European Campaigns: Is it all about migration?

As its next event within the frameworks of the European Café series, CEID organized a panel discussion on whether there are common topics in the Pan-Europan campaings leading up to the EP elections on the 9th of April. Our invited experts included Mr Erik Frey, senior editor of Der Standard, Mr Fernado Vallespín, professor of political sciences and columnist of El País, and Mr Márton Gergely, managing editor of HVG, while Ms Edit Inotai, senior fellow of CEID was moderating.

The panelists from left to right: Edit Inotai, Erik Frey, Márton Gergely, Fernando Vallespín


The topics of the discussion focused on how historic the election might prove to be, their national or European nature, whether migration is really the most important topic, the Europe-wide populist processes, and also a brief look at Hungarian politics with prime minister Viktor Orbán’s role in the middle.


There was an overall consensus between the panelists that the historic importance given to the elections by some politicians is not entirely in accordance with the political reality. However, it was clear that they identified the Hungarian PM and French president Emmanuel Macron as the two alternatives aiming to provide European solutions to national problems. Therefore, the panelists were in agreement that as long as there are national parties contesting on the European level, these elections cannot really be considered as true European elections, Mr Frey even  referred to the EP as a “funny creature”. Mr Vallespín pointed out that there are local, regional and national elections happening parallel to EP elections in Spain, thus its importance will probably be overshadowed by these national ones. However, he also stated that the European electorate has never been as conscious about a possible turning point as now because of Brexit specifically, and that the citizens have to be strengthened so that the integrational cooperation could be enhanced. He also said that there is a fundamental misconstruction of the EU that needs to be restructured, and this process then could solve the problems it is facing currently. When it comes to migration, Mr Gergely thought that it is an issue only where people fear change, Mr Vallespín added that in Spain it is only 6th or 7th on the priority list, while Mr Frey pointed out that migration and direction of the European integration has been walking hand in hand courtesy of Mr Orbán, and that the center parties always have a hard time with identifying a single issue. Suprisingly, none of the speakers thought that the populist surge is one with a bright future and agreed that there cannot be a long term and long-scale cooperation be imagined amongst the far-right parties in Europe. What they were in agreement with again, though, was that Viktor Orbán is undisputedly a politician with European aspirations goals with which he intends to change the current EU status quo. Mr Vallespín went even as far to say that we need politician like him, he is useful, a role model who is capable of making people conscious,as Europe is a project for which we all have to fight. Mr Gergely turned the attention to Mr Orbán’s pragmatism, and as he is not a fundamentalist, he knows that there is simply more room for him and Fidesz within the European People’s Party.


This event was held within the frameworks of CEID’s European Café series with the financial support of the European Parliament.

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Dániel Varga