Next May’s European parliamentary elections could reshape the bloc’s political landscape if nationalist, far-right parties win support and consolidate their political power in Brussels. Europe’s populist, anti-establishment movements – those evolved from street demonstrations and those currently in power – are “all potentially authoritarian,” Mrs Gnesotto said in an interview published in Le Figaro daily on Friday. She said: “These [nationalist movements] respond to the desires of vulnerable populations, for whom the need for authority has become far greater than the need for personal freedoms.”
Anti-Europe political groups do not want to follow in the footsteps of Britain and leave the European Union because they know full well it would be “an economic catastrophe,” she continued.
What they really want is to “transform” the established European order.
She stressed, before explaining that the surge in support for radical populist movements stemmed from Europe’s “internal crisis”: “They want a Europe that is more authoritative, fortress-like, more xenophobic and more social.”
When asked to name the biggest challenge currently facing the bloc, she said: “Europe’s internal crisis is its biggest challenge. Because it is both a social challenge and a democratic challenge.”
She added: “Globalisation is great news for poor countries, but in rich countries it is two-faced and allows inequalities to soar.
“You see it in France, where it has weakened the middle class. But all European countries are victims – in different ways – of this crisis.”
This “middle-class crisis” has reached all industrialised countries, even the United States, Mrs Gnesotto warned: “It is a deep crisis exacerbated by the fact that Europeans have no control over the future of globalisation”.
The rise of far-right populism and the rejection of globalisation are serious issues “that call into question European prosperity, markets and budgets, but also the bloc’s democratic values,” she added.
European parliamentary elections in May – framed as a battle between centrist, pro-EU parties and nationalist far-right formations that want to stop immigration and globalisation – are expected to shake up the political landscape.
Asked whether the Brussels bloc will collapse after the UK leaves in March, Mrs Gnesotto stressed that Brexit “is an exception – a special case”.
She said: “The British made a sovereign decision to leave Europe, which they have never embraced with enthusiasm. If anything, fears of what will happen to the UK post-Brexit have had a dissuasive effect on other member states and movements also toying with the idea of leaving.
“There is little risk of contagion from Brexit, although I do think it will have a transformational effect on the bloc.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday abruptly decided to pull a parliamentary vote on her Brexit deal, throwing Britain’s plans to leave the bloc into disarray on the eve of the vote, amid repeated warnings from MPs she faced a crushing defeat.
While there was no immediate official announcement, the decision to halt the vote set for Tuesday was widely reported and not denied.
The Speaker’s office said Mrs May would give a statement to the House of Commons on the EU at 3.30pm.
The report that she planned to cancel the vote came just hours after a top EU court ruled that Britain could unilaterally revoke its divorce notice.