Cross-Border Cooperation Among Nationalists: The Irony of the European Elections

The 2014 European Parliament elections have raised hopes for thefirst truly European elections. In the Central East European region, however, the only signs ofa cross-border dimension to this event ironically originate with the Ruch Narodowy and the Jobbik, two extremely nationalistic and Eurosceptic parties of Poland and Hungary. The 2014 elections to the European Parliament have now for some time raised hopes for a genuinely European election. The European Parliament itself has been at the forefront of the efforts to boost a pan-European debate prior to the EP vote, which, with its slogan claiming “This time it's different” indicates a rather symbolic moment in the history of Euro-elections. The fact that the respective EP factions are going to present their candidates for the head of the European Commission is only one example of the European Parliament's efforts to mobilize European citizens and arrange for an election that would be marked by debates on European issues and involve a truly pan-European exchange.

Upon zooming in on the CEE region, two things can be concluded as noteworthy. Firstly, the respective national political parties cannot be said to have started introducing their political programs and candidates for the EP election in a very eager manner. Even though one can observe a somewhat greater discussion of European issues than has been previously the case, reluctance in this regard is more prominent. Many parties have not even announced yet which EP faction they would join if elected. Secondly – and somewhat ironically – it turns out to be the two far-right nationalist and Eurosceptic political movements, the Polish Ruch Narodowy (the National Movement) and the Hungarian Jobbik (the Movement for a Better Hungary), which have through their cooperation managed to transcend the national borders in Europe. The cooperation will involve the exchange of candidates in the EP elections. These two formations are connected by a Eurosceptic and hard-right, many would even say extremist, outlook. Calls for national sovereignty and the lack of a truly European agenda – besides the stress on the need to reconsider EU membership – is what they share. It remains to be seen whether their nationalistic program will allow for the cross-border cooperation between them to take place. Some argue that the less extreme Eurosceptic parties do not want to be associated with formations such as Ruch Narodowy or Jobbik. However, it is questionable whether it will be this attitude, which will preclude these parties' success in the upcoming election. A few things suggest that these extremist parties may stand a chance in the EP elections.

Firstly , the recent crisis in the Euro area has weakened confidence in  EU institutions. It has been also long pointed out that the mainstream, especially government political parties are at a disadvantage in these “second-order elections,” as voters tend to punish them to give them a signal in their mid-term. Last, but certainly not least, low voter turnout has been characteristic for the Euro-elections, which is especially true in the CEE region. This means that even a relatively few votes may get a party into the European Parliament. Low voter turnout has recently, after all, been a significant factor in the electoral success of the Slovak nationalist Marian Kotleba. Still, as the electoral fiasco of the movement in the previous Euro-elections shows, not everyone striking the Euroskeptic chord is in for a success.