The N-VA: Challenging Europeanism

By Mercier, Stefan | The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs, April 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

The N-VA: Challenging Europeanism


Mercier, Stefan, The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs


Introduction

The European Parliamentary elections of May 2014, in a context of aggravated social and economic crisis in the eurozone countries, saw the strong emergence of more Eurosceptical and radical parties than ever before. A large number of these parties joined the newly created European Conservatives and Reformist group (ECR), led by the British Conservatives and the Polish Law and Justice party (PiS). It has since become the third largest political formation in the European Parliament.1 After many negotiations, the Belgian N-VA, Nieuw-Vlaams Alliantie,2 decided to join the ECR. The Flemish nationalists had won the 2014 European elections, as well as the regional and federal elections, in Belgium. The elections of 2014 were the consecration and coronation of the political journey of the N-VA. The Flemish nationalists obtained an unprecedented electoral result of 20% of the votes, with the second party, the French-speaking socialists, obtaining 11.7%.3

Due to their allegiance to the ECR, the general assumption on the N-VA's European agenda is that it is a Eurosceptic party. However, the true nature of the N-VA's European political agenda is far more complex than assumptions would like to reveal. The party's official position on the EU is in reality crystal clear: "The N-VA believes in Europe and the European Union. The world is a village and everything is connected with everything. The European Union has the ability to cope with challenges that are too big for one nation."4 From this narrative and approach, nothing supports the assumption that the N-VA is fundamentally Eurosceptic; quite on the contrary. However, claiming that the N-VA is a pro-European party, like any other pro-European party, would be too simplistic. The N-VA's European political agenda actually lies between those affirmations. Therefore it is of utmost importance to analyse the underlying historical and socio-economic motivations and dynamics that structure the N-VA's political agendas. Consequently, this case study has been written with the goal of trying to understand and explain the different political mechanisms of the N-VA, and raise awareness on what appears to be misinterpreted or sometimes incorrectly calculated. The case study will shed light on the political ambitions of the N-VA. It aims to demonstrate that the European Union is used by the N-VA to intellectually and electorally normalise the Flemish nationalist project in Belgium, including in relation to the Belgian French-speaking population, and towards the other EU Member States.

N-VA: European Ambitions and Political Fog

Many observers and analysts view the N-VA with distrust and antipathy on certain agendas, and in particular on its European one. This perception is mostly due to its negative media coverage outside the Flemish public debate, and for its stands on the future of Belgium as a state, thus the redefinition of Belgium's membership of the European Union. One example of this negative media coverage is the list of 39 new right, extremist, separatist, and anti-EU or populist parties made by the German newspaper Die Zeit.5 Even though Die Zeit defines the N-VA as a separatist and right-populist party, and not as fundamentally anti-European, the risk of political conflation among observers and devoted academics is high.

Consequently, it has been argued, due to the different stances of its members towards the European Union, that this political formation, the ECR, was unclear on its ideological commitments towards the EU. Nevertheless, Euroscepticism as a political claim has been maintained, in the past and in the present, by the alliance of parties of the European Freedom and Democracy group (EFD). The two well-know political formations of the EFD are UKIP, with Nigel Farage as its flamboyant representative, and the Italian 5-Star Movement of Beppe Grillo.

Declarations of eminent Belgian politicians, on national and European levels, have reinforced the political fog around the N-VA and the ECR. …

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