Europe hurt by rise in extremism, EPP hears

European People’s Party emphasises success of centre-right governments

The rise of populism and extremism across Europe is "undermining the European project", European People's Party (EPP) president Joseph Daul said yesterday as members of the centre-right political party gathered for a two- day congress in Madrid.

Mr Daul, who was expected to be re-elected as party president last night, said comments from far-right leaders such as France's Marine Le Pen echoed the extremism seen in Europe during the second World War.

“When I hear Marine Le Pen, what we hear are extremist voices between 1939 and 1945,” he said of the National Front leader, who appeared in court on Tuesday over anti-Muslim comments.

Mr Daul, who was the only nominee for EPP president, was expected to be re-elected comfortably, with a vote on the 10 vice-president positions scheduled for today. Ireland's Minister for European Affairs, Dara Murphy, is among 12 nominees for the positions.


Impact on policies

The EPP is the largest political grouping in the

European Union

, encompassing centre- right parties from both within and outside the EU, and has a significant impact on EU policy at a parliament, commission and council level.

Speakers yesterday emphasised the success of centre- right parties across Europe, with most denouncing the rise in support of left-wing political parties since the onset of the financial crisis.

Opening the conference, EPP chairman Manfred Weber, a senior member of German chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party, cited Ireland and Spain as countries where centre-right governments had managed to return their economies to growth.

“Spain is a strong country,” he said. “It is an example for us in the EPP about how to manage the crisis. In Spain, there are jobs and growths. If socialists and communists talk about the future in Europe, then let them come to Spain, let them see what the future looks like.”

Criticises left

Mr Weber also criticised Portugal’s main opposition Socialist Party, who are considering a coalition arrangement with the communist and radical-left party following this month’s inconclusive general election.

"What is the left doing now?" he said. "In Portugal we have seen that the socialists are striving for a partnership with leftist extremists who want to leave Nato, leave Europe and leave the euro."

The congress is being hosted by Spain's governing Partido Popular party, which faces a general election on December 20th.

Give up manifesto

Addressing delegates,

Esteban Gonzalez Pons

, head of the Spanish delegation in the EPP, criticised the Spanish left-wing party Podemos, telling delegates that “the far left is willing to give up on its manifesto so as to get into power”.

“We need parties that engage with politics in a serious way. Politics is not a TV reality show . . . Politics is about pensions, jobs, the future of your children,” he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny travelled to Madrid yesterday and will give the keynote speech today, which is expected to focus on Ireland’s economic progress since exiting the bailout.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent