Sprouts of nationalism all over Europe have been the major symptom of what is perceived to be the main threat for the European integration process for the upcoming European elections.
Nationalist or right-wing populists are breeding discontent and preparing to gain seats in the EP in most of the EU member states, especially the most populated ones. What happens next is the key question.
There are different options. Option number one is for nationalists to unite in one group in the Parliament and try to hamper any integration-related or solidarity-based law-making process. They wouldn’t have the majority, but as there will not be a big winner out of the elections, inevitably a number of the other groups should be able to find a common ground large enough to isolate nationalists and make them irrelevant. The exit strategy is clear, still, this is the most worrisome scenario.
Option two is that nationalists are not able to find an agreement to affiliate in one group only in the Parliament. This may happen because of country-related circumstances. For instance, the Spanish party Vox is now having talks with ECR. And ECR is not expected to be the house for all nationalists. This scenario is actually the most realistic one. At the end of the day, nationalists are expected to care first of their Nations-related interests – or better saying considered to be so. Thus, although it would be a quite short-sighted choice, they might decide not to commit energies and time into creating a European platform for their agendas. This scenario would help and hamper pro-Europeans parties at the same time.
Indeed, on the one hand, the scattering presence of nationalists in different groups would make them weaker in terms of representation of an anti-integration agenda. But on the other hand, it can potentially make like much more complicated for pro-Europeans to find agreements for the laws to pass over the mandate and, even before that, for a coalition to form the European Commission to be agreed.
Overall, it will be a matter of who gets how many votes. Just as always.
The idea that nationalists are the same in each EU member state is wrong. The future of the EU is not at stake because the exact same conformation of nationalists is popping up vigorously in each and every country. They vary remarkably from one country to another. And they are relatively young, politically speaking, on the European stage.
The popularity of nationalism is the main symptom of a more profound malaise, not the malaise itself. Pro-European parties on the entire political spectrum should be more focused on addressing that malaise and find electoral strategies for it, rather than bracing themselves waiting for the end. The end is not here yet. And until that day, they have a responsibility to deliver.