The Wall Street Journal

Anti-EU Leaders' New Strategy: Attack It From the Inside

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Nationalist and far-right parties are growing in popularity across Europe. Their new strategy: Join forces to gain influence within Europe's institutions. Photo: Getty Images


European leaders condemned an attack on democracy as chaos unfolded in a country they once relied upon for global leadership.
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EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager said that the bloc's new rules seek to bring "order to chaos" and update the bloc's previous digital rules to address — and reign in — the power of tech giants that dominate the market. The dual legislation sets out of rules sets out a list of do's, don'ts and penalties for internet giants:

- Companies with over 45 million EU users would be designated as digital "gatekeepers" — making them subject to stricter regulations.
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… show captions ↓
- [Narrator] Europe's far right politicians
have wanted to dismantle the European Union
for years.
(speaks foreign language)
- [Narrator] But now,
their tone has changed.
(speaks foreign language)
- [Narrator] Parties that once campaigned
to abolish the European Union
and its common currency, the euro,
are now trying to attack it from within.
And their strategy seems to be paying off.
In many European countries,
the popularity of anti-European leaders is on the rise,
and in this year's European elections,
far right and anti-EU parties are set
to take up to 30% of the seats
according to an opinion poll.
So how did we get here?
(dramatic music) (protesters shouting)
- [Narrator] Just a few years ago,
support for the European Union was at its lowest.
- First of all, there was economic malaise
and a lot of people were upset and angered
at the economic policies in the Eurozone,
especially where the financial prices
had hit particularly hard
and the governments were forced
to impose austerity measures.
And then secondly,
in 2015,
almost a million people came over this panel,
a few months, mostly refugees
from Middle East, but also economic migrants
from North Africa
and this gave people the feeling
the impression that the governments
are not in control
of the borders and neither
is the European Union.
- [Narrator] Anti-EU-politicians
like France's Marine Le Pen
and Italy's Matteo Salvini
capitalized on some people's sentiment
that the EU was the cause
of all problems.
(speaks foreign language)
- [Narrator] And then, in 2016...
- The British People have voted to leave the European Union.
- [Narrator] The spectacle of the UK's Brexit process,
which is still ongoing, made many voters realize
how complicated exiting the EU can be,
and Britain didn't even have the Euro.
- A lot of people who previously were
toying with the idea
of leaving the EU,
suddenly started having second thoughts
because they saw how difficult
and painful and chaotic the Brexit process became
and also how hard it is to untangle a country
from the European Union,
and therefore, also the populist leaders
changed tactics so,
instead of campaigning on referendums
and leaving the EU, they started saying
"We stay, but we want to change the EU from within."
(speaks foreign language)
(speaks foreign language)
- [Narrator] So what do these parties do
when they gain more power
within an institution they had
pledged to eliminate?
- It's easy for them to say no,
and to
try to stop the EU, but on the other hand,
it's very hard for them to agree what
exactly the policies
are, so what will happen most likely
is that decisions will be much harder to take
at the EU level and
they will just stall as much as possible
any new areas of European integration.
- [Narrator] EU countries serving their individual interests
over the Union has already led to misunderstandings
and friction within the Bloc.
Like when Italy decided
not to allow migrant boats
to disembark in its ports.
As the rhetoric resonates with voters,
traditional parties that are losing ground
are also starting to become more critical of the EU.
So while the European Union and the Euro's existence
may not be threatened right now,
it's government is said to be more divided
than ever.
(bouncy music)

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