Trolls of the world unite! In a conference in Milan on Monday, Italian Interior Minister and Minister for Selfies, Matteo Salvini, took the stage to announce a new vision for Europe. The right-wing populist who swept to power last year in coalition with the populist-techno party, 5 Star Movement, is taking Italy by storm with his fiery anti-immigration rhetoric, extreme policies, and social media charm. He hopes to use this momentum to take his less charismatic populist friends from the north, Germany’s AfD party, Finland’s The Finns, and Denmark’s Danish People’s Party on a ride to the European Parliament elections to form the European Alliance for People and Nations parliamentary group. The currently divided extreme right-wing panorama in Europe means that although they are gaining major ground in many EU member states, the situation at the European level is yet to be fully exploited for mischief.
Why it matters
A well-organised resistance is a dangerous resistance. According to a poll by the European Parliament, up to a third of the seats projected in the upcoming legislature are destined for euro-skeptics. This has a whole host of consequences but the main one is just of efficiency. The European Parliament has been, in recent years, a haven of improving upon and co-legislating liberal measures suggested by the European Commission that have positively affected the quality of life of millions of Europeans. The presence of a powerful irritant and obstructive bloc in the EP would mean that the EU’s chamber of representatives could easily become just as ineffective and divided as national parliaments in most member states.
If there was ever a point to realise that it was important to vote in the upcoming European Parliament elections, now is the time to register. The average turnout for EP elections in recent history is well under 50%. Historically populists have both benefited from low turnout and have increased turnout among those that go vote for them. Put another way, this means that the lunatic fringe comes out and makes more of a wave when the silent centrist majority stays home from the vote. The difficulty lies in the fact that the gender, ethnic and socioeconomic makeup of the populists are just as diverse as that of the centrists. In any case, it never hurts to vote. And, if a troll parliament pops out in May from a high turnout, it at least will be a depressing but true reflection of the European polis. If you need any more reasons to vote, check out thistimeimvoting.eu
2. Tweets of the Week
3. Numbers of the Week
The amount in billions of US dollars that the US has threatened to fine the EU in tariffs for allegedly giving subsidies to European airline Airbus. The US and EU have, for a long time, been in a dispute over the supposed favoritism treatment the US has for Boeing or the EU has for Airbus in their trade practices. The dispute, however, is likely to be a nasty distraction from the two Boeing plane crash tragedies killing 346 people in the past year and the subsequent grounding of the Boeing 787 Max as questions abound of faulty engineering and corporate hubris.
The number of key requirements that the EU has laid out for the ethical development of the artificial intelligence industry. Foreseeing a robot apocalypse, the EU has spearheaded the effort to develop ethical AI as they launch the European AI Alliance pilot project this coming summer. Vladimir Putin once famously said that the nation that leads in AI ‘will be the ruler of the world’ and if the EU succeeds, we will surely end up with a kind robot overlord.
The number of ways, according to Reuters, that Roma people are discriminated against. International Romani Day, held on the 8 April, celebrated Europe’s biggest minority and put the limelight on the abuse of this ethnic group living all over Europe and facing particular issues in those places afflicted by populist politics.
A Message From Our Partners
The EFF — European Future Forum held its first general assembly at the European Parliament in Brussels, bringing together a large variety of NGOs and civil society organisations to share their projects with each other, workshop new initiatives and improve their communication skills and methodologies.
The EFF is the first European Communication and Project Development Network. It is open to any organisation and individual. For more information, visit their website.
4. Quotes of the Week
“I was just surprised: We’re still members of the EU”
The reaction of Susan Hindle Barone a UK citizen who had received her new UK passport without the words ‘European Union’ in the front. The reason stated was that the authorities had been working with the 29 March deadline. Perhaps they should be working with a longer deadline as last night the European Council came out of a marathon Article 50 summit meeting in the wee hours to come up with an agreement to extend or ‘flextend’ the UK’s withdrawal date until 31 October or Halloween for the believers.
“We have open borders, and we can go to Germany and buy candy and sodas, and that’s it.”
22-year-old Danish student Lærke Løvendal Kristensen in his astutely thorough assessment of the benefits of the EU. Other millennials questioned by NBC news cited the freedom to travel, freedom to work and the killing of bulls as a direct consequence of the EU in their lives. As if candy and soda were not enough.
“If Europe is to be more of a player and less of a field in a more competitive world, its citizens need to support a strong and capable European Union at the ballot box.”
The assessment of Célia Belin and Ted Reinert in a piece for Brookings Institution. A toxic cocktail of internal crises and international turmoil means that a populist injection in the European Parliament elections in May may prove to be too much for the shared experiment in sovereignty and liberal globalism that is the EU. Even further motivation towards #thistimeImvoting.
5. Video of the Week
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