A recent Euractiv interview with the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) Secretary General Thanasis Bakolas, where he dismissed a post-election right coalition and backed dialogue between pro-EU forces, has caused a big stir in Brussels politics.
Socialists are still wary of EPP´s intentions and accuse it of “inconsistency”, while the Greens say the EU centre-right does not deserve a “medal” for rejecting the far right.
In an interview with Euractiv, Bakolas strongly criticised the EU Socialists, Greens and Liberals for playing a dangerous game by claiming that the EPP wanted to create a right coalition after the June 2024 EU elections.
Bakolas referred to “ill-thought” accusations which completely disregarded the EPP pro-EU line all these years.
“I found it so upsetting that this culture politics attitude came from them. EPP has a past, and we also have a future. In the future, the EPP will once again be the first party, and we will have top jobs; I know that upsets people, but it is the reality”, Bakolas said.
He added that after EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the European Union speech, followed by EPP President Manfred Weber’s intervention, it was clear that a collaboration between the EPP and far right was a “fanciful” scenario and called on pro-EU forces to get back to reality and finally discuss EU policies that benefit Europe’s people.
The socialists and greens express distrust, arguing that the party´s calls for dialogue do not match its rapprochement with right-wing forces.
“In politics, there is always what politicians say and then what politicians do. And politicians don’t look very credible when their words and actions contradict each other,” European Green Party (EGP) co-chair Mélanie Vogel told Euractiv.
The socialists and the greens pointed at EPP member parties at the national level, which flirt or even form governments with far-right and right-wing parties across the EU.
“We hope this message from the EPP reaches their colleagues in Spain, Italy, Finland, Sweden and anywhere else where they could hold similar ambitions for cooperation with the far right”, the Party of European Socialists (PES) executive secretary-general Giacomo Filibeck told Euractiv.
Filibeck regretted that “in these member states, the EPP’s cooperation is alive and kicking with climate negationists, opponents of European values, nationalists and right-wing forces”.
With harsher words, EGP´s Vogel suggested an internal split in EPP while affirming that “some parts of the EPP are embarrassed with this strategy [collaborating with right-wing] led by EPP MEP Manfred Weber and with its disastrous consequences […] we still don’t know where the majority in the EPP is”.
“Its secretary-general [Bakolas] seems to say that collaborating with the far-right is wrong. I’m not going to give him a medal for this. Come on, it’s just basic political decency not to work with the far right!” she added.
The EU liberals preferred to keep a low profile and provide a general answer, keeping their distance from the EPP’s call.
Contacted by Euractiv, ALDE Head of Press Iiris André said no coalition talks can be launched “before the votes are cast”.
“We believe it’s up to the voters to decide which political parties have the best policy ideas and solutions and how they plan to turn those into reality. Let’s first hold the discussions and run the campaign”, André said.
Earlier this month, ALDE´s political group in the EU Parliament, Renew Europe, issued a declaration condemning EPP´s rapprochement with the far-right.
Who came back to what reality?
One of the main issues generating distrust is the EPP´s votes against the Nature Restoration Law and the Air Pollution Directive – both files related to the EU´s green agenda – together with right forces in the EU House.
“The EPP has dedicated a lot of energy in the last months to test-running alternative majorities in the European Parliament, looking to the far-right”, PES´s Filibeck argued.
In his interview with Euractiv, Bakolas made it clear that the party´s commitment to green policy is unquestionable while remaining “pragmatic” to achieve a Green Deal “that goes hand in hand with competitiveness and protects any group that may be adversely impacted”.
Bakolas ironically welcomed “back to real politics”, a PES Secretary General’s recent statement that the Green Deal should leave no one behind.
“I am glad that they have received the message”, Bakolas said.
For their part, socialists welcome a potential change of political course by the EPP.
“If the EPP has realised the error of its approach, this is very positive news for Europe’s stability today and for progress on Green Deal policies in future”, PES´ Filibeck said.
Still, he warned the EPP that “we cannot afford to pause action to save the climate”.
EGP´s Vogel said that “being pragmatic means having a workable plan and measures that ensure a dignified life for all […] not a moratorium on environmental legislation, attempts to kill the nature restoration law, or refusing to tax the wealthiest”.
“The desire of the EPP to slow down on the Green Deal and social justice is not pragmatic, it is dangerous”, she added.
ECR Party did not reply by the time of publication.
(Max Griera – Edited by Sarantis Michalopoulos | Euractiv.com)