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Jun 4, 2024, 1:45pm EDT
Europe
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Semafor Signals

The EU elections will spotlight the ‘three women who will shape Europe’

Insights from ZDFHeute, Politico EU, and The Economist

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Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni
REUTERS/Yara Nardi/File Photo
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The News

Nearly 400 million Europeans will vote this week to elect 720 representatives in the European Parliament, a contest that will offer signals on the political mood of the continent — especially whether the global populist wave that’s hit the US and South America will sweep Europe next.

The performance of the far right could impact the EU’s approach to migration, climate, the Russia-Ukraine war, and the future of the bloc itself.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Spotlight is on ‘three women who will shape Europe’

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Sources:  
The Economist, AP, The Times, Financial Times

The dynamic between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and populist French figure Marine Le Pen will be especially important for Europe’s trajectory. The Economist declared that they are the “three women who will shape Europe,” arguing that it would be wiser for von der Leyen to work with Meloni over Le Pen, who is leading polls in France and could seek to weaken the EU’s powers from within to give more power to individual states, analysts say. It also remains to be seen whether Meloni — who recently flipped a sexist insult into a campaign slogan by calling herself “that bitch” at rallies — will seek to join forces with Le Pen after the election, or whether she’ll serve as a “pragmatist eager to convene the forces of the right and center-right,” the Financial Times wrote.

Election could shepherd mainstream embrace of hard right

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Sources:  
Financial Times, The New York Times, The Guardian

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s center-right group is expected to bag the most seats in the race, and observers are closely watching to see whether she’d partner with far right groups, giving them more influence, if she seeks to form a coalition government. These groups have shown fissures in recent weeks as they scramble to “make themselves more palatable to the mainstream,” including by breaking ties with more extreme factions, The New York Times wrote. When it comes to their positions, though, “almost all of them are as radical and far-right as ever,” a political scientist at the University of Amsterdam wrote in The Guardian. “Only their image has changed.”

Far right campaigns on anti-immigration while seeking migrants’ votes

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Sources:  
Politico EU, ZDFHeute

Migration is set to be a top issue in the race; in Germany this week, the far-right AfD party sought to turn the recent fatal stabbing of a police officer — allegedly by a man originally from Afghanistan who arrived in Germany a decade ago — into a motivating factor for voters by casting the impact of immigration “in nearly apocalyptic terms,” Politico wrote. At the same time, the AfD has been courting migrant groups as a voting bloc, German news program ZDFHeute reported. One German immigration expert said the party is hoping to bank protest votes from migrants who dislike the country’s current leadership, or by stirring fears that “the AfD will only send away the ‘bad’ migrants, but not ‘the good ones’ who give them their vote.”

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