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Far-right to take 33% in France: opinion poll

A new opinion poll in France has put the far-right National Rally, with its lead candidate Jordan Bardella, at 33% among respondents who say they are certain to vote.

Emmanuel Macron’s coalition, with lead candidate Valérie Hayer, is down to 16%.

The study was conducted by the IPSOS institute, together with the CEVIPOF center, the Institut Montaigne, Fondation Jean Jaurès and Le Monde.

Key events

Security ‘clearly the number one issue’, Reform party candidate says

Urmas Paet, the lead candidate for Estonia’s Reform party and current MEP, said security is top of mind for voters in his country.

Paet, a former foreign minister, told the Guardian that the theme dominating the campaign in Estonia is “security, European security, and how much Europe is able to support Ukraine and also defend itself.”

“This is clearly the number one issue,” he said.

But he said there are also some domestic issues, “how much people support or don’t support the present Estonian government.”

The Reform party, which is led by Estonia’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, forms part of the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament.

In opinion polls, the Reform party has been hovering around 18%, coming in second after the Isamaa party, a member of the centre-right European People’s party.

‘One main topic’: Isamaa candidate stresses defence but points to divisions on Green Deal

Riho Terras, the lead candidate for Isamaa, a member of the centre-right European People’s party, said all parties in the country “have only one main topic: security, the war in Ukraine and the ability of Europe to defend itself.”

Isamaa is polling at around 25%, making it the most popular party in Estonia. Terras, a former commander of the Estonian defence forces, has been a member of the European parliament since 2020.

Besides the big challenge of security, two other issues discussed in the campaign are “competitiveness of Europe in the world market and how to increase competitiveness” and the Green Deal, he said.

The Green Deal is “the most controversial one,” Terras said, noting that “views are very different” on how to approach green policies.

It’s about “how to make sure normal citizens, normal farmers won’t be neglected,” he said, adding that his party wants to implement green policies “in a way people won’t suffer.”

Spotlight: the European election in Estonia

Let’s move on to Estonia, where voters will elect 7 members of the European parliament on Sunday.

We’ll hear from three contenders: Riho Terras, the lead candidate for Isamaa, Urmas Paet, the lead candidate for the Reform party and Marina Kaljurand, the lead candidate for Estonia’s Social Democratic party.

Far-right to take 33% in France: opinion poll

A new opinion poll in France has put the far-right National Rally, with its lead candidate Jordan Bardella, at 33% among respondents who say they are certain to vote.

Emmanuel Macron’s coalition, with lead candidate Valérie Hayer, is down to 16%.

The study was conducted by the IPSOS institute, together with the CEVIPOF center, the Institut Montaigne, Fondation Jean Jaurès and Le Monde.

‘I really prefer if the Renew parties can stick together’, Friis says

Speaking about the European parliament’s future political balance, Friis said:

I think there are lots of speculations about how the election results will be, whether Europe will take a sharp shift towards the more right-wing leaning policies – and I really fear what kind of consequences that can have, what kind of implications that can have for the green transition, for the renewable energy, for the Common Agricultural Policy, for the protection of the environment, which are some of my key issues in my campaign.

Radikale Venstre forms part of the Renew Europe in the European parliament. In recent weeks, a debate has emerged about whether parties that work together with the far-right on the national level – in particular the Dutch VVD – should be expelled from Renew.

“It’s my ambition to strengthen the Renew, and I think strengthening means ensuring the best possible election results across the member states on election day, and also keeping the Renew group a strong and important voice in the European Parliament, and I really hope that we can do that,” Friis said.

“I really prefer if the Renew parties can stick together, because there’s a lot of things that unite us. I see more things that unite us than what divides us,” she added.

Climate ‘very important to a lot of the voters that I meet’, Radikale Venstre candidate says

Sigrid Friis, the 29-year old lead candidate for Radikale Venstre – the Danish Social Liberal party – said that for her voters, climate and defence are priorities.

“I would say that the top political issues would be the climate crisis and how to tackle the temperatures rising, and how to, maybe even within the European Union, create a new agricultural policy to help reduce our footprint on the planet,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s very important to a lot of the voters that I meet,” she said.

“Also security and defence is really a top priority for many of the Danes,” Friis said. “For the first time in decades, we have a war going on in the European continent, and I think that security and defence has really moved up on the voters’ priorities.”

Asked whether the situation in the Middle East is coming up in conversations with voters, Friis said concerns have focused on the impact on civilians in Gaza.

“How can it be that the EU has not found a way to protect the civilians better, to ensure aid is coming in,” she said.

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Asked how the Liberal Alliance chose to pursue a membership in the EPP, Dahl said “to be quite honest, there is less wokeness in the EPP, and we are strongly against wokeness.”

“We don’t really mind other parties disagreeing with us on areas that are really not the jurisdiction of the EU,” he added.

‘Existential moment’ for Europe, Danish Liberal Alliance candidate says amid concerns about turnout

Henrik Dahl, lead candidate for Denmark’s Liberal Alliance, said Europe is facing an existential moment.

In a phone interview, Dahl – whose party is polling in second place in Denmark and plans to join the centre-right European People’s party – said that out on the campaign trail “the questions most asked are about the green transition, without a doubt.”

“And you get a lot of questions about security in general, the war in Ukraine, dependence on energy from Russia, things like that,” he added.

Asked how this campaign differs from previous electoral campaigns he has participated in, Dahl said that it’s different because that “very few parties” now want to exit the bloc.

“Contrary to what it was like from the accession in ‘73 until Brexit, nobody really wants to leave the EU anymore – and that really changes the tone of the campaign,” he said.

Dahl said turnout in Denmark for the European elections could be low.

This would be “really too bad, because a lot of legislation comes to the national parliaments from the EU – I’ve been serving in the national parliament for nine years, so I really know what I’m talking about,” he said, chuckling.

The Danish politician underscored the importance of the current political moment, noting that he has been paying attention to Emmanuel Macron’s recent comments on the state of Europe.

“I think Europe is at some sort of existential moment – because of the war in Ukraine, and because of the trade issues with China, and the upcoming election in the US. So Europe has to make a lot of tough decisions. And I think that’s informing a lot of the debate in this country, that we know that the next mandate period will be a time for Europe to make a number of tough decisions,” he stressed.

Here are some photos from Denmark’s campaign.

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen gives her advanced vote for the European Parliament elections at the main library in Aalborg, Jutland, Denmark, June 1. Photograph: Claus Bjoern Larsen/Reuters
A view participants in the People’s Climate March Copenhagen organised by The Green Youth Movement and the Climate Movement in Denmark on June 2, ahead of the upcoming EU parliament elections. Photograph: Liselotte Sabroe/AP
Denmark’s Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen opens the Moderates’ new European Parliament election store in Aalborg, Denmark, May 18. Photograph: Henning Bagger/Reuters

Ahead of the elections, two Danish candidates withdrew from the race following allegations of links to pro-Russian groups.

Alexandra Sasha, from the Liberal party (Venstre), announced she is pulling out of the race but denied the allegations.

Irina Bjørnø, who was running for Alternativet, also left the race. Her party said that the cultural association she had chaired that came under scrutiny had been inactive since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but that she chose to withdraw her candidacy.

The Danish Social Democrats, which sit with the Socialists and Democrats group in the European parliament, are currently the most popular party in Denmark, according to opinion polls.

Asked about speculation that the centre-right in the European parliament will open up to more cooperation with hard-right parties, Christel Schaldemose, the Danish Social Democrats’ lead candidate, expressed hope that the centre-right European People’s party (EPP) will anchor itself in the centre.

“I am concerned, mostly because of the green agenda and I really hope that it will be possible for us to convince EPP to not join forces with the right side, but instead go together with the pro-European parties and make sure that we have a stable majority in the parliament,” she said.

Asked how different this campaign has been compared to previous ones, Schaldemose, who has been a member of the European parliament since 2006, said every campaign is different, recalling that in the 2004 campaign there was “another kind of optimism around the EU project.”

“And last time in ‘19, I remember, especially when we talked about Brexit and the consequences of Brexit – and in Denmark, that was a huge topic – and that gave rise to a more EU-friendly environment in the election campaign,” she added.

What do the polls say about Denmark?

An opinion poll by Voxmeter in late May found that the Social Democrats are ahead with around 20%.

The Liberal Alliance followed with 15%.

Security, Green Deal and digital agenda on voters’ minds, leading Danish Social Democrat says

Christel Schaldemose, lead candidate for the Danish Social Democrats, pointed to security, green policies and control over tech companies as campaign issues.

“It really honestly depends on who you’re speaking to,” she said in a phone interview.

“But in general, I think the security situation, due to the war in Ukraine and geopolitical changes, that is a big topic – what can we do in the EU … In Denmark, we’re discussing how to finance weapons and ammunition, how to manufacture it, etc,” she said.

“Then I also think that the green agenda is a hot topic in Denmark, the main line amongst both the candidates and the citizens is that we want the EU to keep on focusing on the Green Deal and have a high level of ambitions. So we’re discussing how to do that and what are the consequences of the extreme right being bigger, will it have an impact on the Green Deal,” she added.

Schaldemose, who has been working on the EU’s digital agenda, also noted that “I feel that many citizens are interested in learning about how we can protect kids and minors when they’re online on social media.”

The Danish Social Democrats’ lead candidate for the European parliament elections, Christel Schaldemose poses as she attaches election posters in Odense, Denmark on 18 May. Photograph: Claus Fisker/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images
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Spotlight: the European election in Denmark

First, we will be looking at the campaign in Denmark, where voters will go to the polls on Sunday to elect 15 members of the European parliament.

I spoke with three candidates, from different sides of the political spectrum: Christel Schaldemose, lead candidate for the Danish Social Democrats; Henrik Dahl, lead candidate for Denmark’s Liberal Alliance; and Sigrid Friis, the lead candidate for the Danish Social Liberal party.

Welcome to the blog

Good morning and welcome back to the Europe blog.

With just days until the European elections, we will be hearing from candidates across the continent about their experiences on the campaign trail and delving into the issues that voters are most concerned about.

Send comments and tips to lili.bayer@theguardian.com.

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