Iceland and others pushing back against the EU

9/13/13. Iceland dissolves EU accession teams. New Europe Online, neurope.eu

“Iceland, once thought destined to join the EU, has dissolved its accession negotiation committees, in what is seen as yet another step away from Union membership. The country’s foreign minister announced the move in a newspaper interview on Thursday.

Even though Iceland begun its accession process after its financial meltdown in 2008, with the eurozone’s own financial woes unfolding, support for membership has steadily decreased. The teams working on the project had been put on ice since the election of a new government in spring.

The Commission through spokesman Peter Stano said the development wasn’t a surprise and that the new government “has repeatedly underlined that it does not intend to continue accession negotiations.”

9/15/13. Rise of British anti-EU party threatens PM’s re-election: poll.  Andrew Osborn, Reuters.com

“British Prime Minister David Cameron’s hopes of being re-elected in 2015 suffered a setback on Sunday when a poll showed an anti-European Union party had split the center-right vote in dozens of decisive constituencies.

The poll focused on 40 of Britain’s 650 parliamentary seats where Cameron’s Conservative party won with the slimmest of margins at the last national election in 2010. It showed the main opposition Labour party had made little progress in the constituencies despite being ahead in opinion polls nationwide.

But a surge in support for the UK Independence Party (UKIP) was siphoning off support from the Conservatives, pointing to a Labour election victory, the poll showed.

UKIP, which has no seats in the British parliament but is represented in the European Parliament, campaigns for Britain to leave the EU and for an end to what it calls “open-door immigration”.

It has tapped into public disenchantment with what many Britons regard as the EU’s excessive influence over their lives and into fears that immigration levels are too high.

The party did well in local elections earlier this year, winning one in every four votes cast, and is forecast to do well in European Parliament elections next year.

But Britain’s “winner takes all” election system means it is unlikely to win a large number of seats in the national parliament in 2015.

Some lawmakers in Cameron’s Conservatives want him to forge an electoral pact with UKIP to guard against a split vote and are likely to increase their calls for him to do so before 2015.

But Cameron and Nigel Farage, UKIP’s leader, have had strained relations since 2006 when the Conservative leader said UKIP was full of “fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists”.

Responding to pressure from within his own party and UKIP, Cameron earlier this year promised Britons an in/out EU referendum by the end of 2017 if re-elected.”

9/15/13. German anti-euro party could derail Merkel coalition hopes. Michelle Martin, Reuters.com

“A new anti-euro party could enter Germany’s national parliament after an election next week, pollsters said on Sunday, potentially upsetting Chancellor Angela Merkel’s hopes of returning to power with her current coalition partner.

The Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD), which calls for an “orderly dismantling” of the euro zone, gained one point to 4 percent in an Emnid poll published on Sunday, taking it close to the 5 percent threshold needed to enter parliament.

If the AfD, which has quickly gained momentum after being founded in February, won seats in parliament, Merkel would struggle to get a centre-right majority with the liberal FDP, making a ‘grand coalition’ with the Social Democrats (SPD) the more likely scenario.

Emnid’s was the third survey this month to show the AfD on 4 percent after earlier polls put it at around 2-3 percent, and survey conductors say actual support is likely higher as some Germans are embarrassed to admit they would vote for such a party. Others say protest parties often get a last-minute boost.

Leading pollsters said the AfD could muster enough support to enter the assembly thanks to its perceived links to the far-right and a protest vote rather than on the back of its Eurosceptic views which have not found much resonance in a country with a pro-European political consensus.”

9/15/13. French far-right aims for success at local, EU elections. Ingrid Melander, Reuters.com

“France’s far-right National Front, buoyed by improving poll numbers, is aiming for big gains in municipal elections next year and the top spot in the European parliament ballot, its leaders said at the party’s annual convention.

The two 2014 elections, the first since the Socialists came to power in 2012, will dominate the political agenda in the euro zone’s second-largest country for the next nine months.

In a strategic shift for a party long content with attracting protest votes in national polls, the National Front says it wants to build a local base with the March municipal elections as a step to one day ruling the country – ambitions that are a growing headache for mainstream parties.

More than a third of French voters say they are sympathetic to the ideas of the party, whose agenda focuses on concerns about immigration, rejection of Europe and disillusion with mainstream politicians, a survey showed earlier this week.

The UMP, deeply divided since Nicolas Sarkozy lost the 2012 presidential election, is shaken by near-daily rows over whether to veer more towards the National Front’s agenda.

For the Socialists, who devoted part of their own summer convention to debate the role of the National Front, the popularity of right-wing party’s anti-austerity, anti-EU stance is challenge as the government must rein in the budget deficit.

The party has even more ambitious plans for May’s European Parliament elections where Eurosceptic, nationalistic parties usually do well.

“We can be first in the European elections, I’m certain about that,” Briois told Reuters, adding that party officials were in contact with the Dutch anti-Muslim party of Geert Wilders about cooperation for the election.

“The issues discussed in this election are the ones we’ve always focused on,” he said, citing the impact of European integration on immigration, security and jobs.

Academic Sylvain Crepon, an expert on the National Front, says that while the party is aiming for incremental increases in municipal seats to progressively build credibility on the ground, it has a shot at an outright victory in the EU vote.

“It can play on the protest vote, in a context of doubt about the EU and the euro,” he said. “It could become, just for this election, symbolically, the first party of France, or the second. That would be a thunderbolt.”

In a classic National Front speech, Marine Le Pen concluded the meeting with tough talk on immigration, by criticizing mainstream parties and the EU and by saying that social housing and family benefits should only go to French nationals.

Jean-Marie Le Pen got hundreds cheering and clapping with a speech on Saturday when he denounced immigration and Islamism as “fatal scourges” for France.”

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