Millions of Europeans have voted and are still voting in elections for the European Parliament – a remarkable event in which 27 countries come together and participate in an exercise of direct democracy within the EU bloc.

These elections are important because they will help shape Europe’s future at a delicate time in its history when it is facing a number of threats – both internal and external. The European Parliament is no longer just a talking shop – thanks to the Lisbon Treaty, it has vastly expanded powers in the co-decision procedure for all major European policy areas – so its new composition is important.

There is no doubt at all that the EU is a huge success story – it has brought about peace, stability and prosperity on an unprecedented scale and it has to a large extent consolidated democracy and the rule of law within the Union. The fact that 27 countries, which are bound together by shared values, pool their sovereignty in the common interest of Europe in nothing short of remarkable – and it has enabled the EU to act as a key player on the global stage.

Our democracies, as well as our European values, must, however, never be taken for granted, and need to be continuously defended and fought for.

Last week’s moving ceremonies in France commemorating the 80th anniversary of D-Day – which laid the foundation of the Allied victory on the Western Front in World War II – should be a reminder of this. D-Day should also remind us of the importance of the transatlantic alliance – which could be tested after November’s US presidential elections.

Europe’s biggest enemy today is without doubt apathy and allowing others –namely populist, far-right parties – to shape the bloc’s agenda. As European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said, “vote, or others will decide for you”.

Hopefully, Metsola’s warning has been heeded by the European electorate. The new European Parliament will be faced with a number of challenges – security, defence, migration, the war in Ukraine, climate change, making Europe more competitive, Russia undermining our democracies, cybersecurity, EU expansion, consolidating the transatlantic alliance, as well as having to deal with the fact that a good number of MEPs elected from various populist blocs will not be truly committed to European values and ideals.

Europe’s biggest enemy today is without doubt apathy and allowing others – namely populist, far-right parties – to shape the bloc’s agenda

It is important, therefore, that MEPs from as many political groupings as possible cooperate togther  to find common solutions for the long-term benefit of all Europeans.  Compromises will inevitably have to be made – as long as these do not violate Europe’s core values. 

A good number of pre-election polls have predicted that various right-wing populist parties will gain seats in this election – largely due to concerns over immigration and the cost of living – and will become a force to be reckoned with, thus threatening the traditional dominance of the centrist pro-European parties.

Any increase in support for eurosceptic parties at a time when Europe needs to put up a united front will obviously make things more difficult but we will have to wait to see the final results in order to get a clearer picture of the situation.

It is important to point out, however, that Europe’s right-wing parties are not a united bloc and there exist clear differences betwen the two main right-wing groupings that are expected to increase in support, namely the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, headed by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who seems to be moving towards the political mainstream  and the Identity and Democracy Group, which is far more populist and eurosceptic.

We hope that the new European Parliament will live up to its expecations and lay the groundwork for a Europe that has the confidence to overcome its challenges and consolidate its values and democracy. There is a lot at stake.

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