Analysis. The European far right, particularly its pro-NATO wing, has turned its back on the ‘exit’ strategy and is embracing something like entryism in the EU instead, aiming to transform it into a ‘Europe of Nations.’

No more exits: The right wants to change Europe from within

They’re paying visits, making contacts and hatching schemes ahead of next year’s European elections, to coordinate in the Council and take up seats in Strasbourg: the European far right, particularly its pro-NATO wing, has turned its back on “exit” and is embracing something like entryism in the EU instead, aiming to change Europe from within – toward a so-called “Europe of nations.”

The European People’s Party, Europe’s largest political group, is giving them a smooth path forward, with its group leader, Manfred Weber, aiming for an agreement with the conservatives of the ECR, which include Fratelli d’Italia as well as the Polish PiS.

Meloni and Morawiecki met on Wednesday in Warsaw. The alliance, cemented by the issue of closing borders to immigration, is now finding new common ground: the impulse to curb the Green Deal.

Despite the splintering of the Visegrad Group and Hungary’s relative marginalization due to the war in Ukraine, Orbán’s legacy is still at work. In addition to Italy and Poland, the far-right ally is advancing across Europe: in Sweden, Finland and Latvia, and perhaps even Spain, where elections will take place on July 23.

For now, the EPP has been unable to set a date for its congress, which will have to decide whether to propose a particular figure, and which one, as the group’s single candidate (Spitzenkandidat) for the presidency of the next European Commission that will take up office after the June 2024 European vote.

If everything worked as in the past, it would be simple: Ursula von der Leyen, the current president, is from the CDU (part of PPE) and seems to have every intention of running again, even though the U.S. would want her at the head of NATO (Stoltenberg has been confirmed for another year in the meantime).

Still, the situation is unclear: von der Leyen is delaying her decision, and the traditional “grand coalition” between the EPP and Socialists and Democrats (S&D) already had to expand to include the liberals from Renew in 2019.

The predictions for next year’s European elections are that the three main forces will decline: the EPP will have to deal with the crisis of the French LR (polling at below 5 percent), as well as that of Forza Italia. S&D will have a similar problem with the French PS, in a state of confusion between the Nupes left-wing alliance and the idea of the old social democracy; and Renew will also pay the price for Macron’s unpopularity.

We now find ourselves before the paradox that at the start of Spain’s six-month presidency of the EU Council, Pedro Sánchez (PSoE) explicitly threw his support behind the Christian Democrat von der Leyen, while her compatriot, EPP group leader Manfred Weber (CSU), is waging a more and more overt war to win for himself the role of Spitzenkandidat for the conservatives (he already had it in 2019, but he lost the post of Commission president after Emmanuel Macron’s move in favor of the outsider von der Leyen).

Weber is trying to weave a PPE-ECR alliance, getting rid of the Socialists and splitting Renew. It is not just a political maneuver, but the outline of a common program: immigration first, with the images from France certainly helping, even if the topic is objectively divisive because it pits everyone against everyone, each one ready to dump the “burden” on their neighbor.

But by now there is momentum building against the Commission’s Green Deal, a “project” of the Commission (led by Vice-President Frans Timmermans, a Socialist). Von der Leyen has stressed, in a clear message to Weber, that “climate change is a fact” that cannot be denied, and “we have an idea, we have a vision” that “you can have prosperity while protecting nature and the environment.”

The prospects of the tentative anti-ecology alliance between the EPP and ECR will become clearer with the floor vote (in July or September) on the Nature Restoration Act, which aims to adopt the Montreal Agreement on Biodiversity, with the goal of restoring at least 30 percent of degraded land and sea areas by 2030 (and has already been stopped in three parliamentary committees).

So far, the EPP has voted in favor of some 30 provisions (out of 50) of the Green Deal, together with S&D, the Greens and Renew, against the extreme right-wingers. But the understanding with the extreme right has been built on the defense of farmers and intensive production techniques (pesticides), invoking the fear of food shortages and inflation.

The liberal Netherlands is hesitating in the face of recent electoral successes of the agrarian far right; and Belgium’s Alexandre de Croo has called for “hitting the pause button,” following Macron’s concerns about overregulation.

The Lega would like to join the new alliance. But the Germans are rejecting the Identity group, where the extreme right AfD sits. Weber has said that those who want a partnership with the EPP must be “pro-European, pro-Ukraine and pro rule of law.” But Morawiecki’s PiS Poland is being given a free pass for being pro-Ukraine only.

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