News Analysis: Election results highlighting populism setback helps re-focus Europe on integration bid

BEIJING, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Results in European countries' elections so far this year are expected to help bring Europe back on the track of reform in further efforts towards integration after disruptions of a surge in populism.

A clear majority in parliament for new French President Emmanuel Macron as a result of Sunday's elections in France represents the latest setback for populism out of a series in Europe.

A 39-year-old president with the parliamentary support of his one-year-old party has turned out to be the French electorate's final choice. It joined answers elsewhere in Europe to a worrying surge in populism in Western countries highlighted by the Brexit and Donald Trump's taking presidential power in the United States.

European Union advocates first breathed a sigh of relief when the Dutch elections in mid-March put the far-right Party for Freedom PVV in disadvantage with parliament seats far fewer than projected.

They further relaxed earlier in June when Italy's anti-establishment Five-Star Movement known in Italy by its Italian acronym M5S lost the latest round of municipal polls deemed as the weathercock of general elections.

Europe's next key elections scheduled for September in Germany seems to have no suspense due to the strong performance by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party in local votes, which supports her re-election, said Zheng Chunrong, director of the Germany studies center at the Shanghai-based Tongji University.

Such a scenario has undoubtedly dismissed a predicted populist tsunami to sweep Europe.

A Washington Post article commented that the string of election results showed the European public support for pro-EU leaders and a rise in pro-EU sentiment.

Merkel congratulated Macron on a "clear parliamentary majority" for his five-year presidency while wishing for "further good cooperation for Germany, France, Europe."

As early as after Macron winning the presidential race in May, European media reports have shifted to a return to the Germany-France engine in further efforts towards European integration.

The Macron victory was also deemed as reinforcing the European pillar of the U.S.-dominated Western military alliance NATO, something to benefit the Western world as a whole.

Zheng believes that Paris and Berlin would have to coordinate efforts in pushing forward the European integration, because "they have different priorities," namely a multi-speed Europe in collective defense for Berlin, and eurozone reforms for Paris.

The Chinese expert also noted that the EU's pressing challenge is how to cope with the Brexit negotiations begun on June 19 in Brussels, and to convince Europeans that the EU is a trouble shooter instead of a trouble maker.

Meanwhile, as the election results bring up new opportunities, the EU should not underestimate the uncertainty and instability it faces in consequence of interweaving political, economic and social problems within as well as complexities and changes on the global landscape.

Just as what French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe has commented, that "French voters have in their vast majority preferred hope to anger, optimism to pessimism, confidence to withdrawal," the conditions for populism to grow, including economic slump, society splitting, refugee crisis and terror attack threats.

For example, discontents in voters were marked by a projected historic low turnout and the first-time entry into parliament by Marine Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigration far-right National Front, in the French parliamentary elections.

Feng Zhongping, vice president of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, believes that whatever election results this year, an emerging shift to the right in Europe would impact both of the EU's internal and external policies.

[ Editor: Xueying ]


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