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Peter Rough is a fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, where he writes about U.S. foreign policy on Europe and the Middle East.
In May 2017, when Emmanuel Macron arrived at the Louvre in Paris to celebrate his election as president of France, he took the stage to the European Union’s anthem, “Ode to Joy.”
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With EU flags fluttering in the wind, Macron stood as the great hope of Europe’s liberals—the man who would reverse the tide of nationalism and restart the project of EU integration.
Two years later, Macron is mostly isolated.
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Across southern and Eastern Europe, he has overreached in a series of high-profile confrontations, antagonizing potential partners in the process. At home, his elevated style has translated into haughty policy, triggering a backlash from voters.
Although Macron may be an extreme case, his struggles are emblematic of a broader trend across Europe. With one month to go before the EU parliamentary elections, euroskeptic parties are poised to capitalize on establishment missteps and emerge stronger than ever.
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The question is no longer whether they will gain seats in the elections, but whether they will be strong enough to upend the EU altogether.
Ten years ago, Italy’s establishment considered the Northern League a local party of right-wing renegades—an annoyance to be endured, rather than a serious threat to be countered.
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Today, the Northern League’s general secretary, Matteo Salvini, is the most powerful man in the country, dominating a coalition in which he serves as Italy’s deputy prime minister.
As the euroskeptics’ biggest star, Salvini sits at the center of a movement that stretches across the Continent. In fact, the election posters of France’s National Rally, which is running neck and neck with Macron’s En Marche, feature the party’s leader, Marine Le Pen, smiling side by side with Salvini over the slogan: “Our ideas are coming to power.”
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