, many of the right wing parties around Europe, once thought of as fringe parties, are now in power. “With strong votes for populist anti-immigrant parties winning support in France to Denmark to Greece and UK, voters have lashed out against European integration.”
The anti EU sentiment is blamed on the economic crisis that has brought chronic unemployment and stagnation to much of Europe since 2008.
On the latest projection, the centre Right “European People’s Party”(EPP) of German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, will still be the biggest group in the European Parliament in Brussels. retaining 211 of the 751 seats, with the Socialists and Democrats holding 186 seats. Political commentators state that the anti-system vote will find it hard to block Parliament business.
With Germany having low unemployment, strong exports and a healthy economic growth, the Germans have pushed for austerity all along, whilst France and Italy are pushing for growth, UK has not decided whether she wants to be with either group, but Prime Minister, David Cameron has said he wanted a new President of the European Commission, to succeed Jose Manuel Barroso, to champion “openness, competitiveness and flexibility” rather than being part of the past.
The victory of the National Front (Marine Le Pen), UKIP in Britain (Nigel Farage) and other anti EU Groups has appeared to have jolted European leaders into accepting major reforms of the Union. French President Hollande has echoed Britain’s Cameron and called on the EU to interfere less and focus more on economic growth and jobs. However, the French together with Germany have opposed treaty changes which Britain has demanded before the promised UK Referendum on EU membership in 2017. Thus it remains to be seen if there will be common understanding to replace rhetoric into meaningful reforms.
Trust in the EU has according to the European Commission Eurobarometer poll, collapsed in numerous EU states. The founding principle of “ever closer union” is now being questioned. Where anti-EU sentiment is strong is in the opposition to “free movement of peoples” within Europe. It has been highlighted that this movement has been abused.
The ground reality
We read of 22,000 children living in Poland, of migrant Polish workers in Britain, being supported by the taxpayer in UK. We hear the utter contempt for Rumanians hoping to settle in Britain. We see on TV the many refugees from Iraq Afghanistan, and Syria, squatting in make-shift shelters in France, no comparison to those in the Vanni, in Sri Lanka.
French riot police began bulldozing three Calais migrant camps Wednesday in response to the far right vote in France. As many as 650 so called “refugees” in the vicinity of Calais port, we learn had hoped to “hitch a ride” across to the so called “safe haven” of Britain, with British Immigration officers “awaiting their arrival,” so to speak.
Calais has for years attracted floods of immigrants, who flee poverty or conflict. Jalal, an Iraqi in his 20’s, is reported to have said: “I’ll have to move my tent somewhere else........ but I am staying put in Calais. What else can I do? I will try again to make the crossing. I did not come here just to give up now”. Small wonder the British voter is paranoid with immigration.
The Big question is “Will Europe change” or “Will Britain Leave Europe”? Outdated and outmoded notions of EU integration will be put to the test in the months to follow. But that does not mean that the EU does not have anything to offer. It remains as everyone knows an important trading bloc and will continue to do so in the future, so long as Germany is the engine that will lead the train.