21 Mar 2024, 14:04
Julian Wettengel

Pro-European parties should focus on national issues in EU election campaigns - think tank

Clean Energy Wire

European parliamentary hopefuls have been urged against campaigning on the EU’s successes in dealing with issues such as climate change and COVID-19, as polls show many citizens do not recognise the positive progress made on the crises, said the think tank European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). In response to an anticipated rightwing surge in the EU Parliament election, mainstream parties seem to be imitating rightwing policies on migration or promoting a narrative of the EU’s success by focusing on its response to the climate crisis, the pandemic, and Russia’s war on Ukraine, it said. However, since EU elections are mainly decided at the national level, more targeted campaigns are necessary, taking national conditions into account, argued ECFR. In Germany, for example, voters of the far-right AfD are highly mobilised, with 71 percent saying they would "definitely" vote in the EU elections (compared to 64% of CDU/CSU voters). Any campaign in the country should be about mobilising voters for the pro-European parties, by underlining the stakes of this election, for example by "stressing the risks of an asymmetrically high mobilisation among anti-Europeans for different issue areas (such as the EU’s environmental, social, and economic laws), or presenting the European Parliament election as a test of whether the far right could be stopped on a national level," said ECFR.

Voters in the EU will head to the polls on 6-9 June 2024 to elect the next European Parliament, which helps shape the bloc’s climate policy for the next five years. ECFR's poll was conducted in January 2024 in twelve EU countries that account for three-quarters of seats in the European Parliament (Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, and Sweden).

ECFR also asked people to confront a hypothetical trade-off between the two goals of pursuing climate ambitions and avoiding the rise of energy bills. In most countries polled – apart from Sweden and Portugal – more people preferred to reduce energy bills rather than prioritising climate action. Half of respondents in Germany agreed with the statement "if it was up to me, European governments should do all possible to reduce energy bills, even if that means missing carbon emissions targets" – the highest share in all surveyed countries. Only 21 percent agreed with "if it was up to me, European governments should do all possible to reduce carbon emissions, even if that means energy bills would need to rise" (13% said they agreed with neither statement, and 14% said "don't know").

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