In the aftermath of the Euro elections: Reading the signs

Jun 14, 2024 | PRAY, World Watch

Very early on the morning the results of the European elections were announced, I woke with a strong sense that we are heading deeper into times of shaking. Ours is a generation and a nation that has been blessed to live largely at peace and in relative comfort, but we don’t have to look far to see that these are by no means ‘automatic’ blessings that we can take for granted.

With wars in Europe (Ukraine) and in the Middle East, extreme weather events increasing around the world, and the financial base of most nations being far less solid than governments would like to pretend, there are genuine reasons to be deeply concerned about the future. Even for those of us who live under the rule of the Prince of Peace, there will certainly be trouble in this world, whether in the secular sense of that word, or as result of spiritual oppression or both. But for the many who do not know Him, and who do not have His peace, it is our privilege to minister it to them by prayer and action.

Whereas European elections tended to go under the radar and all but unnoticed for most people in Britain in the days when we were sending MEPs to Brussels and Strasbourg (The European Parliament is the largest such elected assembly in the world) they are taken far more seriously abroad. Although centrist parties remain in a majority, the predicted swing to the right has occurred, particularly in certain countries that we will highlight in this report. So although Ursula von der Leyen is celebrating the fact that the centre right have strengthened their hold on power, the situation is complex, and therefore important to unpack and pray into. Not least because while some hardliners may become more moderate in tone and outlook once faced with the reality of power, other centrists tend to drift further to the right. In other words, starting positions are not encased in concrete. So let’s buckle up for the ride and do our best to approach this topic in as open (as opposed to as narrowly partisan) a way as as we possibly can.

The Consequences of the European swing to the right

In Germany, the ultra-right AfD did very well, being the leading party in the former East Germany, as well as being the most popular amongst 16-24 yar olds. Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his Social Democrats are deeply unpopular, and will not be looking forward to the electoral marathon that gets under way later this year. In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party achieved victory for the first time in its existence, with the stated aim of opposing the shipment of arms to Ukraine and the imposition of sanctions against Russia, as well as declaring that it will halve what it gives to the EU.

In France, Marine le Pen’s extreme right-wing National Rally party trounced President Macron’s Renew (Renaissance) party more or less 2-1. Faced with such losses, Macron felt he had no choice but to call a snap parliamentary election several years ahead of schedule.

Macron is doubtless hoping that the far-right parties are sufficiently at odds with each other that this will prevent the National Rally movement (the rebadged National Front) from replicating their success on the European stage in these domestic elections. That, however, is every bit as much of a risk as David Cameron took in holding a national referendum concerning the EU. There is a high probability that the liberal President Macron will find himself obliged to serve the rest of his term as president power-sharing with a far-right Prime Minister: namely the 28-year-old Jordan Bardellae, who has already risen to the rank of President of his party. This young media star is hugely popular and influential amongst young people, who, for the most part are dissatisfied with Macron, whom they regard as distant and impersonal figure.

It goes without saying that all this would make it still more difficult than it already is for Emmanuel Macron to get virtually any measure past the National Assembly.

For her part, Jordan’s backer and promoter, Marine le Pen, will then put her name forward in the next Presidential election, to fulfil her long-term desire. Her party may not be quite as overtly forthright as it was in the days when it was led by her Holocaust denying father, Jean-Marie le Pen, but do bear in mind that Marine le Pen used to campaign with a picture of herself alongside President Putin on the front of her leaflets, right up until after Russia had invaded Ukraine. The fact that is has received nine million euros in gifts from Moscow is another indicator that the National Rally is highly unlikely to be well disposed towards Ukraine.

Europhiles regard the prospect of a government led by the National Rally as a far bigger threat to the EU that it has ever faced before. Far more so, even, that Britain’s departure from the EU. See this article and also this article.

With the best will in the world, it is hard not to let the mind dwell on the inevitable shadow of past Fascist regimes in Europe. I am too young to have experienced it – but even I can remember the dramatic change in atmosphere I felt after crossing the Pyrenees from France and entering Spain under General Franco, its Fascist leader.

The effect of the right-wing surge on Ukraine

Furiously though Russia labels Ukrainians as right-wing Fascists, the fact is that Ukraine is at risk of losing out on many fronts as Europe, like so many Republicans in America, pitch ever further to the right. The fact that it is the far right which leans more readily towards Putin’s Russia itself feels remarkable when we think back to the not-so-distant days when the Soviet Union was rather the darling of the extreme left.

So although we have just seen President Macron approving the sale of advanced Mirage fighter planes to Ukraine, and seeking approval to greatly expand the French defence budget –what chance will he have of getting these things on the statute books if Marine le Pen’s party make further parliamentary gains?

Kyiv and Europe alike are deeply concerned that there is likely to be even more trouble ahead for Ukraine should Donald Trump win the American election. He has long boasted that he could end its war with Russia in a single day. What can that mean except withdrawing American support? (For himself, Trump would be wise to take note that Putin in no way sees him as having any sort of special relationship or a partnership of equality with himself. Far from it.)

And all the while, Ukraine has been suffering tremendous losses, not only in terms of military firepower, or infrastructure, but of its people. Let’s not forget that millions of people of military age left the country when Russia first invaded. And think of the tens of thousands of Ukrainian children who were seized and taken to Russia. We hear barely a whisper of that these days, yet it is one of the most heinous of all war crimes of recent years.

Behind the news of each new Russian strike lies the reality of multitudes of real people being grievously affected. We lift them to the Lord in their utter loss and distress.

Europe’s defensive capabilities

A number of European nations have now given Ukraine permission to strike targets in Russia, arguing that this is the best way to forestall more of the deadly strikes and assaults that have damaged Ukraine so badly. A recent estimate put the damage to Ukrainian energy infrastructures alone at something like $468,000,000,000. I have deliberately written the figure out this way to make more impact that simply using the shorthand ‘billion.’

By giving this permission, of course, the European nations concerned have made themselves the conspicuous targets of Putin’s ire. He has no compunction in taunting Europe with its inability to defend itself against missile attacks and speaks freely of Berlin burning, and of bombing Britain. He has a point. Although plans exist on the very back burner to create a vast (and vastly expensive) Iron Dome defence system across the European continent, akin to that over Israel, it would to take many years before the idea to become a reality, even if enough nations sign up for it.

We in the West have become deeply complacent, as though we will always enjoy freedom and prosperity. (cf Ezekiel 16:49-50) The decades of peace that the Lord has permitted us have been a great gift, but we have not always stewarded them well.

Father, we pray for the will and the momentum in Europe for those who need to take necessary steps. We pray too for all who will be adversely affected by these revised priorities in years to come. But even as we pray, we recognise that we have not put You first, nor honoured Your Son; we have not sought You with all our hearts. Why should You not allow things to take their own deeply concerning natural course?

Through Your servant Jeremiah, You warned the people of Judah that it was by their ‘own fault’ that they would lose the inheritance You gave them. (Jer. 17:4) We come to You and confess our sin. We cry to You for mercy. In the shaking that is even now beginning, we ask You to help us remain in You, to love and serve one another, to light up the world and to bring You great glory. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.

Photo by Maximalfocus on Unsplash

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