Leaders | Von der Leyen, Meloni and Le Pen
领导 |冯德莱恩、梅洛尼和勒庞

The three women who will shape Europe

At a crucial moment they encapsulate the dilemma of how to handle populism

Ursula von der Leyen, Giorgia Meloni and Marine Le Pen
image: The Economist/Getty Images
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In a dangerous world, comfortable old Europe finds itself in an alarming position. In Ukraine the continent’s bloodiest war since 1945 rages on, while Russia poses a menace from the Baltics to cyberspace. If Donald Trump returns to the White House, he could undermine nato, the foundation of European security. The continent’s economy is vulnerable to shocks caused by industrial policy and protectionism elsewhere. Eurosceptic populists are riding high in the polls.
在一个危险的世界里,舒适的旧欧洲发现自己处于一个令人担忧的境地。乌克兰自 1945 年以来最血腥的战争仍在继续,而俄罗斯则构成了从波罗的海到网络空间的威胁。如果唐纳德·特朗普重返白宫,他可能会削弱欧洲安全的基础——北约。非洲大陆的经济很容易受到其他地方的产业政策和保护主义造成的冲击。欧洲怀疑论民粹主义者在民调中的支持率很高。

To face these perils Europe needs, at a minimum, coherent leadership at the eu level. It also needs to keep extremists out of power. Whether it succeeds rests in part on the choices of three women: Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s prime minister, and Marine Le Pen, the leading French populist.

Start with Mrs von der Leyen, who has led the eu’s executive arm since 2019 and is standing for a second term. She deserves one. She has done a good job: marshalling the eu’s strong collective response to Vladimir Putin’s aggression, and helping to deepen European integration at a crucial time, for example by pushing a ground-breaking programme to issue common debt. A cool-headed German conservative, she has also put the European Commission at the heart of decision-making when Franco-German relations have been prickly. Given the threats, the need for strong, unified leadership has never been greater.
首先是冯德莱恩夫人,她自 2019 年以来一直领导欧盟执行机构,目前正在竞选第二个任期。她值得拥有一个。她做得很好:协调欧盟对弗拉基米尔·普京的侵略做出强有力的集体反应,并在关键时刻帮助深化欧洲一体化,例如推动一项突破性的共同债务计划。作为一位冷静的德国保守派,当法德关系紧张时,她也将欧盟委员会置于决策的核心位置。鉴于这些威胁,对强有力、统一领导的需求从未如此迫切。

To win a second term, she first needs the support of the eu’s 27 national leaders. Then she must obtain a majority in the European Parliament, which is holding elections on June 6th-9th, with over 350m citizens eligible to vote. In theory she will enjoy the backing of the conservative, liberal and socialist groupings that form the political establishment. But because politics has become so fragmented, these three groupings are collectively projected to win only a slim majority of seats, and some of their members of parliament may break ranks. Mrs von der Leyen barely scraped through her first vote, in 2019. This time victory is not assured.
为了赢得连任,她首先需要欧盟27国领导人的支持。然后她必须在欧洲议会中获得多数席位,欧洲议会将于6月6日至9日举行选举,超过3.5亿公民有资格投票。理论上,她将得到构成政治机构的保守派、自由派和社会主义团体的支持。但由于政治已经变得如此分散,预计这三个团体总共只能赢得微弱多数席位,而且其中一些议员可能会脱离队伍。冯德莱恩夫人在 2019 年的第一次投票中勉强通过。这一次胜利并不确定。

That brings us to Ms Meloni, Italy’s prime minister since 2022 and the leader of the hard-right Brothers of Italy party, which has gone from being an insurgent force to running the country. It is expected to do well in the eu elections. With its support Mrs von der Leyen could stand a better chance of winning a parliamentary majority for a second term in the top eu job. She has been busy courting the Italian. “I have been working very well with Giorgia Meloni,” she said on May 23rd.
这让我们想到了梅洛尼女士,她自 2022 年起担任意大利总理,也是极右翼意大利兄弟党的领导人,该党已从一支叛乱力量转变为治理国家的力量。预计它将在欧盟选举中表现出色。在其支持下,冯德莱恩夫人可能有更好的机会赢得议会多数席位,连任欧盟最高职位。她一直忙着向意大利人求爱。 “我和 Giorgia Meloni 合作得很好,”她 5 月 23 日说道。

Those words, and the idea of any kind of pact that includes the Brothers, have outraged liberals and establishment figures, including some in the ruling Social Democratic Party in Germany and Emmanuel Macron’s party in France. For them Ms Meloni is beyond the pale. She pals around with Viktor Orban, Hungary’s strongman, and other unsavoury types. She lends credence to racist conspiracy theories like the “great replacement”. She has likened the eu to the Soviet Union. In short, she is exactly the kind of hard-right figure who must be excluded from decision-making, many grumble.

Ms Meloni certainly has many objectionable policies and qualities. Nonetheless, to rule out working with her as a matter of principle would be myopic. Her track record is not that of a political arsonist. She has made common cause with Mrs von der Leyen on matters such as illegal immigration; the two women have paid joint visits to north African countries, striking deals with autocrats to stem the flow. She has been a stalwart supporter of Ukraine, unlike some of her fellows on the populist right. Her party fights culture wars at home, but on security and the economy she has run Italy as a pragmatist. She should not be shut out of the political mainstream.

What is more, striking a deal with her could have an added advantage: splitting the populist right between its more moderate and extreme elements. That is where Ms Le Pen comes in. Her party, National Rally, is expected to do well in the European election, too. Ms Le Pen has tried to rebrand herself as a mainstream figure, but don’t be fooled. She is a firebrand with a long history of xenophobia and sucking up to Russia. She wants to create a mega-group of nationalists that could yank Europe hard to the right. To do this, she wants to team up with Ms Meloni.
更重要的是,与她达成协议可能还有一个额外的好处:将民粹主义右翼分裂为温和派和极端派。这就是勒庞女士的用武之地。她的政党全国集会预计也会在欧洲选举中表现出色。勒庞女士试图将自己重塑为主流人物,但不要被愚弄。她是一个长期仇外心理和巴结俄罗斯的煽动者。她希望建立一个庞大的民族主义者团体,将欧洲强力拉向右翼。为此,她想与 Meloni 女士合作。

Far better to lure Ms Meloni towards the centre instead. That would hobble Ms Le Pen’s plan and fragment the hard right. Already the Alternative for Germany has partially imploded after its lead European candidate seemed to make light of Nazi crimes. Disempowering Ms Le Pen might also diminish her appeal in France, where her party leads the polls ahead of national elections in 2027. The prospect of a President Le Pen is unnerving.
相反,将梅洛尼女士引诱到中心要好得多。这将阻碍勒庞女士的计划并分裂极右派。在其主要欧洲候选人似乎轻视纳粹罪行后,德国另类选择已经部分崩溃。剥夺勒庞女士的权力也可能会削弱她在法国的吸引力,她的政党在 2027 年全国大选之前在法国民调中领先。勒庞当选总统的前景令人不安。

After the European election result, the haggling could drag on for months and will test Mrs von der Leyen’s skill. The stakes are high. One path could deliver stable leadership at the eu level, and show how moderates can grapple intelligently with the populist right. The question is no longer whether the populists can be contained. It is how to respond to their rise. Ms Meloni is keeping her cards close to her chest. But it would be odd if someone who is clearly more interested in power than posturing were to consign herself to Europe’s margins.

Triple trouble 三重麻烦

The alternative path could be disastrous. European politics has become so fragmented that it is conceivable that no parliamentary majority will be found for Mrs von der Leyen or any other candidate for the commission presidency. That would spark a constitutional crisis at the worst time, as Ukraine is embattled and a possible Trump presidency looms. Furthermore, if Ms Meloni sees nothing to be gained from working with the centre, she may be tempted to work with Ms Le Pen. If they make the wrong choice, Europe’s centrists could destabilise the eu and help create what they have long feared: a united, pan-continental far-right movement. To avoid that, it would be worth dealing with Ms Meloni.
另一条道路可能是灾难性的。欧洲政治已经变得如此分裂,可以想象,冯德莱恩夫人或任何其他委员会主席候选人都不会在议会中获得多数席位。这将在最糟糕的时候引发宪法危机,因为乌克兰陷入困境,特朗普可能当选总统。此外,如果梅洛尼女士认为与该中心合作没有任何收获,她可能会想与勒庞女士合作。如果他们做出错误的选择,欧洲中间派可能会破坏欧盟的稳定,并帮助创造他们长期以来所担心的东西:一场团结的、泛大陆的极右运动。为了避免这种情况,值得与梅洛尼女士打交道。 ■

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This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “The three women who will shape Europe”

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