Brussels (AFP) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel headed the charge against eurosceptics and the far-right Monday after France’s National Front (FN) and Britain’s UKIP led anti-EU parties in a stinging rebuke for Brussels.
“Earthquake” in Europe, read the headlines, summing up a day of trauma for establishment parties and the accepted consensus that the European Union offers the best future for all.
“It’s quite remarkable and regrettable but now the point is to win those voters back,” said Merkel, whose own conservative party won Sunday’s poll in Germany.
“A policy of competitiveness, growth and jobs is the best answer to the disappointment of those who voted in a way that we don’t like,” she said.
She said the European Union’s 500 million people were interested not by arcane politics, “but in the question of how Europe affects them and their lives”.
In France, a dismayed Prime Minister Manuel Valls could only lament the “massive abstention” of Socialist voters that left his party a distant third, with just 14 percent of the vote, to a rampant National Front which topped Sunday’s poll with 25 percent.
The pro-European Union parties must offer disillusioned voters the real prospect of jobs and growth, Valls said, refusing to step down after just weeks in office.
“I am convinced that Europe can be re-oriented to increase support for growth and employment, which it hasn’t done in years,” Valls said.
“Certainly there is a message across Europe of disillusionment with Europe and the EU has got to hear that loud and clear,” said Foreign Secretary William Hague in Britain, where Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party scored a stunning victory with 27 percent of the vote.
“This is just about the most extraordinary result in British politics for over 100 years,” Farage said, promising more to come. “The penny has really dropped.”
European Commission head Jose Manuel Barroso put the best gloss on the outcome, stressing that combined, the pro-EU camp of the center-right, center-left and Liberals would still have “a very solid and workable majority in the European Parliament”.