As the results of the Italian legislative elections have shown, populism is on the rise in many Member States. Thus, populism and euroscepticism seem to take root in the heart of Europe. The Union has a duty to reverse this trend through its next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027 while highlighting its successes.
A populist breakthrough within the Member States
In recent years, a wave of populism has blown over Europe, especially in Hungary and Poland where Viktor Orbán (Fidesz) and Andrzej Duda (Law and Justice, PiS), two personalities from conservative and populist parties have come to power respectively in 2014 and 2015. In both countries, these parties came to power by pointing the finger at the European management of migrants, and taking advantage of the economic gloom.
Brexit remains the most important act of mistrust. Indeed, on 23 June 2016, the British decided to leave the European Union. The argument of the Brexit supporters was based on the one hand on better control of borders and immigration, and on the other hand on the economic recovery linked to the exit of the EU.
The list continues to grow: the breakthrough of the AfD in the Bundestag in September 2017, the arrival of the FN in the second round of the French presidential election in April 2017 or recently the victory of the Movimento 5 Stelle, and the Lega in Italy.
However, this rise of populism in Europe has highlighted the risk of loss of certain known European achievements, such as: the possibility of going abroad to study via Erasmus, freedom of movement, social rights, etc.
The future Multiannual Financial Framework following Brexit
An informal meeting of the 27 Heads of State or Government was held in Brussels on 23 February 2018 to discuss the priorities of the next MFF.
In order to answer the uncertain geopolitical climate (Russia, the United States, Syria, etc.) and security problems inside and outside European borders (including terrorism and cyber threats), security, defense and the fight against illegal migration should be among the future priorities of the Union. In this context, the European Defense Fund should take a prominent place.
However, since the European budget is set at 1% of the total GDP of its Member States, and the departure of the United Kingdom decreases it by a net annual contribution of 10 billion euros, European leaders will have to make choices. One way to strengthen the Union’s budget could be to increase its own resources (eg plastic tax).
Thus, the two main current policies of the European Union, which are the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Cohesion Policy, should see their budgets fall significantly. It will then be necessary to reinvent the agricultural model, and in particular to better support farmers towards organic farming. Worse, cohesion policy subsidies could be lost in the most developed and transition regions.
However, some policies should not be affected by these budget cuts. Indeed, the Erasmus + programme, whose results were considered very satisfactory, should even see its budget strengthened. The same is true for the future framework programme for research and innovation FP9 (post Horizon 2020), in which certain themes, in particular robotics and AI, should be tackled in greater depth.
The European Commission is expected to make budget proposals for the MFF by May 2018, and would like access to European funds to be conditional on respect for the rule of law.
Will the European Union be able, with a reduced budget, to carry out its policies while facing the rise of populism, and even more generally, Euroscepticism?