Portfolio blogger

Sunday, April 12, 2015

What will happen to extremist parties?

The Hungarian extreme right won its first individual constituency in the Hungarian by-election. The latest times they tried to pull more to the center, their president recognised the Holocaust and paid tribute to the mourning of the Jews and said that imminent exit from the EU is not a possibility. Where do extreme right parties go? This is also the question in France. The Figaro, considering the future of the extreme right Front National, discusses whether the fate of extreme parties in Italy can be considered an example. Unfortunately, the free part of the article only deals with the communist party, which normalised itself "by banalisation"
What happened to the extreme right party in Italy?
The Italian Social Movement (MSI), a minor neofascist party, was formed in Italy in 1946. In 1995, however, the MSI dissolved itself as it was transformed into a new party (National Alliance) headed by former MSI leader Gianfranco Fini and including the majority of former MSI members. Fini's right-wing National Alliance rejected fascist ideology, including anti-Semitism, and embraced democracy as one of its principles and has participated in center-right governing coalitions.
In 1988, at the party's congress, Gianfranco Fini defeated the right wing of the party and was elected party secretary. After a short stint at the helm by the more right-wing Pino Rauti, Fini returned to his role as party secretary in July 1. During the 1990s Fini gradually began to move the MSI away from its neo-fascist ideology to a more traditionally conservative political agenda. The party won wider support when the pervasive corruption of the governing parties was exposed in the early 1990s. The project to form a new party, called National Aliiance was launched in 1993.
The party became a partner in the conservative government formed after the 1994 elections. In January 1995, the Party's congress in Fiuggi marked a radical change, afterwards referred to as la svolta di Fiuggi (the turning point at Fiuggi) and merged the MSI-DN with conservative elements of the disbanded Christian Democrats to form the National Alliance (AN), of which Fini assumed the presidency.
Fini began a personal evolution towards more socially liberal positions in the 2000s, notwithstanding the opposition of the rest of his party.
At the end of January 2007, Berlusconi declared that Fini would be his only successor in case of unification of centre-right parties, provoking dissent from theNorthern League and the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats (UDC).
In 2007 Berlusconi proclaimed the dissolution of his Forza Italia party and the birth of a new unitary party of the centre-right, the People of Freedom. At first, Fini reacted coldly, affirming that AN would not participate, judging the way the new party was born confused and superficial, and expressing open dissent against his ally of the "former coalition".
However, two months later, he moved closer to Berlusconi again, soon after the fall of the Prodi II Cabinet. They agreed to present the two parties under the same symbol of the People of Freedom in the April 2008 parliamentary election, and then to proceed towards a unitary centre-right party. Here is an interesting description .
Between 2009 and 2010 Gianfranco Fini became a vocal critic of the leadership of Berlusconi. He departed from party's majority line on stem cell research, end of life issues, advance health care directive and immigration, but, most of all, he was a proponent of a more structured party organisation. His criticism was aimed at the leadership style of Berlusconi, who tended to rely on his personal charisma to lead the party from the centre and supported a lighter form of party, which in his mind was to be a movement-party active only at election times.
2010 there was a split from the party by Gianfranco Fini. It was soon clear that FLI would leave the PdL and become an independent party. On 7 November, during a convention in Bastia Umbra, Fini asked Berlusconi to step down as Prime Minister and proposed a new government including the Union of the Centre (UdC). A few days later, the four FLI members in the government resigned. On 14 December FLI voted against Berlusconi in a vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies, a vote won by Berlusconi by 314 to 311 On 30 July 2010, Fini held a press conference during which he announced the formation of separate groups from the PdL both in the Chamber and the Senate under the name Future and Freedom (FLI). On 11–13 February 2011 FLI was officially established as a party during a congress in Milan and Gianfranco Fini was elected president of it.
In the 2013 general election, held in February 2013, the party ran as part of the With Monti for Italy alliance with the UdC and Civic Choice and obtained a mere 0.4% of the vote, returning no seats in the Chamber and one in the Senate, plus two elects by Italians abroad.
What remained of the party started to cooperate with The Right, Tricolour Flame, I South and other right-wing parties and people to form a "new National Alliance"
On 15 November 2013, the day before the PdL's dissolution in the new FI, the "doves" left the party to form the New Centre-Right party.
The MSI/AN/FLI is not the only extreme right party in the West which faces tough choices and ideological turmoil. The Dutch extreme right – and a series of other alternative right-wing and Eurosceptic movements – are also trespassing hence unsurmountable barriers: The homosexuality of Pim Fortuyn is just a marginal issue, but some of these parties also embrace economic liberalism – if only to have a basis to deny redistribution to the favour of the poorer classes, who are more and more consisting of immigrants.
Can this be an example for the Hungarian Jobbik party, too? At the moment the Hungarian “right” is nationalising, but also stigmatising the poor and making their life even more difficult. But they also detest the “plutocracy”, the financial elite and want to develop a “national” bourgeoisie by giving them state money, mainly in the form of state contracts instead of enabling them to pursue freely their business. But Jobbik tries to show a more “human”, civilised face, to abandon the call for immediate exit from the EU. This will anger the “hardliners” so they may face already opposition from them – and this may start a fermentation. On the other hand, I hear more syrene sounds from the moderate right, which did not yet organise itself, towards left-leaning voters. While the left disintegrates further, there is no real conservative or liberal force. So there are more questions than answers. Source: mainly Wikipedia

Sunday, April 5, 2015

3 years of the European Citizens' Initiative

Article 11(4) of the Lisbon Treaty created the European Citizens’ Initiative, as a new tool for citizens to influence the politics of the European Union. A Regulation was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on 16 February 2011 which defined the detailed rules. National authorities were designated to certifying the online support collection system and to verify the statements of support and delivering the relevant certificate as for an initiative to be successful, it has to be backed by at least one million EU citizens, coming from at least 7 out of the 28 member states. A minimum number of signatories is required in each of those 7 member states. The proposal must be in an area where the Commission has the power to propose legislation, for example environment, agriculture, transport or public health. If an initiative receives the necessary number of signatures, the Commission has to take action within 3 months after receiving the initiative.
The organisers get the opportunity to explain in detail the issues raised in their initiative to the Commission and at a public hearing in the European Parliament
The Commission is not obliged to propose legislation as a result of an initiative but has to publish a formal response – published in all 24 EU official languages - spelling out what action it will propose in response to the citizens' initiative, if any, and the reasons for doing or not doing so.. If the Commission decides to put forward a legislative proposal, the normal legislative procedure kicks off: the Commission proposal is submitted to the legislator and, if adopted, it becomes law.
The process can be found here in detail , so I will not talk about it more.

The Commission recently summarised the experience with the initiatives and published a report about it.
Since April 2012 till the date of the report, end March 2015, the Commission has received 51 requests for registration of proposed citizens’ initiatives. 31 of them were registered (16 registrations in 2012, nine in 2013, five in 2014 and one in 2015). 20 proposed initiatives did not fulfil the registration criteria and therefore could not be registered. The most frequently cited reason for refusal was that the subject of the initiative was outside the legislative powers of the EU and thus did not qualify for being a European Citizens’ Initiative.
18 initiatives have reached the end of their collection period (10 others were withdrawn before the end of their collection period). Among those 18, three initiatives have reached the required number of statements of support and were submitted to the Commission. Two of them have already received a formal response from the Commission: 'Water and sanitation are a human right! Water is a public good, not a commodity!' ('Right2Water') and 'One of us'.
The first one calls for: 1. The EU institutions and Member States be obliged to ensure that all inhabitants enjoy the right to water and sanitation. 2. Water supply and management of water resources not be subject to ‘internal market rules’ and that water services are excluded from liberalisation. 3. The EU increases its efforts to achieve universal access to water and sanitation.
After the organisers met the Commission and a public hearing took place in the European Parliament, the topic was taken up in the course of actions concerning the Drinking Water Directive. The evaluation of the directive is ongoing. The roadmap will be published shortly The EP Rapporteur presented the first draft of the Environment Committee Report on the Right2Water initiative. The vote in the Committee is provisionally scheduled for 26/05/2015 and the vote in the EP Plenary is provisionally foreseen for 08/06/2015
. The second one calls for a ban and end the financing of activities which presuppose the destruction of human embryos, in particular in the areas of research, development aid and public health.
There was a meeting with the organisers and a public hearing in the European Parliament. As a result, the Commission has decided not to submit a legislative proposal as the policy of the EU is clear and rigorous rules are in place. 156.7 million euros were spent on stem cell research out of a total of 6 billion between 2007 and 2013 and Embryonic stem cells are unique and offer the potential for life-saving treatments, with clinical trials already underway. The Commission will continue to apply the strict ethical rules and restrictions in place for EU-funded research, including not funding the destruction of embryos.
The third one ('Stop vivisection') is under examination by the Commission and will receive an answer by 3 June 2015.
Looking at the aborted and refused initiatives, there are three main areas where most of the initiatives fall into: Social questions (of course the proposal for an unconditional basic income is one of them) like protection of minorities, cohesion policy for the equality of the regions and sustainability of the regional cultures and a new European poverty criterion or the one to stop legal prositution, animal welfare, like “Dairy Cow Welfare” “Ethics for Animals (and Kids)” and political – some of them outrightly provocative like “Stop TTIP”, the one calling for a self-abolition of the European Parliament and its structures or the one entitled: “Should the current failing form of EG be replaced by one without democratic deficit?”.
A handful of initiatives dealt with environmental questions, among them the one of the three hitherto successful ones.
Still are open , one of them calling for an online collection plpatform for support of citizens’ initiatives, one to stop the climate initiatives except energy efficiency unless other big emitters also agree. A software tool for online data collection enables citizens to support a given initiative and organizers to manage its operations.
Further information can be found here.