Jasper Krommendijk, Cees Leijenhorst and Anna van der Vleuten
Jasper Krommendijk, Cees Leijenhorst and Anna van der Vleuten

European Elections. What is at Stake? | Current Affairs Lecture by scholar of law Jasper Krommendijk and political scientist Anna van der Vleuten

Do we want to create a European army, or not? How will we deal with refugees? What will the European Parliament look like after the elections in an increasingly right-wing Europe, where Euro-skepticism is growing in many member states? Big choices are at stake at the European elections: will voters go for a more united Europe, or wil they be more divided than ever? Learn form scholar of law Jasper Krommendijk and political scientist Anna van der Vleuten about the role of the Netherlands, geopolitical relations and the consequences of the European elections.

Podcast follows shortly

Thursday, 30 May 2024 | 12.30 – 13.15 hrs  | College Hall Complex, Radboud University | Radboud Reflects, Faculty of Law and VOX. See announcement.

Review 

by Noortje Schonck

One week from now, we are voting for a new European Parliament. What issues are at stake? How does the expected rise of right-wing politics influence the European Parliament? And how will the position of the Netherlands in the European Union likely change after the elections? In this Current Affairs Lecture, political scientist Anna van der Vleuten and legal scholar Jasper Krommendijk shed light on those issues, led by moderator Cees Leijenhorst. 

What is at stake?

Leijenhorst started the conversation by asking what is at stake. What are we actually voting for in the European Parliament elections? Van der Vleuten identifies three main categories: climate (including environment, agriculture, and energy), migration and security. These issues largely overlap with those at stake in national elections. Krommendijk stressed that the European Parliament has great power on the themes mentioned by Van der Vleuten. He noted that EU member state governments like to suggest that they are in control, while, in fact, a great part of the power resides in the European Union.

Shift to the right

In the Netherlands, but also in other EU member states, we see a major political ‘shift to the right’. This is also expected to happen in the European elections. How will this affect (the composition of) the European Parliament? Van der Vleuten explained that the national far-right and populist parties are not members of the same political group or ‘family’ of the European Parliament. Some of these national parties are not part of an European ‘family’ at all. The main reason is major disagreements on several political issues. In addition, integrity issues come into play. For example, the French radical right-wing party Rassemblement National (RN) no longer wants to join the German Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in one European family due to statements made by the AfD leader about the SS. But Van der Vleuten also stresses: if all radical right-wing parties were to unite after the elections, this would have huge consequences for the European Union.

Jasper Krommendijk
Jasper Krommendijk - photo Sarah Danz

The Netherlands in the EU

In a few weeks, there will be a new Dutch government installed. To what extent will this change the position of the Netherlands in the European Union? And what does it mean that Members of the European Parliament from new, inexperienced parties will enter the European Parliament? Krommendijk explained that two factors are crucial for real influence in Brussels: credits and playing the long game. Our prime minister, Mark Rutte, gets lots of credits being one of the longest-serving leaders in the EU. In addition, civil servants need to invest early on in a process to get things done in Brussels. With a new prime minister and the announced cuts in civil servants by the coalition parties, the Netherlands is losing influence in the European Union.

Renegotiations

Another factor that could affect the position of the Netherlands in the EU is the desire of the Dutch coalition parties to renegotiate European legislation. Van der Vleuten: “If you want to change current policy, there will be a strong reluctance from other EU member states.” She explained that EU member states are afraid of setting a precedent. It is much easier to influence new policy than to reverse current policy or ask for an exceptional position. Krommendijk agrees that an opt-out or exception to existing policy such as migration policy is very difficult: “an opt-out really changes the rules of the game, so all member states have to agree on it.” If there is an exception for the Netherlands, other EU member states want exceptions and adjustments for themselves as well. “Then it becomes a kind of ‘EU a la carte’.” 

Krommendijk also stressed that the Netherlands is still committed to other international treaties. Should an opt-out from EU migration legislation succeed anyway, it does not mean that the Dutch government can just do whatever she likes. Van der Vleuten added that it took the European Union a decade to formulate migration policies because member states need to agree. It is not the Netherlands versus Brussels: all EU member states have their own wishes in the search for some kind of pareto optimum. Van der Vleuten finds it very interesting that the Dutch coalition parties want to renegotiate EU policy: if the demands are not met, they can say that it is up to Brussels, not to their own efforts. At the same time, she thinks it is a dangerous move, due to the cynicism this strategy generates among citizens. 

Pro or contra Europe

According to Van der Vleuten, it is much easier for national politicians to blame the European Union for policies that their constituents don’t like than to honour the EU for policies that work out well. This is bad for the European Unions’ image. Krommendijk noted that some election flyers say “vote for the EU!” as if elections are all about voting for or against the European Union. Remarkably, in national elections nobody thinks: it's for or against The Hague. Why are the European Elections not all about content – about the ‘hot topics’ mentioned earlier, Krommendijk asked rhetorically. To end with a positive note: Van der Vleuten does see that it is becoming increasingly easy to convince voters that their vote in European elections really matters. The European Parliament has more and more influence on major issues, and the different parties really do have different views on those issues. Our votes matter.

The Current Affairs Lecture concluded with questions from the audience.

Anna van der Vleuten
Anna van der Vleuten - photo Sarah Danz

Announcement

Do we want to create a European army, or not? How will we deal with refugees? What will the European Parliament look like after the elections in an increasingly right-wing Europe, where Euro-skepticism is growing in many member states? Big choices are at stake at the European elections: will voters go for a more united Europe, or wil they be more divided than ever? Come and learn form scholar of law Jasper Krommendijk and political scientist Anna van der Vleuten about the role of the Netherlands, geopolitical relations and the consequences of the European elections. 

The Netherlands in the European Union

The Netherlands is an important player in the European Union, and certainly after the Brexit it acted as a connector. In this, Prime Minister Mark Rutte, as one of the longest-serving European heads of state, played an important role. 

Times have changed in political The Hague since then. The upcoming cabinet is critical of Europe and wants to renegotiate, in particular, migration and nitrogen policy, for example. What role will the Netherlands play in the European Union? How do other member states view a new Dutch government that is critical of Europe? What impact will the plans of the incoming administration to roll back certain EU legislation have? Can we continue to be the constructive liaison partner, or will the Netherlands become a polarizing factor?

Scholar of law  Jasper Krommendijk and political scientist Anna van der Vleuten will discuss the European Elections/ Philosopher Cees Leijenhorst moderates the discussion. Come listen and ask your questions! 

The language of the discussion will be English.

About the speakers

Jasper Krommendijk is a professor of Human Rights at Radboud University. His research focuses on the interaction between international and European law. He is particularly interested in the relationship between international human rights and the Dutch legal order.

Anna van der Vleuten is professor of Contesting Europeanization at Radboud University. Van der Vleuten is part of the Gender and Power in Politics and Management research group. Her research focuses, among other things, on the EU as “normative power” and the role of European judges.

Cees Leijenhorst is philosopher and moderator of this Current Affairs Lecture.

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Organizational unit
Radboud Reflects, Faculty of Law, Vox
Theme
Current affairs, Philosophy, International, Politics, Society, Science