How hard-right EU lawmakers vote on huge points

Opinion polls and studies suggest that EU voters will shift to the right in the elections for the European Parliament. The European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) and Identity and Democracy Group (ID), which comprise parties whose views range from right-wing populist to far-right nationalist, could combine to garner 21-24% of the 720 seats in European Parliament, the lower chamber of the EU’s legislature — up from 18%.

The two largest parliamentary groups, the European People’s Party (EPP), to which Germany’s Christian Democrats belong, and the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), are polling roughly at their current levels, while the Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and Greens-European Free Alliance can expect losses.

Meloni and Le Pen get closer

The makeup of the ECR and ID parliamentary groups will likely change after the election. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose Fratelli d’Italia party belongs to the ECR, is counting on winning more votes and would like to join forces with the French nationalist politician Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (RN), which currently belongs to the ID group.

In preparation, the ID kicked out the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) just two weeks before the elections on the grounds that it was damaging the image of other parties in the group by being too extreme and provocative. The last straw was when the AfD’s candidate Maximillian Krah claimed that members of the SS, the main paramilitary under Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany, should not all be considered “criminals.”

Meloni has said that her goal is an EU coalition similar to the one she leads in Italy, where right-wing populists (Fratelli), right-wing extremists (Lega) and Christian Democrats (Forza) have formed a fairly stable alliance. She has said that the “unnatural coalition” of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats and Liberals in the European Parliament must end.

How do right-wing lawmakers vote?

DW’s data journalism unit has examined the votes of the ECR and ID parliamentary groups during the last legislative period, particularly on key issues such as Russia’s war in Ukraine, migration and climate change.

On most of these issues, both groups have generally voted against the majority in the European Parliament. Nonetheless, the groups and the parties that comprise them have not always voted in the same way, particularly with regard to Russia and Ukraine.

Divided on the issue of Ukraine policy

Although both groups condemned Russia’s full-scale invasion of February 2022, only the ECR voted in favor of supporting and arming Ukraine. In 2024, the ID voted against this. This year, both groups backed imposing restrictions on Ukrainian agricultural exports to the EU, which they said put EU farmers at a disadvantage. The parliament as a whole voted in favor of liberalizing agricultural exports.

Regarding trade policy with Ukraine, both groups focused on the supposed interests of farmers at home. The national-conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) in Poland, which is part of the ECR group, voted against easing the burden on Ukraine, though it has otherwise been one of Ukraine’s most ardent supporters. On this issue, right-wing populists are also divided in the Netherlands, Belgium and Austria. In Italy, the far-right Lega (ID group) and Meloni’s Fratelli (ECR) both support Ukraine.

The ECR group supports Ukraine’s accession to the EU, which is wanted by the majority of the European Parliament. The IR group, which is moving further to the right, opposes this.

Neither the ECR nor the IR thinks that any potential expansion of the EU should be accompanied by more integration.

United against migration

When it comes to migration, both groups are united: they have opposed most of the key reforms adopted by the parliamentary majority on this issue. They both would like much stricter measures, including the complete closure of the EU’s borders, and an end to the right to asylum in the bloc.

However, they did both agree to the new Eurodac Regulation that provides for an expanded database to document all migrants and asylum seekers entering the EU.

Against the Green Deal

The two groups also agree more or less completely on climate change and the environment. Their lawmakers have rejected most measures to curb CO2 emissions, which most of the others in parliament support. Most of the two groups’ members, including the German AfD, deny that climate change is human-caused. 

Hard to make predictions

It is not clear what will happen if the far-right and right-wing populist parties of Europe make significant gains in the upcoming elections. But one indication could be a vote in April 2024, when a law on air pollution control was rejected by the ECR and the IR groups, as well as half of the Christian Democrats (EPP). It passed because the left-wing parties, Social Democrats and Greens voted unanimously in favor. This would have happened even with the additional seats that extreme-right parties are predicted to gain this time.

Christian Democrats could collaborate with parties further to the right

Sophia Russack from the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) thinks that the Christian Democrats (EPP) could end up being the biggest group in the European Parliament. She said that they might no longer be dependent on forming a coalition with Social Democrats and Liberals but could also cooperate with moderate elements of the more right-wing parties.

“I don’t think we have to worry about the far right making decisions, but what will happen is that the agenda will most likely be tilted [in a more conservative direction],” Russack told DW.

The EPP’s lead candidate, Ursula von der Leyen, has not ruled out cooperating with at least some of the more right-wing lawmakers in Europe. She does not know which right-of-center parties will make it into the parliament, but she recently said in an interview with a German public radio that she would work with individuals on a case-by-case basis rather than with the parties they belonged to. She said one prerequisite was that they support Ukraine, represent European values and be in favor of upholding the rule of law.

It remains to be seen where 12 lawmakers from Hungary’s ruling right-wing Fidesz party could end up. They have not yet been assigned to a parliamentary group and, therefore, were not included in DW’s data analysis.

Another question is how the nine Dutch right-wing populists, who the polls predict will be entering the new parliament, will behave. In the Netherlands, the far-right Party for Freedom (VVD) of Geert Wilders, known as the Dutch Donald Trump, has formed a governing coalition with former Christian Democrats and Liberals in time for the EU elections. That could also be a model for a potential majority in the next European Parliament.

Data, sources and methodology of this analysis can be found in this repository. Explore more data journalism stories from DW here.

This article was originally written in German.