Why did the Russian disinformation machine target French voters?

For the Kremlin, the National Rally — whose stances on Russia are friendlier than those of President Macron, a staunch supporter of Ukraine — might have been the preferred winners of the French snap legislative elections, and Moscow likely tried to help boost their results on Sunday.

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What do fake news on Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska’s multimillion-euro sports car purchase and made-up offers of money to vote for President Emmanuel Macron in the French snap elections have in common?

They were all cooked up by the Kremlin in what is an ongoing all-out assault on French public opinion, researchers claim.

Scores of freshly registered websites, some made to look like mainstream outlets, have been publishing everything from deepfakes to generative AI writing impassionate fringe content and reports on real-world acts of subversion.

The latest massive-scale hybrid strategy was designed to disorient and confuse those unsure of who to support in the French electoral double-header.

“The Russian-linked entities have been taking newspapers websites and mocking them up to have slightly different headlines where you don’t know whether the information you’re looking at is real or not,” Ross Burley, co-founder of the Centre for Information Resilience, told Euronews.

“And that’s not necessarily to fool people to think, ‘Oh look, I’m reading the New York Times’ because people are not stupid. It’s more around diluting the information space and creating so many different versions and so many different variations of what you think is real.”

“It confuses you so you don’t actually engage with the actual, real content because you’re not 100% sure as to whether what you’re looking at is in fact the real version. So that’s the aim here,” he explained.

Spoofing legitimate outlets to gain trust

On 9 June, the French far-right National Rally trounced Macron’s party in elections for the European Parliament. The party formerly known as National Front has historically pursued a subtle policy of being friendly with the Kremlin: since taking the helm in 2011, its leader Marine Le Pen has cultivated ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and supported Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Its leading contender for prime minister, Jordan Bardella, has said he opposes sending long-range weapons to Kyiv.

For the Kremlin, both Le Pen and Bardella were a much more palatable choice in France than Macron, who is a staunch supporter of Kyiv in its attempts to defend itself from Russia’s ongoing full-scale invasion — and Moscow might have tried to sway the vote in their favour.

The Kremlin did so by furthering the goals of its disinformation campaign dubbed Doppelgänger, meant to change the public opinion against Ukraine, to outright social engineering in the heart of Europe by means of encouraging and fuelling the extremes.

“It’s classic Russian malign activity, taking something which is divisive in society,” Burley said, “and needling away and pouring vinegar on the wound of the issue to deepen those divisions and then put it on social media so people get angry about it and use your network of accounts that can amplify each other,” Burley said.

And according to him, it’s working.

“This stuff is cheap and it’s effective, it’s not a huge endeavour like having to go and spend millions on a digital marketing campaign. It’s a lot cheaper than that.”

“In terms of bang for buck, this is a really cheap way for Russians to subvert a key democracy in NATO and the EU.”

In more than 4,400 posts gathered since mid-November by antibot4navalny, a collective that analyses Russian bot behaviour, those targeting audiences in France and Germany predominated. The number of weekly posts ranged from 100 to 200 except for the week of 5 May, when it dropped to near zero, the data showed. That week, as it happens, was when Russia celebrates Victory Day — a major public holiday.

The content observed shifted focus to the European elections and continued after Macron called the surprise legislative elections with just three weeks to spare. Three-quarters of posts from the week ahead of the 30 June first-round legislative vote directed toward a French audience focused on either criticising Macron or boosting the National Rally, antibot4navalny found.

AFP news agency, BFMTV, and Le Point magazine have all been spoofed as a way to legitimise criticism of Macron and make it seem like a mainstream point of view.

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“Our leaders have no idea how ordinary French people live but are ready to destroy France in the name of aid for Ukraine,” read one headline on 25 June.

Another site falsely claimed to be from Macron’s party, offering to pay €100 for a vote for him — and linking back to the party’s true website.

And still, another inadvertently left a generative artificial intelligence prompt asking AI to re-write an article “taking a conservative stance against the liberal policies of the Macron administration,” according to findings last week from Insikt Group, the threat research division of the cybersecurity consultancy Recorded Future.

Stars of David, bloody hand prints and coffins at the Eiffel Tower

Macron’s dissolution of the parliament and call for surprise elections only made worse what was already in motion.

French authorities have been increasingly warning this might happen as they have observed the escalation first-hand for months.

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The Russian campaigns sowing anti-French disinformation began online in the early summer of last year but first became tangible last October when more than 1,000 bots linked to Russia relayed photos of graffitied Stars of David in Paris and its suburbs.

A French intelligence report said the Russian security agency FSB ordered the tagging, as well as subsequent vandalism of the Wall of the Righteous, a memorial to those who helped rescue Jews from the Holocaust, with at least two dozen red hand prints meant to imply Jewish blood on French hands.

Then, in early June, five coffins were discovered at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, filled with plaster and covered with a French flag bearing the words “French soldiers of Ukraine,” according to domestic outlets.

The three men arrested in connection with the stunt were in contact with a man suspected to have been a part of the group behind the bloody hand prints, a document from the local security directorate for the Paris agglomeration (DSPAP) revealed, according to Le Monde.

Photos from these events were amplified on social media by fake accounts linked to Russian disinformation sites, cybersecurity experts said.

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In the meantime, French intelligence has implicated Sergei Kiriyenko, a ranking Kremlin official, as the person in charge of the operation.

The idea behind the stunts was to antagonise and enrage the average citizen: as the Israel-Hamas war kicked off following the latter’s terrorist attack on 7 October, the culprits banked on fears of a spike in antisemitism by drawing Stars of David on walls just like Nazi brownshirts did in the 1930s.

However, the October graffiti attack inevitably pointed back at Russia, being highly reminiscent of Stars of David suddenly popping up on facades across then-West Germany in the 1950s.

The plot was tracked down to the Russian intelligence agency KGB: the Kremlin had its people tag the walls in the Federal Republic of Germany to spook the West into thinking that Nazis were back, derailing the government in Bonn amid its economic miracle.

Paris up in arms

Meanwhile, Paris has warned many times that what it was dealing with in 2024 was again coming from Moscow.

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In February, French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné said in a public video address posted on X that a French state agency had discovered a network of 193 Russian websites, spreading propaganda before the 6-9 June European elections.

Then, in April, Minister for European Affairs Jean-Noël Barrot warned that the country was “being overwhelmed with propaganda and disinformation” ahead of the vote.

Last month, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) and the Tow Center revealed another Kremlin-associated influence operation, outing a French-language website, Verite Cachee, as a source of Russian-style deepfake videos and other content meant to sway the French opinion against Ukraine.

One deepfake — a near-seamless video created using the latest technology to convince the viewer of the most outlandish claims — showed Ukraine’s Zelenska supposedly buying a brand-new Bugatti Tourbillon sports car for €4.5 million. The video and the alleged proof of purchase Verite Cachee published proved to be false.

Russian state-owned media and affiliated outlets have repeatedly accused Zelenska and her husband, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, of frivolous spending habits and amassing immense wealth. None of the allegations were ever proven to be true.

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This site and another called France en Colere were established less than two weeks after Macron announced the snap elections.

The barrage of fake news has also targeted the French army and the country’s strong links with Ukraine, claiming it was endangering public safety, such as causing an alleged tuberculosis epidemic, with the illness being brought over by Ukrainians coming to France.

However, all of this turned out to be a part of a much larger plot to poison the well across Europe by flooding its online information space with swaths of disruptive content ranging from conspiracy theories to attacks on Kyiv-friendly leaders.

More platforms, more problems

In March, Czech authorities imposed sanctions on the Prague-based website Voice of Europe for spreading Kremlin propaganda. The site allegedly used the influence of mostly far-right, pro-Russian European Parliament members who engaged with the outlet. Two of the channel’s executives, including Viktor Medvedchuk, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, were also hit with sanctions.

The fallout from the scandal, dubbed “Russiagate”, saw German far-right AfD kicked out of the Identity and Democracy (ID) European Parliament group, while the party dropped now-former MEP Maximilian Krah as its lead candidate in the run-up to the European elections.

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Following Brussels’ own sanctions against Voice of Europe, social media companies like Meta and Google have removed its channels from their platforms.

However, the network remains active on platforms such as Telegram and X and has even managed to restore its website. And in the meantime, it has found other ways of publishing and peddling its wares.

Russian-made platforms Telegram and VKontakte — the Russian version of Facebook — are commonly used to propagate and give velocity to disinformation, further pointing to Moscow’s involvement.

Telegram has been heavily criticised for opening itself up to extremist content, with the Anti-Defamation League labelling it a white supremacist “safe haven”.

X has seen a spike of malign content ever since Elon Musk bought and rebranded the platform formerly known as Twitter. Despite demands from Brussels to improve its content moderation, especially in the EU, Musk has repeatedly defended X’s policies of allowing questionable content as “free speech”.

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According to Burley, the lack of desire of Big Tech companies to put their foot down against the Kremlin’s campaigns has further encouraged Moscow, and turned spreading malign content on social media into a “small industry” in its own right.

“The way both Meta’s evolving and the way that X has already got there in terms of the monetisation of anger and angst makes it a really easy thing to do,” he said.

“And not only does it get you your primary goal in terms of making people angry and upset, but also you make money out of it, which means you can put your money into digital marketing and do the whole thing again.”

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How Britain voted: Charts and maps

The U.K. Labour party is celebrating a landslide victory.

Keir Starmer’s party has 411 seats, excluding the speaker’s, and a large majority in the House of Commons. His tally includes a number of “red wall” constituencies the party lost to the Conservatives in the previous election in 2019, and seats the Scottish National Party had dominated for nearly a decade.

But a closer look at the numbers suggests Labour strategists should not rest on their laurels.

Nigel Farage’s Reform UK party won five seats, but placed second in more than 100 other constituencies. By vote share, it is now the U.K.’s third-largest party.

Those same vote shares paint a far weaker picture for Labour than its seat number would suggest. The party recorded a 200-seat jump — but its vote share advanced by only an inch.

UK legislative election results

365 seats
CON

203 seats
LAB

48 seats
SNP

LD

DUP

SF

PC

SDLP

APNI

GREEN


Conservative Party

Labour Party

Scottish National Party

Liberal Democrats

Democratic Unionist Party

Sinn Féin

Plaid Cymru

Social Democratic and Labour Party

Alliance Party of Northern Ireland

Green Party

650 / 650 seats assigned
Turnout: 67.3%

412 seats
LAB

121 seats
CON

72 seats
LD

SNP

SF

IND

DUP

RE

GREEN

PC

SDLP

APNI

OTHER

UUP


Labour Party

Conservative Party

Liberal Democrats

Scottish National Party

Sinn Féin

Independent

Democratic Unionist Party

Reform UK

Green Party

Plaid Cymru

Social Democratic and Labour Party

Alliance Party of Northern Ireland

Other parties

Ulster Unionist Party

650 / 650 seats assigned

The Conservatives lost 250 seats, as their vote share plummeted from more than 40 percent in 2019 to below 25 percent now.

But both Labour and the Liberal Democrats recorded major seat gains despite barely making any advance at all in their vote shares.

The U.K.’s first-past-the-post election system means Labour will occupy about 60 percent of the House of Commons, with less than 35 percent of the votes. That vote share is less than former leader Jeremy Corbyn achieved in 2017, when he lost to Theresa May’s Conservatives.

Meanwhile, Nigel Farage’s Reform UK won five seats — but collected more than 14 percent of the vote, making it the third-largest party by vote share, ahead of the Liberal Democrats.

Labour’s anticipated win, while an extraordinary turnaround for a party that didn’t look electable just a few years ago, doesn’t appear to have enthused voters.

With turnout estimated at 60 percent, no election in the past 20 years drew fewer voters to the ballot box.

`Still, Labour made huge strides in the U.K.’s embattled swing seats.

Those constituencies were held by the Conservatives until 1997, before flipping to Labour and then back to the Tories from 2010.

Most of them have now swung behind Labour once more.

Labour’s loss in 2019 was punctuated by the crumbling of the “red wall,” as strongholds stretching from the Midlands to the north of England voted in a Conservative MP, many for the first time.

But that Tory control in these seats proved short-lived…

The Conservatives have had a terrible 2024 election, but so has the Scottish National Party.

The SNP has had a firm grip on power in Scotland since 2015, when it won nearly every Scottish seat — most of which had been occupied by Labour before.

But Thursday’s vote put an end to its winning streak. The party have lost around 80 percent of the seats total they held in 2019, with most going to Labour.

This election has radically changed the UK’s electoral map: a sea of red reminiscent of 1997 has the Conservative party reeling; a few dots of bright light blue and a significant vote share mark Reform UK’s entrance to mainstream UK politics, and the Lib Dems can enjoy a return from relative obscurity with more than 70 MPs, its highest number ever. Meanwhile, the shockingly poor performance of the SNP marks the end of an era north of the border.

*These figures have been updated following the last contituency’s declaration

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The dirty little secret no politician will admit: There is no way to ‘go for growth’

Investment professionals and politicians who spurned Liz Truss’s “go for growth” strategy for the British economy are slowly waking up to an uncomfortable truth.

The former U.K. Prime Minister’s plan, which relied on unfunded tax cuts that were perceived to be inflationary, may have been the only growth plan for Europe’s economies to escape over-indebtedness and low productivity without having to turn to austerity or greater state control of the economy. Not that any of them are prepared to admit it.

Britain’s Institute of Fiscal Studies on Monday described parties’ reluctance to admit as much on Monday as “a conspiracy of silence” arguing Labour’s pledge to rule out tax hikes was a “mistake.” “We wish Labour had not made those tax locks and it will be difficult [politically] to break,” IFS director Paul Johnson said about the party currently leading the polls.

But it’s not just British politicians who are refusing to face up to reality. In France, where an impending snap parliamentary election threatens to empower extremists on both sides of the political spectrum — to the cost of President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Renaissance party — there is a similar reluctance to admit there are only bad options on the table.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire highlighted last week, after French bonds began to wobble, that anything short of centrism risks placing France under the supervision of Brussels and the International Monetary Fund.

What he failed to point out is that even supposedly sensible centrists face having to do the unthinkable in the longer run.

“They have to go to financial repression because high growth as a strategy out of over-indebtedness is not going to be funded by the bond market,” Russell Napier, an influential investment advisor who authors the Solid Ground newsletter, told POLITICO. “I think it doesn’t matter who you vote for, you end up with roughly the same thing. So the market’s not maybe saying ‘we’re very sanguine about Labour [in the U.K.].’ They’re just saying: ‘It doesn’t really matter who you vote for. We are heading toward this route.’”

Incoming financial repression

That route, in Napier’s opinion, means it’s time for financial repression: putting a lid on the free movement of capital and having the government and other technocratic institutions increasingly determine which sectors benefit from public sector funding, and even more critically, from private sector funding too.

The pathway takes Europe much closer to the dirigiste policies that dominated the continent in the post-war period and away from the market-based liberalism that investors have become used to over the past four decades.

Truss’s risky tax cuts had hoped to avoid a push towards state-guided credit rationing by unleashing the power of the private sector and the financial industry to stimulate such a high rate of growth that the accompanying inflation just wouldn’t matter — especially if the Bank of England’s interest rate policy acted in support.

But the dilemma facing France, one of the EU’s largest economies, encapsulates three further political complexities: Paris does not control its own monetary policy, its public sector spending capacity is restricted by fiscal rules created in Brussels — which it is now officially in breach of — and any move to direct private sector financing domestically could clash with the bloc’s greater efforts to create a single capital markets and banking union.

That doesn’t leave much wiggle room for any incoming French government to experiment with a “dash for growth”, either of the free-market Truss variety, or — which is more relevant for France — the free-spending government interventionist one.

Politicization of the ECB

For Macron, the stakes are abundantly clear. In a speech to the Sorbonne University in April, he said: “We must be clear on the fact that our Europe, today, is mortal. It can die. It can die, and that depends entirely on our choices. But these choices must be made now.”

But in the same speech he, too, advocated a wholesale reordering of Europe’s economic framework largely because he — like the populists on either side of him — can’t afford everything he wants.

The current economic model, he said, is no longer sustainable “because we legitimately want to have everything, but it doesn’t hold together.”

Like all of the French presidents of the last 25 years, Macron has faced this constraint on domestic policymaking by trying to co-opt the one institution that has no formal constraints on creating money out of thin air — the European Central Bank. In his Sorbonne speech, he stressed that “you cannot have a monetary policy whose sole objective is to address inflation.”

The ECB’s mandate can only be updated by changing the whole EU treaty, something for which Europe’s leaders have no appetite. But even within its current legal straitjacket, the ECB has found plenty of ways to support national governments when it can, with a sequence of tools and programs that have allowed it to buy their bonds and keep their borrowing costs below where they would naturally have been.

It’s the newest of these tools that is likely to play a key role in the next few weeks. The ECB has stopped net purchases of bonds as part of its broader policy to bring inflation down, but it has one tool — so far untested — that it can use to alleviate any market stress after the elections: the so-called Transmission Protection Instrument.

The TPI allows the ECB to buy the bonds of individual governments whose borrowing costs it considers out of step with macroeconomic fundamentals. The idea is to ensure that its single monetary policy applies reasonably equally across the whole euro area. But it creates substantial scope for the ECB to exercise financial repression on behalf of those it considers aligned with its own mission.

It implies that the ECB knows better than markets what the value of a government promise to pay is. And in not setting any ex ante limits to the scale of its interventions, it has bestowed upon itself enormous power to take on the markets if it disagrees with them strongly enough.

It’s this power that Macron may want to harness if he is still able to present a budget he can call his own after July. But by the same token, he will want to ensure that the ECB denies that support to his opponents if they emerge victorious, just as it did to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and Greece’s Alexis Tsipras a decade ago.

According to Napier, whether the ECB ultimately decides to use the TPI or not, the decision will have political implications, not least because it will change the parameters of what the central bank is really prepared to do save the euro, and on whose behalf.

“If you think Macron is an ally of the [European] project, then you don’t use it until after there’s some type of chaos,” Napier said.

Many things could still change between now and July 7. The far right National Rally’s Jordan Bardella, for example, has already walked back some of the party’s spendiest plans, aiming to reassure markets that conflict with the EU over its fiscal rules can be avoided.

But in an interview with the FT published on Thursday, Bardella upset the bond markets again by saying he’d campaign for a big rebate from the EU budget, only hours after his ally and mentor Marine Le Pen signaled that a National Rally government would try to wrest away Macron’s powers as commander-in-chief.

In other words, the threat of major market instability in July remains alive and well. And, as Napier put it: “If bond yields blow up in France they can blow up anywhere.”

(Additional reporting by Geoffrey Smith)

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Just how extreme is Nigel Farage’s Reform UK?

A string of embarrassments involving under-vetted candidates has raised red flags about an insurgent force in the UK election, led by Brexit activist and former MEP Nigel Farage.

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With just two weeks to go until a snap general election, Britain’s ruling Conservative Party looks set to face what could be its biggest defeat in more than a century.

While the Labour Party is expected to win a landslide victory, much of the credit for the Conservatives’ downfall will be due to an insurgent party to their right.

According to the polls, the anti-immigration, anti-”woke” and culturally traditionalist party Reform UK, led by leading Brexit activist and former MEP Nigel Farage, is set to take as much as 15% or more of the national vote. One poll that showed it leading the Tories by a single point received wall-to-wall coverage, though the lead was within the margin of error.

Farage himself is now running to become an MP for the seat of Clacton, an area that has received national attention mainly for its voters’ intensely pro-Brexit views and its atmosphere of economic depression.

It will be Farage’s eighth attempt to get into parliament, and for the first time, he is widely expected to win.

So who are the voters he is trying to win over?

Reform’s pitch appears squarely aimed at a stereotypical older right-wing voter — but according to Paula Surridge, Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Bristol, the slice of the electorate currently backing the party straddles the left-right divide more than many commentators acknowledge. 

“The voters Reform have been winning from the Conservatives are most distinctive in terms of having immigration as their core concern,” she told Euronews. “They are particularly hardline on illegal immigration and the ‘small boats’.”

“In terms of values they are a little more socially conservative than those who have been staying loyal to the Conservatives, but notably more economically left-leaning — something a little out of tune with the party rhetoric and manifesto.”

That manifesto, branded by Reform as a “Contract with You”, is heavily focused on trying to cut taxes and turbo-charge economic growth.

It contains various measures that appear designed to appeal to wealthier voters, among them an extravagant commitment to lift the inheritance tax threshold so that estates worth less than £2 million (€2.36m) are exempted.

The fiscal element of the so-called contract was shredded in an analysis by the independent Institute of Fiscal Studies, which concluded that “even with the extremely optimistic assumptions about how much economic growth would increase, the sums in this manifesto do not add up.”

‘Reclaiming Britain’: All-out culture war assault

But if these plans sit at odds with many potential Reform voters’ economic views, the manifesto’s other policies are a laundry list of the hardline right’s favourite topics.

Aside from a strident plan to freeze non-essential immigration and impose a punitive levy on businesses that employ “foreign workers”, the contract also pushes for the end of what it calls “woke policing” and a philosophical cleanup of British education.

It would force schools to “ban transgender ideology” while enforcing a “patriotic” model of education, declaring that “any teaching about a period or example of British or European imperialism or slavery must be paired with the teaching of a non-European occurrence of the same to ensure balance.”

The national identity theme even gets its own full page, titled “Reclaiming Britain”, a section that nods towards post-COVID-19 paranoia about the World Health Organization, the World Economic Forum, and the declining use of cash currency.

Alongside proposing two new national holidays to celebrate Welsh and English identity, the manifesto declares it would launch an all-out culture war assault.

“Legislate to stop left-wing bias and politically correct ideology that threatens personal freedom and democracy,” it reads. “No more de-banking, cancel culture, left wing hate mobs or political bias in public institutions. Stop Sharia law being used in the UK.” (Sharia law is not used in the British legal system.)

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This, then, is what the party says it wants. But just as telling are the people it has chosen to represent it.

Into the fray, beyond the fringe

Many of Reform UK’s 600-plus candidates were selected in a rush when the snap election was called by Rishi Sunak. This left the party with little time to vet them for problematic past statements, and the results have not been good.

One candidate, Ian Gribbin, was forced to apologise after the resurfacing of old posts on a right-wing news site in which he wrote that it would have been “far better” for the UK to have stayed out of World War II.

“Britain would be in a far better state today had we taken Hitler up on his offer of neutrality … but oh no, Britain’s warped mindset values weird notions of international morality rather than looking after its own people,” one of the posts read.

He also referred to women as the “sponging gender” and suggested they should be deprived of medical care until the life expectancy gap between the sexes could be closed. He remains Reform UK’s candidate for the seat of Bexhill and Battle.

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Another candidate, Jack Aaron, has had to defend comments in which he described Hitler as a “brilliant” man according to “Socionics”, a fringe pseudoscientific theory of personality types. Again, he remains a candidate.

One Reform candidate who has actually stood down is Grant StClair-Armstrong, who, it was revealed, had previously urged readers to vote for the openly racist British National Party.

Apologising for his comments, which Reform itself condemned as “unacceptable”, StClair-Amstrong was insistent that: “I am not a racist in any shape or form, outspoken maybe. I have many Muslim friends, three of whom refer to me as Daddy.” Politico reported that he did not appear to be discussing his children.

Farage and his de facto co-leader, Richard Tice, have blamed these incidents on the supposed failures of a third-party vetting contractor, against whom they say they are considering legal action. However, it has transpired that the party, in fact, used Vetting.com, which is not a vetting agency but an automated paid-for platform to which users can upload information themselves.

Nonetheless, Farage has suggested an establishment “stitch-up” may be to blame.

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But aside from the plethora of candidates that Reform insists it did not have time to vet properly, there is the matter of what Farage himself has said since the campaign began. 

When Prime Minister Rishi Sunak left a D-Day commemoration ceremony early, shocking his allies and outraging much of the nation, Farage used an interview to complain that the UK’s first premier of Asian descent “doesn’t understand our history and our culture”.

Called out for his remarks on air by a BBC interviewer, Farage insisted his point was that Sunak is “utterly disconnected by class, by privilege, from how the ordinary folk in this country feel”.

Farage as the wrecking ball (again)

The extent to which all of this matters depends largely on the result Reform get on 4 July — and on what Farage does next. 

According to the polls, Reform is set to take as much as 15% or more of the national vote. One poll that showed it leading the Tories by a single point received wall-to-wall coverage, but the lead was within the survey’s margin of error.

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Yet this polling surge may not directly translate into any meaningful number of seats.

Under the UK’s first-past-the-post electoral system, a party’s national share of the vote is essentially irrelevant. Instead, each seat is represented by the candidate who wins the most votes within the constituency, however small their share might be.

This does not seem to bother Farage, who originally claimed he was not planning to run at all. His entrance into the fray has boosted his party, and he is increasingly open about his goal of destroying the Conservative Party in its current form.

Depending on how reduced that party is in size after 4 July and who leads it into its years out of power, he may yet be admitted to its ranks himself.

And if he makes it through to a leadership contest, the grassroots party members who make the final decision might well give him a chance to run the show.

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Euronews contacted Reform UK for comment, but the party did not respond at the time of publication.



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Will far-right and far-left be wild cards in new EU Parliament?

The non-attached members of the European Parliament, totaling 100 seats, are seeking for a group. Many of these MEPs hold radical political views on both the left and right, and they often oppose policies regarding Russia, the Green Deal, and enlargement.

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A surge of unconventional parties is set to enter the new EU Parliament, collectively representing as many as 100 MEPs. This marks the first occasion where larger, established party groups will need to navigate a significant presence of politically unpredictable forces.

Of these members of the European Parliament, 46 belong to non-affiliated groups, while 56 are temporarily seated with the yet-to-be-inscribed deputies list—newcomers seeking political affiliation. Technically, they are “newly elected members not aligned with any of the political groups established in the outgoing Parliament.”

The considerable size of both groups will directly or indirectly influence the formation of new coalitions, given their radical or eccentric positions within the general framework of the EU Parliament.

“Can these fringe parties, these challenger parties really force the mainstream parties into making ideological concessions, into repositioning themselves more to the left or more to the right?” Wouter Wolfs questions, a lecturer of European Politics at the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven).

“And if that’s the case, it could potentially complicate consensus-building at the European level. This poses a significant challenge because the European Parliament typically operates effectively only when there is consensus among the main mainstream groups,” Wolfs says.

The German question

The country that will bring the largest number of non-attached and non-inscribed MEPs to Strasbourg and Brussels is Germany, with representatives coming from both the far-right and the far-left.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) was expelled from the Identity and Democracy ultra-right group, led by Marine Le Pen, due to its extremism and concerning alleged connections with Chinese and Russian influence agents.

The AfD will occupy 15 EU parliamentary seats. Its leadership intends to form a new “alt-right” group with similar parties from other countries. With fifteen seats, it’s a promising start, given that at least 23 seats from seven countries are required to establish their own group.

Other potential partners for the AfD could include Bulgaria’s far-right Renaissance party, France’s ultra-right Reconquer led by Marion Maréchal and Eric Zemmour, Hungary’s My Homeland party, various movements from Slovakia and Czechia, and Poland’s Konfederacja, a coalition of far-right factions.

“At least three out of six of its MEP’s could join a new group with the AfD. One of the Polish MEPs that could join the new alt-right group is Grzegorz Braun, a Polish MP that was stripped of its national parliamentary immunity at the Sejm after he put out the candles in celebration of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah last December” says Tomasz Kaniecki, a Euronews Polls Centre analyst.

If this scenario were to take place, it could jeopardize the Identity and Democracy group from the extreme right side of the EU parliament by undermining its ideological consensus and frustrating any attempt by Marine Le Pen to shift her party’s political focus toward the center.

It is a delicate moment for Marine Le Pen, who has to organise a last-minute electoral campaign for the snap elections in France, which promises to turn into a final showdown with President Macron.

According to Tomasz Kaniecki, it could have a domino effect on the European Conservatives and Reformers, including Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s party and Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS), both of which are already vulnerable from their right flank: “The PiS lined up to a disappointing second position, behind Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s Coalition (KO-EPP) because some of its more radical voters moved to Confederation”.

For the Conservative Coalition, the circumstances could complicate efforts for the ECR and ID to abruptly shift to the center in order to find a compromise with the moderate conservatives of the EPP.

“Left” without a roof

On the left wing, a similar scenario is unfolding. Germany emerges once again as the epicenter of a potential new sovereignist-leftist coalition. Sarah Wagenknecht, the former leader of Die Linke (Left), has left her party to pursue a solo political agenda that falls somewhere between leftist principles and sovereignist-populist demands.

The Wagenknecht theory is based on the assumption that far-right voters are individuals who feel let down by the liberal left.

Her movement, DSW, among the non-inscribed, could polarise other similar movements from Slovakia, Bulgaria, Italy, the 5 Stars Movement, and certain parties from the Baltic countries.

A potential alternative left movement could draw support from a significant number of leftist MEPs, including some from the S&D, pushing social democrats to negotiate with conservatives.

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Both potential groups, the alt-right and alt-left, are closely monitored by EU institutions due to their ambiguous ties with Russia and their lenient stances on the Ukrainian issue.

“There are a couple of issues that are important with respect to the security issue. For example, some MEPs get confidential information on some aspects of the relations with Ukraine, free trade, and Russia especially if they are part of the committees. These will raise questions in the European Parliament. What will we do with them? What will they do with this kind of information? More broadly there is, of course, the political issue,” Wolfs says.

These alternative or antagonist parties could hinder the enlargement policies and any initiatives related to defence.

“The EP functions only when there is a consensus between the main mainstream groups. The EPP, Renew at the centre, The S&D and the Greens to some extent. And if they feel pressured and feel that they cannot go into a consensus because they’re criticised too much by radical or fringe parties, this could potentially influence the decision making, but it would always be an indirect influence in a way,” concludes Wouter Wolfs.

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Could a strong EU hard-right undermine Ukraine’s war effort?

With rising death rates and ongoing mobilisation struggles, Ukrainians fear a new set of EU politicians could slash support for their already difficult war.

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Despite relentless missile strikes, air raids, and increasingly frequent power cuts, Ukrainians remain fixated on the European elections.

At war for nearly two and a half years, Ukraine has depended on the rest of the continent for crucial support for weapons and humanitarian aid while Kyiv’s soldiers continue to toil in pushing back the Russian invasion’s advance into their country.

An unfavorable outcome in the 6-9 June elections could make matters worse and decide whether they will have the basic means to continue fighting back against Vladimir Putin’s troops.

For Ukrainians — and many others on the continent — it’s clear. If Ukraine falls, no one will truly be safe, and others could see themselves as targets.

“My message to all Europeans is to use your vote to defend democracy, use your voice for those who cannot”, Oleksandra Matviichuk, Chair of the Center for Civil Liberties, told Euronews.

Matviichuk’s NGO provides essential records of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Russian army in Ukraine, an essential testament to the veneer of civilisation being scraped off in the eastern European country. “This is the only way to stop anti-democratic political forces from gaining power.”

For figures like Matviichuk, crucial security issues like Ukraine are bipartisan issues, ones closely tied to universal democratic values which should not fall victim to ideological bickering.

“I hope that despite this, European parties will come together on the issue of supporting Ukraine. Ukraine is fighting for democracy and freedom, which is the benchmark of the European Union,” said Matviichuk, whose organisation was awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.

Democracy, Euromaidan and rumble of approaching tanks

Ukrainians have a visceral understanding of the importance of democracy, having suffered through a bloody crackdown against the pro-EU Euromaidan protests in Kyiv in 2013. 

Euromaidan’s success forced President Viktor Yanukovych to fold to people’s demands and flee to Russia at the time, but it came at a price: by 2014, the Kremlin aided and abetted the pro-Moscow separatists in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine and annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea.

Ukrainians’ desperate cries that Russia would not stop at the Donbas fell on deaf ears for eight years until tanks rolled across the border and into the country once again in 2022.

After repelling the initial full-scale onslaught and pushing back Moscow forces, it seemed like Kyiv could emerge victorious. At the time, the EU embraced Kyiv with open arms, countering Putin’s act of aggression with a slew of economic sanctions against Russia and a commitment to keep providing the weapons and ammo Ukraine sorely needed.

Ukraine was fast-tracked on its path to EU candidate status, and the long-standing dream of its people of being welcomed into the greater European family seemed to be within reach.

However, things got complicated. Kyiv launched a largely failed counter-offensive caused by a slow supply of ammunition and having to face multiple waves of Russian military conscripts in the east of the country. Other conflicts, like the Israel-Hamas war, drew away public attention.

Far right, the great naysayer?

As Russian forces entrench themselves, the country is besieged by relentless missile and drone assaults on civilian sites, inundating entire valleys and continuously dangling the possibility of nuclear strikes. It’s evident that the conflict won’t see a swift resolution soon.

In the rest of Europe, voices continue to emerge expressing scepticism towards the EU’s continued support for Ukraine.

With the rise of the far right — some of who have explicitly campaigned against arms shipments and opening the door to Ukrainian accession — many fear that the results of the June vote might see Kyiv’s fortunes turn for the worse.

On Friday, the European Commission told the member states that Ukraine fulfilled the criteria to kick off membership talks. Yet, the biggest challenge the country might face as the new European Parliament forms will be finding enough support for its path to full membership, CEO of Centre for European Policy Studies Karel Lainoo told Euronews.

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Although S&D and EPP — both staunch supporters of Ukraine — are expected to remain the two strongest groups in Parliament, “since the third or the fourth largest group may become or is expected to become the eurosceptics or even worse, the anti-Euro groups, it will only become more difficult,” Lainoo said.

“Even if this process was started by (European Commission President Ursula) von der Leyen very explicitly and also supported by (European Council President) Charles Michel, who said Ukraine should become a member by 2030, it is likely that this process will be slowed down.”

Europe understands the threat this time around

And it’s not just about the war. Member states, who also have to approve Ukraine’s accession, might choose to prioritise protecting their economies and defer to the sceptical among their citizens as a means of justifying the move.

“Politicians will say, ‘look, this means that Europeans are rather conservative or afraid of a country like Ukraine to join too rapidly, to benefit from full access to the single market, and eventually to distort the agricultural single market and other aspects of the market with much cheaper products. Hence, we have to protect our market, and we will slow it down,'” Lainoo explained.

But will this also translate into the EU hanging Kyiv out to dry, allowing the Kremlin to push forward once again? Lainoo doesn’t think so, especially because even among those on the extreme ends of the political spectrum, there is no unanimity over Ukraine’s war effort.

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More importantly, Europe is fully aware of the threat coming from Moscow this time.

“There is a cross-party realisation that this is existential for Europe. Rationally, yes; probably emotionally not so. But rationally, they will say that this is a danger for Europe,” Lainoo concluded.

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The Dutch kick off EU election

The Netherlands is going to the polls, kicking off an EU election in 27 countries that lasts until Sunday and in which 373 million Europeans are eligible to vote.

Most polling stations opened at 7:30 a.m. (a handful opened at midnight) and will close at 9 p.m.

Although the Dutch vote officially kicks off the election, Estonians began voting on Monday.

The Dutch will fill 31 of the 720 seats in the next EU Parliament, with Geert Wilders’ far-right Freedom Party (PVV) and the GreenLeft and Labor alliance (GL-PvdA) on the left locked in a close race to finish on top, with pollsters predicting both to get eight seats. 

For the PVV, such an outcome would be a major change from the last EU election, in 2019, when it failed to win any seats.

Wilders has already cast his vote, calling on the Dutch to go to the polls “and make sure that not Frans Timmermans but the PVV becomes the biggest party today,” referring to his political rival, the former European commissioner who is now leader of the GL/PvdA.

Although the official results will only be announced after the polls close continent-wide late on Sunday, Dutch exit polls will come out late Thursday and provide a first glimpse of the political mood on the continent. 

The Netherlands traditionally has a low turnout in EU elections, with only 42 percent of eligible voters casting a ballot in 2019 election.

Turnout is seen as particularly crucial for Wilders’ PVV.

Uncertain about who to vote for, many Dutch have been making use of an online tool called Kieskompas, which asks potential voters questions and, based on the answers, tells you which party might be most appropriate.

According to Kieskompas data cited by public broadcaster NOS, almost half of 51,000 respondents said they supported reinstating some kind of border between EU states as a barrier to immigration. 

A majority of those respondents were aged 65 or over and, perhaps unsurprisingly, 90 percent said they would vote for a far-right party such as the PVV or Forum voor Democratie (FvD.)

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

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For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

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Super Poll Q&A: Is EU-wide conservative coalition losing momentum?

The Euronews Super Polls foresee an election victory for the EPP, unprecedented growth for the ultraconservatives, and a slight increase for the socialists. Data suggest that crafting the future ruling coalition could turn out to be a political conundrum.

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According to the Euronews Super Polls, one thing looks certain: after the 6-9 June elections, the European Parliament will have a clear right-wing majority.

Furthermore, the forces of the conservative camp — from the centre-right to the far-right — will have to overcome deep rifts and contradictions among each other to craft a functional alliance.

Meanwhile, the conservative groups will hardly be able to join their forces in one strong coalition.

Socialist parties have been slightly and steadily growing for three months, while the liberal-democrats of Renew are on a fast-declining path.

Finally, here is a bit of trivia rather than political data: the only countries where the far right is expected to have a meaningless showing are Cyprus, Luxembourg and Malta.

We asked Boyd Wagner, chief analyst of the Euronews Polls Centre, to help us better understand the results of our latest Super Poll in nine representative EU countries.

Euronews: In Germany, the union’s largest economy, the Christian Democrats (CDU) are steadily leading the opinion polls. How do you comment on this?

Wagner: The EPP (European People’s Party) will continue to get its biggest boost from the German coalition, the German group, the CDU, and the CSU (German and Bavarian Christian Democrats, respectively).

We project them to be at about 30%. They should break the 30% threshold in Germany next week. And that should be a big boom for the EPP group.

Euronews: The far-right party Alternative for Germany seems to be losing some of its appeal to the German electorate and could be outpaced by the Social Democrats (SPD) as the second party. Is this due to the recent scandals and accusations against some of its members of being Russian influence agents and the declarations of sympathy to the SS by the head of the party’s European Parliament electoral list, Maximilian Krah?

Wagner: We might see a greater impact when the people go to vote in a week or so, in Germany, that the SS scandal has a greater impact. it’s really going to be probably the SS scandal because of the fact that it keeps them out of the (far-right) Identity and Democracy group in the European Parliament. So, just the reverberation of that scandal is going to have an effect on everything that is going to play out in the long term.

Euronews: In France, the landslide victory of Jordan Bardella, from Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, is a foregone conclusion. The gripping race is for the second position between two staunch pro-EU candidates, the Renaissance’s Valérie Hayer and the Socialist Party’s Raphaël Glucksman. Isn’t it?

Wagner: You can see the Socialist party in France really making big-time gains on Rennaisance’s heels. I think that is going to become their bigger concern for Macron and the group. I think that the Renaissance cannot afford to be looking at trying to make sure that they’re getting closer to the National Rally at this time; they need to make sure that they stay in the strong second place and don’t let the socialists come at their heels”

Euronews: Is Glucksman’s Socialist Party a real threat to the so-called “presidential majority” both in France and Europe?

Wagner: Rennaisance shouldn’t let the socialists come at their heels, as they’re doing right now, just with a little bit more than a week ahead of the election, as we kind of track these last set of numbers on a two-week bit on the two-week basis before we had. The Macron list is at 16.6%, and the Socialists are at just under 14%. So we’re now inching very, very, very close between those two parties right now.

Euronews: Italy is the other important piece of the EU’s far-right ultra-conservative camp. Post-fascist Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni steadily occupies the first position. We have assisted in the past couple of weeks with a cautious rapprochement between Meloni (her party is an ECR member) and the number one of the French opposition, Le Pen (her party is affiliated with Identity and Democracy). Do you think that they could be tempted to join their forces, create a new group, and let go of the project of a “pro-von der Leyen” conservative coalition (without Le Pen)?

Wagner: I certainly don’t think that PM Meloni would think that it’s the death of that possibility. If we include everybody in there, and I’m going to exclude the AfD — now that they’ve been excluded from the Identity and Democracy group — you have 60 to 65 seats from the ID, and you’re looking at over 80 seats from the ECR. That together becomes a formidable number two, potentially number two; they could be bigger than the S&D in the European Parliament. And that would mean that there is a strong right-wing that then needs to be considered.

Now, can the EPP still work with this? This is something that they’re going to have to consider. And at the end of the day, just having that many seats to the right of them is not enough. Either the EPP decides to get in coalition with them or not, or they decide to form a government with them.

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Either way, they’re going to have to reckon with the power that is on right now because it’s much more inflated than it had been previously.

Euronews: Let’s move now to Spain. Looking at the Euronews Super Poll, the Partido Popular is slightly leading the polls, followed by the socialist party, PSOE. Is Spain the last bastion of the mainstream parties of the European political tradition?

Wagner: The Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) was the largest party. They are the party of government right now in Spain. We don’t project them to be the winning party. But it’s not like you’re seeing some more right-wing party kind of coming to the fore to take that place. You’re not seeing the rise of Vox as much as we might have thought.

Instead, it’s kind of ending up as a fight between those two establishment parties, the Partido Popular and the PSOE. And, as we track them right now, it looks like it’s going to be the Partido Popular that is going to take the lead, but it’s still close to call.

As we kind of project things out, we’re looking at 25 MEPs for the EPP, for the PP in Spain, and we’re looking at just 20 for the PSOE and the S&P. Again, that’s a very unique one.

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Euronews: So, let me conclude that the EPP group will be a German-Polish-Spanish affair. What is your analysis of this?

Wagner: It’s very clear that it’s going to be driven by the Germans, driven by the Spanish. And, I think in third place, you probably will see the Polish. I think you’re right about that. The EPP will stand to benefit from it’s the Eastern flank of Europe.

I think on the eastern flank of Europe, you’re seeing a lot of these more traditional parties accumulate more votes than they had before. So I think that the EPP will do better there. But at the end of the day, there are just not as many MEPs and seats in the European Parliament to be found in some of those countries. So they’re really going to have to be buoyed by the Spanish, by the Germans, by the Polish.

Euronews: Romania is another interesting exercise in the fine art of political coalition design. Could the next European Parliament be inspired by the structure of the current ruling coalition in Romania?

Wagner: It certainly looks that way. We project the EPP to be the leader with about 11 members in the next European Parliament. We project the S&D to be right behind them with nine members. There’s seven for the ECR. And then you have five for the Renew group.

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Again, the hardest thing to track with Romania is just exactly because they’re running for their own national parliament elections as well.

Euronews: I would move to the Netherlands. Are they going to confirm the results of the recent national elections?

Wagner: The Netherlands is an interesting track because they had their own internal battles that they have been waging for some time, and it looks like they’re coming to some conclusions there.

It does look like I think that they will be confirming their own government in due time very soon. So, as we put it right now, you’re looking at nine MEPs from the Netherlands for the ID, so that’s it’s certainly a strong position to take on the right

Euronews: How about Belgium? They will also hold their Federal elections on the same day as the European elections.

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Wagner: Belgium is always a very tough one to put the finger on. You’re thinking about where we track with where members of the European Parliament are going to be sitting from Belgium. You also see again, there’s a strong rise in the right, just like you see in the Netherlands next door, just like you’re seeing in France next door.

It’s going to be very well-proportioned. From Flanders (Dutch-speaking region), we are going to see most of the right-wing voters. Whereas in Wallonia (French-speaking region) you’re going to see a stronger proportion of left voters.

Euronews: Regarding right-wingers, in Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s ultra-conservative Fidesz party is leading the poll, yet, for the first time, a new opposition party seems to be on the rise. Could Péter Magyar’s movement become a political threat to Orbán?

Wagner: We track them right now at almost 20% in the polls. That’s a very strong number for a group that is not technically a united opposition. Two years ago, when Hungary had its last national parliamentary elections, they ran as a united opposition, and they were able to achieve upwards of 30% of the vote, if I recall correctly. It still didn’t come close to achieving a victory over Prime Minister Orban. So 20% is not going to get them close in terms of an overall movement. I don’t really see it.

I mean, we still project for (Fidesz) to get over 40% of the vote in Hungary. They will maintain their spot as a clear leader, and they should double up on anybody. When you’re looking at Magyar, I think most of his voters are actually coming from some of the other former opposition or the other opposition parties.

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European Parliament’s rival hard-right groups will unite – Vistisen

Vistisen exclusively tells Euronews there is “no more political divide” between Meloni and Le Pen’s political factions than there is within other mainstream political groups.

The man who has been fronting the far-right Identity and Democracy’s European elections campaign is confident that the European Parliament’s two most right-wing factions will join to form a united bloc during the upcoming legislature.

In an interview on Tuesday, Anders Vistisen told Euronews he believes there is no substantial political rift between his Identity and Democracy (ID) party – which harbours Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National, Italy’s Lega and Germany’s Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – and the nationalist European Reformists and Conservatives (ECR), considered slightly less hard-line than their ID counterparts.

ECR includes the likes of Spain’s Vox and Poland’s Law and Justice (PiS). It also includes Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia and Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s Civil Democratic Party (ODS), both of whom have controversially been touted as potential partners for Ursula von der Leyen’s centre-right EPP following June’s ballot, in a sign the firewall that has traditionally cordoned off far-right parties will be torn down.

“What is in my opinion wrong is that you have two groups to the right, and I think that has more to do (more) with big personalities in some of the bigger parties than it has to do with political differences,” Vistisen, who hails from the far-right Danish People’s Party, told Euronews.

“There is no more political divide between the ID and the ECR, than what you can see within the EPP, the S&D or the Renew parties, for instance.”

Asked whether he believes both groups could form a united bloc in the European Parliament, Vistisen replied: “I think we will see that someday (…) I think maybe not just after this election, but I think the French presidential elections that are coming up in a couple of years (in 2027) could be a point in time that is very interesting to look forward to.”

Vistisen spoke just hours before a crisis erupted in his party, as Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National indicated they would no longer sit with Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the European Parliament over damning Nazi comments made by AfD’s lead election candidate Maximilian Krah, prompting Krah’s sudden resignation from the party’s federal executive board.

After speaking to Euronews, Vistisen said on social media platform X that Krah, who will continue to be the AfD’s lead candidate in June’s ballot, had “shown with his statements and actions that he does not belong in the ID group.”

“If the AfD does not take advantage of the situation and get rid of Krah, the DF’s (Danish People’s Party) position is that the AfD must leave the ID group,” Vistisen added.

But when pressed by Euronews hours earlier about whether deep divisions within his ID party and mounting dissatisfaction with AfD’s increasingly extremist stances could prompt member parties to seek to move across to the ECR group, Vistisen defended his party’s unity.

“No, I don’t really see that. I think it’s a bit of a false narrative put out there,” he said.

Vistisen claimed deeper divisions can be seen in the competing hard-right ECR group, especially when it comes to their stance on Ukraine, adding that Poland’s PiS – who staunchly back unhindered EU support to Ukraine – had invited both Rassemblement National and Hungarian premier Viktor Orbán into their European party despite their scepticism towards military support to Ukraine.

A source from Rassemblement National told Euronews that Le Pen’s party favours joining the same group as Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz, which currently does not belong to any European political group after it was forced to quit the centre-right EPP in 2021.

Vistisen ‘not paid’ by sanctioned Voice of Europe

The latest debacle follows multiple controversies surrounding AfD that have ruffled feathers in the ID party. In January, senior AfD figures were reported to have met with neo-Nazi groups to discuss plans to deport millions of immigrants, including some with German citizenship, prompting discomfort within their European family according to Euronews sources.

The two names topping the AfD’s electoral lists for June’s elections are also connected to ongoing investigations into foreign interference within the European Parliament, including an alleged pro-Kremlin operation suspected of paying sitting MEPs to spread Russian propaganda.

The aide of Maximilian Krah was arrested last month on suspicion of spying for China, while Petr Bystron is accused of receiving as much as €20,000 in cash from Russia, as part of a sprawling investigation into a suspected pro-Kremlin influence operation.

Vistisen admitted he is “always concerned about outside influence,” and vowed that should investigations find candidates guilty and the AfD failed to suspend their membership, then his European party’s bureau would take the matter into their own hands.

But he defended the decision not to take immediate action in response to the damaging allegations of foreign interference within his party.

“Mr. Krah was through the ethics body of the European Parliament, and they didn’t recommend one of the sanctions available to them,” Vistisen claimed.

“So if his political opponents didn’t recommend a sanction, it’s very difficult for us as a political group to sanction on this background, but I’m very glad that the AfD already stipulated that if these allegations have truth to them, then they single-handedly would suspend his membership of the AfD and thereby he would not be a member of the ID group either.”

The company at the heart of the investigation, led by the Belgian prosecutor, is Voice of Europe, now blacklisted in the European Union.

Asked whether he was paid for a one-on-one interview he gave to Voice of Europe earlier this year, Vistisen emphatically denied.

“No, of course not. That interview was set up at the same premise as this interview. I was asked to give an interview and I obliged. That’s my job as a politician,” Vistisen responded.

” I have an impeccable record when it comes to being firm on Russia, firm on China. Has nobody ever doubted that? So, sometimes these allegations are, of course, also used politically (…) I think you can easily be your to without spreading fake news.”

Lack of EU support leaves Ukraine without a ‘fighting chance’

Vistisen also sharply criticised the European Union for what he called its failure to “step up to the plate” when providing Kyiv with the military aid and equipment it needs to withstand Russia’s invasion.

“I would challenge the perception that Europe has been very pro-Ukrainian,” he explained.

“When it comes to concrete action, it lags behind. So no, if the Americans were not in it to help the Ukrainians, the war would be lost for them because Europe has not stepped up to the plate,” he added.

“I think if Ukraine should have a fighting chance to push back Russia, through the borders from before the Russian invasion of Crimea, the military aid is falling far too short and far too late, unfortunately.”

He also claimed that the EU had committed less military support to Ukraine than the United Kingdom, despite the bloc’s military aid amounting to a staggering €33 billion, compared to the UK’s £7.6 billion (€8.9 billion) in military assistance.

He nonetheless spurned the prospect of Ukraine joining the bloc as a full-fledged member state, claiming that EU leaders were trying to impose timelines to fast-track Kyiv’s accession.

“It’s the same forces that are complaining about rule of law in Hungary (…) who are now saying let’s speed up a procedure where we are letting countries in with a far worse track record when it comes to a lot of these benchmarks than what you have seen in Orbán’s Hungary,” Vistisen claimed.

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Von der Leyen faces Socialist revolt over her far-right flirtation with Meloni

Europe’s Socialists have warned Ursula von der Leyen they won’t back her for a second term as European Commission president if she continues to suggest she could work with hard-right MEPs aligned with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

Perhaps most crucially — just as French President Emmanuel Macron visits Germany to try to forge Franco-German consensus on Europe’s political landscape after the June 6 to 9 election — even Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his Social Democratic Party are signaling that they are willing to torpedo a second term for von der Leyen.

Some even have a replacement in mind: former Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. And that’s a choice that will go down well in Paris.

In multiple comments over recent days, high-ranking Socialists including Scholz and the SPD lead candidate for next month’s EU election Katarina Barley threatened to scuttle von der Leyen’s candidacy if she accepts the backing of the hard right to secure a majority in the European Parliament.

“We will not work with the far right,” Barley said on the Berlin Playbook podcast, reiterating the pledge made by the Socialists and Democrats, Renew Europe, the Greens and the Left to “never cooperate nor form a coalition with the far right and radical parties at any level.”

The comment was the latest sign of the left-leaning parties’ alarm at von der Leyen’s stance on Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party, which belongs to the right-wing European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group in the European Parliament.

Von der Leyen, who hails from the center-right European People’s Party, has indicated that if she fails to secure a majority with the backing of center-left and liberal lawmakers after the EU election, she could work with the ECR

On Friday, Scholz warned von der Leyen against such a move, saying: “When the next Commission is formed, it must not be based on a majority that also needs the support of the far right.” He added that “the only way to establish a Commission presidency will be to base it on the traditional parties.”

Putting the boot in further, Nicolas Schmit, the Socialists’ lead candidate for the EU election, said in an interview published Sunday: “Von der Leyen wants us to believe that there are good right-wing extremists and bad ones.”

Meloni is “politically extremely right wing” and her vision is “certainly not a strong, integrated Europe,” Schmit said. “For Ms. von der Leyen, however, she is probably a conservative.”

The questions now are whether Scholz and his German Socialists would actually kibosh a second term for fellow German von der Leyen — and who they might have in mind to replace her.

One potential challenger to the incumbent is Draghi, the former European Central Bank chief.

EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT ELECTION POLL OF POLLS

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For more polling data from across Europe visit POLITICO Poll of Polls.

Just last week, Draghi received the backing of one of Emmanuel Macron’s closest allies, Pascal Canfin, an MEP from the French president’s liberal Renaissance party who is known to have a direct line to the Élysée.

Asked by POLITICO whether France supports von der Leyen’s reelection bid, Canfin said: “France and everyone in the presidential ecosystem would like Draghi to play a role.”

Macron has long been rumored to be maneuvering to put Draghi at the head of the EU executive — and now he appears to have allies in Berlin.

Markus Töns, a German MP from the Social Democrats, told POLITICO’s Brussels Decoded: “Draghi has experience at the European level and knows the current challenges. I would have no problem seeing him in this position — he might even be better than Ursula von der Leyen.”

Ralf Stegner, an influential SPD member of the Bundestag, on Friday said: “If Emmanuel Macron is critical of another term for Ursula von der Leyen, who lacks sufficient clarity regarding alliances with the right-wing bloc, I have every sympathy for him.”

With both Paris and Berlin expressing dissatisfaction with her stance on working with the ECR, von der Leyen’s bid for a second term as Commission chief faces a serious challenge.

While von der Leyen is the EPP’s lead candidate going into the EU election, in theory making her a shoo-in for the post, she will require support from European leaders like Scholz, Macron and Meloni to secure it.

The electoral arithmetic is difficult as she will need 361 votes in an approval vote in the European Parliament, and the EPP is on course only for some 176 seats. The Socialists and Democrats are expected to win 144 and von der Leyen’s prospects will be in severe trouble if the center-left MEPs do not support her.

If they do decide to forgo EPP lead candidate von der Leyen in favor of a curveball, it wouldn’t be the first time: That was precisely the way von der Leyen herself got the job after the 2019 EU election, installed after leaders shunned the EPP’s Manfred Weber.

Macron is currently in Germany for the first state visit with full ceremonial honors by a French president in 24 years. Macron will meet Scholz in Berlin on Tuesday.

It’s hard to believe there won’t be any mention of the electoral mathematics — and of Meloni and Draghi.

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