Populations choose Populism: Part One: European Election 2019
We have seen the hollowing out of the centre in preference to fringe parties. This article will cover the results of the European Election 2019, as well as present the circumstances that allowed this to happen, and what we can expect in the future. We shall cover the results across all of Europe, the role of the European Parliament, note some domestic issues that may have brought it up, notice the link with asylum seekers and populism.
In a following article released soon, I will provide econometric results from various economic factors that have influenced these results, and find the factors that affect the rise of the Populists and Nationalists. I would have released them together, but for ease of reading, I’ve split them up.
What Is the European Parliament?
Most people do not understand the role of the European Parliament. I do not blame you. There is the President of the European Commission (the head of the executive branch of the European Union), who is Jean-Claude Juncker. There is the President of the European Council Donald Tusk (which is an unelected position) who seems to control things behind the scenes and whose responsibilities are vague at best. There is also the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, which is run by three governments rotating (currently Romania, Finland, and Croatia; out of those, Romania is currently in charge) and whose powers allow smaller states to push policies into Europe. There is also the President of the European Parliament itself, Antonio Tajani. This is but a taste of the byzantine maze of titles, prestiges, and general back-patting that makes up the ladder of the European Union.
The European Union is the Parliament of Europe that is democratically elected by the people of various countries in Europe. It has 751 seats (EP Spokesperson, 2019a). It can amend and adopt legislation. It has equal power to the European Commission (an unelected body). It cannot make legislation; it cannot only suggest legislation to the European Commission. It cannot appoint the European Commission; only confirm the chosen members, all of them or none of them. It cannot amend the budget, only agree with the Commission’s budget (ER Spokesperson, 2019b). This is what they mean when they say that the E.U. is undemocratic; it is in effect so. As Farage once shouted at van Rompuy in 2010, “Who voted for you? And by what mechanism? I know democracy isn’t popular with you lot…By what mechanism does the peoples of Europe have to remove you?”. The answer is… the people didn’t vote for him, and they have no mechanism to remove him.
So the results of this election are limited, but it does provide some effects. Firstly, some proposed legislation, as well as approval of the Commission’s legislation. Secondly, it shows the direction of the European people and their politics.
The Final Results
First things first; people cared. This was the highest turn-out in 20 years (BBC, 2019b). Below, we can see the final Parliament make-up of the European Union (BBC, 2019b):
Ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair predicted in 2018 that Europe would swing back to centrism; wrong again, Mr. Blair (Wintour, 2018).
We can see a house that is now divided nearly 50:50 left and right, with neither having a stranglehold over politics in Europe. The left holding (from Liberal [ALDE] to Left [NGL]) holding 365 (not half), and with the right (from Centre Right [EPP] to the Right Wing Nationalists [ENF]) holding 354 seats (not half).
If 376 are required to pass a bill, then the left will be required to seduce an additional 11 MEPS (which can be easily covered by ‘Others’, and Independent MEPs). The right will be required to seduce an additional 24 MEPs, which is also easily covered by ‘Others’ and Independent MEPs.
We can expect to see a politics of parties trying to enforce strict party discipline to try and ensure their own MEPs do not stray to the opposition, while trying to entice opposition and independent MEPs to their own side. However, despite the above graphic placing the Populists in the right-wing category, you will find that many populist ideas (greater government spending, greater government control) work well with the left wing, and so may be more than willing to work with the left. As such, we may see a swing to more left-leaning policies.
Here is the before and after of the election (BBC, 2019b):
Notice first and foremost; the S&D and EPP held a majority of over 400 seats before this election, and have done so for a long time. The centre parties have lost this majority (now holding a total of less than 332, 46 seats below a majority).
On the left, we have a fall in the Left, Socialists and Democrats, but a rise in Liberals and Greens; we discuss the rise of the Liberals and Greens here. This indicates a movement in the left away from socialist and labour-based communism, but a movement towards the more middle-class environmental socialism, redistributive social justice.
On the right, we have a fall in the Centre Right, Conservatives, but a rise in Populists and Right-Wing nationalists; we discuss the rise of populists and nationalists here.
Depending on your view of government, the potential stronghold of each side struggling to amass the required votes, as well as the strict discipline required to get the Greens, Liberals, Socialists, and Left parties to agree, as well as vice versa, means that the government may end up in lockdown, unable to pass new laws as they are unable to get things done. Indeed, Guy Verhofstadt (2019a), the leader of the Liberal (ALDE) party, has gleefully said that if the centrist, pro-European parties want to get things done, they will have to listen to what these new parties want.
Due to the lack of a majority in the two major parties (EPP and S&D), they will now be needing to appeal to the more extreme, smaller parties of Europe. However, the leader of the EPP (Centre-Right party) Manfred Weber has already refused to work with any anti-European parties. But the leader of the S&D (Centre-Left party) Frans Timmermans has already confirmed that they will work with the radicals (AP, 2019).
The right not uniting but instead splintering, while the left unites, means we will find a shift to the left for the Union.
The United Kingdom
Please read the article here. In total, the Green Party, Brexit Party, and Liberal Democrat Parties did well (BBC, 2019b). While Brexit has not yet finished, the United Kingdom retains its seats, but once it has left, 27 seats of the British 73 seats shall be redistributed to other countries due to population sizes to make up for current imbalances (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
Austria has, by and large, remained centrist, with the two main centre parties doing well. The Centre-Right party People’s Party won 34.9%/ 7 seats (BBC, 2019a), and the centre-left Social Democrats winning 23.6%/ 5 seats, and the Freedom Party with 18.1%/ 3 seats, dropping from the previous election where the Freedom Party had won 26%. Next are the Green party with 2 seats (AP, 2019).
Despite winning the European election, the leader of the People’s Party, was ousted by a vote of no confidence the very next Monday. The next election shall be in September. The opposition leader Strache, the Freedom Party, was caught in a tape promising a Russian oligarch inflated public contracts in a manner of corruption; Strache resigned the next day. It then came out that the Russian oligarch was actually an actor from Bosnia paid €6,000-7,000 to pretend to be a Russian oligarch; Spache even suspects it as he whispers that a Russian woman in this league wouldn’t have such dirty feet (Oltermann, 2019). Did you know that Austria had such interesting politics? I didn’t.
The previous leader of Austria and of the People’s Party has been aggressively anti-immigrant (Shuster, 2018). Austria also rejected the U.N. Migration Pact (Boffey, 2018).
Should the United Kingdom leave, the Sweden would initially gain 1 seat (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
Belgium had a triple election on this day; Federal, local, and European. All three elections ended very well for the Vlaams Belang party (Flanders Party). Not only that, but there has been a rise in the Green Party (the French-speaking alternative party) as well; a move away from the centrist parties. There is also an 8% vote for the Communist ‘Worker’s Party’ (Dorpe et al., 2019). The Liberal Party went from 6 seats to 4 (BBC, 2019a).
The Vlaams Belang party became the second largest party in terms of national votes in Belgium. They are a separatist nationalist party who wants the Flanders region of Belgium to separate from the rest (BBC, 2019c). Further accusations from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (2019) include that the founders were Nazis and the party has ties with anti-semitism. One of the popular policies of this party included a ban on slaughter of animals without stunning; an anti-Muslim halal measure without directly banning Muslims (after all, no food, no Muslims). This has gone well for them; Belgium has already banned it in two out of three states; it is a popular sentiment, and provides yet more evidence that politics in Europe are turning right-wing in response to the rise of Islam.
This is on the heels of when the Vlaams Belang Party retreated from the coalition after the U.N. Migration Pact was supported by the Belgium government (Boffey, 2018). At an event run by the Vlaams Belang, President Trump also denounced that treaty, as well as Marine Le Pen. It seems the Belgium people agree with them, and so have rewarded them with greater mandate.
There has been no change in the number of seats for the Centre-Right party, but a shift to the Labour Party from the Liberal Party (BBC, 2019a).
Croatia has managed to maintain a mostly centrist government with the Croatian Democratic Union (centre-right) winning 23.2% of the vote, the Social Democrat (centre-left) winning 18.3%, the far-right only winning 8.2% of the votes, and independents less than 8% (AP, 2019).
Should the United Kingdom leave, Croatia would initially gain 1 seat (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
The voters elected their first Turkish Cypriot to the European Parliament, who ran under the Communist Party. The leader of the ADEL (Communist) party said this shows a strong message of being sick of the ethnic tensions between the Turkish and Greek residents of Cyprus. Not a single right-wing party member was elected. (AP, 2019). 4 seats for the left parties, 2 seats for the Conservative Party (BBC, 2019a). Cyprus is exceedingly left.
The Liberal Party holds 6 seats, two more than last time. The Centre-Right lost 2 seats (now 5 seats), as did the Labour-Left Party (now 1 seat). The Conservative and Nationalist Parties each gained 2 seats, holding 4 and 2 seats respectively (BBC, 2019a). The Czech Republic leans right.
The Liberal Party won the night, with 5 seats (gaining 2 more since last time), while the Centre Right party lost three seats (now holding 1 seats). The Social Democrats held their 3 seats, while the Greens held two, one more than last time (BBC, 2019a). The Conservatives lost 3 of their four seats. This is once more a massive shift left.
Should the United Kingdom leave, Denmark would initially gain 1 seat (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
The Liberals (3 seats, no change) and the Social Democrats (2 seats, gained 1 seat) held their positions, while the right-wing lost all their seats (BBC, 2019a). A massive shift left.
Should the United Kingdom leave, Estonia would initially gain 1 seat (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
Marine Le Pen’s National Rally (nationalist party) beat out President Macron’s Renaissance Alliance, with the nationalist party doing well in France. (BBC, 2019b). It has retained its position as the largest French Party in the European Union, with 23.2% of the vote (Jewist Telegraphic Agency, 2019). However, the ALDE (Liberal) group has done well with Macron’s support, gaining 14 more seats and ending with 21 seats. The Green Party also did well in France, having gained an additional 6 seats, bringing them to 12 seats (BBC, 2019b). France is centrist, with a strong nationalist component.
Should the United Kingdom leave Brexit, France would initially gain an additional 5 seats (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
The Green Party did well, gaining 1 more seat, now holding 2. (BBC, 2019b). The Centre-Right and Liberal (lost one seat) Parties each hold 3 seats, while the Conservative, Labour, and Left parties held 5 seats between them, 2, 2, and 1 seats respectively (BBC, 2019a). Finland remains centrist, but shifting left.
Should the United Kingdom leave, Finland would initially gain 1 seat (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
Merkel’s Union Bloc went from 35.4% down to 28%, and her coalition partners went from 27.3% down to 15.5% (AP, 2019); a massive spit in the face of German centrist politics, and ‘Mama Merkel’.
The centre-right EPP and the Green Party did well in Germany gaining 9 more seats to a total of 22 seats (getting 22% of the vote) (BBC, 2019a, 2019b). The far-right Alternative for Deutschland got 10.5% of the vote, with populists gaining 11 seats (AP, 2019, BBC, 2019a). Germany is still mostly centrist, but with a growing nationalist bloc.
The projected winner of Greece’s elections, New Democracy Party leader Mitsotakis, has called on the incumbent Prime Minister to resign. New Democracy is said to get 32.8%, whereas the ruling left-wing party Syriza is said to have 24% (AP, 2019).
As we can see from the table “Back from the Dead” (Economist, 2019), the current Prime Minister Tsipiras has increased employment from 28% to 10%, and growth grew to 1.9% last year. He has even made a surplus of 3.5% for the Greek budget. Greece still has 45% of loans remaining non-performing, which pretty much scares of investment, plus the famous Greek habit of defaulting (Economist, 2019).
Currently Greece is in the middle of a general election; current opinion polls suggest that incumbent Prime Minister will lose, and the New Democracy will win. The incumbent Prime Minister has pulled Greece bloodily but successfully from the edge, and it is not a promise that the next minister will do better. It’s not over yet.
The majority of Hungary’s seats were won by the Fidesz Party, who had 13 out of 21 seats. This party is under the leadership of Viktor Orban, who ran on an anti-Immigrant platform. This party has since been removed from the EPP (AP, 2019). The Social Democrats gained another seat; the Liberals gained 2 seats (previously having none) (BBC, 2019a). Hungary is leaning right-wing.
Vice-President Salvini’s League has performed well over the centre-left party (BBC, 2019b). The League won between 27-31% of the vote, whereas it had only 6% last election and now holds 28 seats (BBC, 2019a). Salvini said that the European dream had been sunk, and that he intends to rebirth of this sunken Europe.The opposition Democratic Party was 10% behind the League, now holding 19 seats (AP, 2019, BBC, 2019a). Italy rejected the U.N. Migration Pact (Boffey, 2018). Immigration is one of the largest topics in the minds of the Italian voters (AP, 2019). Salvini thanked god for helping Italy and the European people, kissing a rosary, and promising to protect “hope, pride, roots, work, security” (AP, 2019). Italy is now quite nationalist.
Should the United Kingdom leave, Italy would initially gain 3 seats (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
Ireland, Republic of
The Centre-Right and the Green Party both did well, gaining 1 and 2 seats respectively, with a total of 5 and 2 seats respectively. The Left Party lost half its seats, now holding only 2 (BBC, 2019a). Leaning-right wing.
Should the United Kingdom leave, the Republic of Ireland would initially gain 2 seats (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
Small gains for the Conservative and Social Democrat parties, while the Centre-Right lost half of it’s seats; all these parties hold 2 seats each (BBC, 2019a). Centrist.
The Centre-Right Party won three seats; the Greens, Social Democrats, and Liberals hold two seats each (BBC, 2019a). Exceedingly left-wing.
The centre-right Christian Social People’s Party lost one seat to the liberal Luxembourg’s Democratic Party; both now hold 2 seats (BBC, 2019a) Exceedingly left-wing.
The Labour Party gained another seat, now holding 4 seats out of 6. The last two seats are held by the Nationalists (BBC, 2019a). A small right-wing increase, but a left-wing stronghold.
The Dutch Labour Party took 6 seats; as did the liberal VVD. The Conservatives gained 3 seats to a total of 5, while the centre-right lost a seat to having 4, the Greens gained an additional seat to 3 seats, and the Left party lost 2, left with only 1 (BBC, 2019a). A strong left-wing base in the Netherlands.
Should the United Kingdom leave, the Netherlands would initially gain 3 seats (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
Unsurprisingly, the Conservative anti-immigration Law and Justice Party won the majority of the seats and 45.6% of the vote; well ahead of the pro-E.U. coalition that got only 38%. A coalition of centre-right and conservatives hold 43 of the seats from Poland (BBC, 2019a). Poland has also rejected the U.N. Migration Pact (Boffey, 2018).
Should the United Kingdom leave, Poland would initially gain 1 seat (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
The Portuguese Socialist Party has won the majority of the votes and 9 seats, led by Prime Minister Costa (who will soon be up for reelection in October) with 32.5% of the vote, second being the Conservative Party at 22.9% with 7 seats, and the left-wing Bloco de Esquerda at 10.3% with 4 seats (AP, 2019, BBC, 2019a).
The Spanish communists, the Podemos (We Can) party, lost significantly to more centre-left Socialist party, who won 20 out of 54 seats. The Conservative Party has dropped from 16 to 12 seats. The far-right party (depending on your politics) Vox has won 3 seats (first time). The residents of Barcelona also voted for members that campaigned to separate from the mainland Spanish (AP, 2019).
In the election on the following Sunday, the Spanish voted for the PSOE (the Socialist Party) who won 123 seats, 28.7% of the government and a massive improvement since 2016. They will likely work with the Podemos (communist) party who holds 16.68% of the vote, a massive downgrade in their previous 2016 results. However, while they will be unlikely to form a coalition, Spain has a right wing, based on the PP (conservative) Party who holds 66 seats, and including two far-right parties, the Citizens and Vox parties who hold 57 and 24 seats respectively (Gutiérres and Clarke, 2019).
Should the United Kingdom leave Brexit, Spain would initially gain an additional 5 seats (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
The ruling party, the Social Democrats (SND), only pulled 25.8% of the votes, tying them with the opposition National Liberal Party (PNL); rumours of corruption are thick around the current government, and Prime Minister Dancila denies that the people of Romania have lost faith in her (AP, 2019).
Should the United Kingdom leave, Romania would initially gain 1 seat (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
Did you know that Slovenia is not Slovakia? Most people don’t, apparently (BBC, 2018a). This has nothing to do with E.U. elections, I just found it amusing to bring up.
The Slovenian Democratic Party (a right wing anti-immigrant party) won the majority of the votes, but less than the combined alliance of moderate parties (AP, 2019).
Did you know that Slovakia is not Slovenia?
The pro-EU coalition led by the Slovakian President-elect Caputova won 20.1% of the vote and 4 seats, with the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia winning 12.1% and 2 seats. The People’s Party Our Slovakia are anti-Europe, and have known associations with Nazis (AP, 2019).
Should the United Kingdom leave, Slovakia would initially gain 1 seat (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
The centre-left Social Democrats won 6 seats; followed by the liberal-conservative Moderates who lost a seat but holds 5, and the Swedish Democrats, nationalist party, won 3 seats at the expense of the Green who lost 2 seats, now down to 2 left (BBC, 2019a). A small shift to the centre, a small shift to the right.
Should the United Kingdom leave, Sweden would initially gain 1 seat (EP Spokesperson, 2019a).
The Anti-Immigration Effect
Let’s see if there is a connection between the rise of the right-wing, and the rise of Islamic and African immigration to Europe. We would expect that countries who have rising right-wing parties would also have large amounts of islamic immigration, if they are indeed connected.
Germany is the most accepting of asylum applications (BBC, 2018b). There was a rise in both the Conservatives, and the Alternative for Deutschland (AP 2019, BBC, 2019a).
France is the second ranked; Marine Le Pen’s National Rally won the election.
Italy is the third ranked; Salvini’s the League won the election.
Austria is fourth ranked; the winning People’s Party is anti-immigrant (Shuster, 2018).
Sweden is ranked fifth; the Swedish Democrats won 3 seats.
The United Kingdom ranked sixth; there was a massive anti-European party swing with the Brexit party.
Belgium is ranked seventh; the winning Vlaams Belang party is very anti-immigrant.
Greece is ranked eighth; no correlation.
Netherlands is ranked ninth; no correlation.
Spain is ranked tenth; small correlation; small rise of the right wing in federal election.
It seems obviously apparent that the massive immigration from the Middle East and Africa has led to the massive rise in right-wing politics. It’s not only me who says so. Hillary Clinton even said, regarding a lack of answer to the immigration problem, “You’ve got to answer those problems. If you don’t answer them then… you leave a large space into which the populists can march” (Wintour, 2018). Naturally, the response was she was simply racist for saying so.
Merkel herself said that the immigration issue is make or break for the European Union (Meredith, 2018). With all of the anti-immigration, pro-nationalist parties rising, she has been proven right. For more on this, see my upcoming Part Two article.
There has been a rise in nationalism and populism; while most countries remain mostly centrist, there is a rise in populism and nationalism. If leaders do not get ahead of this now, then it is the future of Europe.
The co-leader of the Green Party, Ska Keller, says that the green wave has swept over Europe (AP, 2019).
The leader of the EPP, the Centre-Right Party, Weber, hopes that the nationalistic right won’t destroy Europe, but also doesn’t want to see it in the hands of the left (AP, 2019).
The massive mess that has been Brexit has quietened other Euro-skeptic voices, who perhaps don’t want to join into the mess that is Brexit (Rankin, 2019). I don’t blame them, frankly. That said, with the massive amount of unelected power in the European Union, we must ask if freedom shouldn’t be important than economics.
Farage has also struggled to collect the seven countries he needs in order to create his own block, which will give his block more funding and primetime, as well as a better shot at positions in Europe (Rankin, 2019).
Salvini has since joined with Marine Le Pen to create a new third block (but only the fifth largest in terms of seat size) in the European Parliament, the Identity and Democracy block, under Marco Zanni, who works under Salvini in the League Party; they failed to sway the Brexit Party to join (Rankin, 2019).
We see a snap election in Greece, and we have the results of the Greek election being repeated in their national elections, but we shall see how it finishes. Keep both Brexit and Trump in mind when listening to these polls though.
We can also see the rise of the left-wing for the E.U. in Spain reflected in their national election, although the right-wing fared better nationally than internationally.
We have a winning President ousted from his position in Austria, leaving him both the youngest and the shortest serving President for Austria in history.
We saw the utter devastation of centrist politics in the United Kingdom, with both the far left and the far right making gains.
We saw the rise of far right parties in Slovakia, Slovenia, Italy, France, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Belgium, and the United Kingdom.
We saw the rise of far left parties in the United Kingdom, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Portugal, and Spain.
We saw the fall of Centrists parties in nearly every country in Europe. The time of centrism really does seem to have passed. As everyday-politics fails the common people, the common people turn to uncommon politics and uncommon men and women.
People decry populism as some kind of parlour trick, an evil disease to ensnare the stupid, racist, and thick masses to vote for them. This is an easy hand wave to allow the status quo to continue; we’re not wrong, they’re just stupid and gullible. The Guardian defines populism as “insisting the will of the people must always triumph”. Is that really such a bad thing? Hillary Clinton whined that she doesn’t understand the appeal of populism (Wintour, 2018). Let me try to explain.
Populism is the ultimate (as in, final) form of democracy; Socrates even decries it as the natural end of democracy in the Republic. Populism is when leaders offer the people what they want; in turn, the people vote for the person who will listen to them, listen to their needs, and care about them. Unlike the ivory tower politics of clean shaven bankers like Macron, they see the unpolished Salvini with his rosary beads who cares about the same things you do; they see the McDonalds eating and joke-telling Trump who cares about your job and your ‘flyover state’; they see the Hindi Modi promising them safety (more here); the pint-guzzling and insult slinging Farage who sees the same disdain a Europe who hates Britain, and whom agrees with you.
On the other side, we have ‘Mother Merkel’ who calls anyone who opposes her a racist, we have the smug Macron who ignores protestors burning down Paris while so secure in his superiority (wished that an injured elderly lady had gained some wisdom after injured by French police charging her during Yellow Vests [AFP, 2019]), we have the Clintons (“a basket of deplorables”[BBC, 2016]) and Bidens (“[the Republicans] want to put you back in chains” to a group of black voters [Hawkins, 2012]) who change their politics every minute to suit what is happening and declare everyone against them as racist, sexist, and homophobic. They seem no different than Lady Antionette: “[they have no bread?], let them eat cake.” These people then ignore you, knowing that they know better than you despite being chosen by democratic means; being chosen by the people.
Is it any wonder that the common man would rather follow the person who understands and loves them (even if it is an act?), than follow the elite, the smug, and the so self-satisfied who regard the peasants as entitled and uppity?
Populism; the act of promising the people what they want should not be a dirty word. It should be the goal of all democracies. The satisfaction of the people. Not the subjugation. It is time that the centre learns to listen, make promises, and keep them. Otherwise, the tide will roll over them.
Here is the detailed changes in the European Parliament, including the increase and decrease in both vote shares and seats (BBC, 2019a):
Note: Finding data for Muslim populations in Europe is exceedingly difficult for multiple reasons; do we count pure ethnicities, or Mosque attendance? What about East Asian, African, or White converts? Not only that, but multiple European countries such as France and Germany has stopped reporting
Some sources of the Bibliography are not for this article, but for Part Two: The Factors of Populism and Nationalism.
In all articles, I provide as much information for sources as possible, including links. I encourage everyone reading this article to read deeper, and make their own conclusions. For students, links are here so they can read the original source themselves.
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