Increasing numbers of Europeans who have lost confidence in EU economic policies are moving from the centre to fringe and extremist parties, according to Finance Minister Michael Noonan.
Mr Noonan said: “Right across Europe the centre is no longer holding and 25% of seats will go to fringe parties at the European elections. It seems to me there is a market in Ireland for people who are opposed to economic policy and I am sure that will manifest itself in the polls.”
Mr Noonan, who was speaking at the launch of Sean Kelly’s European election campaign at the Strand Hotel in Limerick, said youth unemployment was now at unsustainable levels in the EU, and this was one of the issues driving people to the fringes and to extreme parties.
While it was at around 20% here, figures this week, he said, showed youth unemployment in Italy at 41% and over 30% in Spain.
If young people have no hope of work, that is a major issue.
Mr Noonan said: “It is very high, especially across some of the Mediterranean countries. The point I am making is people shouldn’t be surprised if fringe parties are gaining ground in advance of the European elections, when many people think that some of the mainstream policies in Europe are not addressing problems like youth unemployment and more will have to be done.”
While initiatives had been taken in the EU to tackle youth unemployment, more substance will have to be put into various programmes to tackle the problem
Mr Noonan said the disaffected vote was manifest in this country in the support for Independent candidates and for Sinn Féin
“A lot of the Sinn Féin vote is a disaffected vote. They say a lot of things which would be interpreted as, if not anti-European, anti-European policy. So I think it’s here already,” he said.
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