Germany’s Scholz warns of rise of right-wing populists ahead of EU elections

BUCHAREST, Romania — German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned of threats posed by right-wing populists Saturday as he addressed a gathering of center-left European parties ahead of elections for the European Parliament in June. 

Scholz arrived in Romania’s capital Bucharest for a conference of the Party of European Socialists, part of the Socialists and Democrats group, the second biggest in the Parliament. Voters in the 27 EU member states go to the polls June 6-9. 

“Right-wing populists are running election campaigns against our united Europe,” the German leader said at the Palace of the Parliament, which hosted the conference. “They are ready to destroy what we have built for the kids; they stir up sentiment against refugees and minorities.” 

Opinion polls indicate a significant shift to the right in the upcoming election, with the radical right Identity and Democracy group likely to gain enough seats to become the third-largest group in the legislature, mainly at the expense of the Greens and the centrist Renew Europe group. 

Scholz said a prosperous EU capable of “getting things done” is “the best response to populism and autocrats.” He also pledged continued support for Ukraine, saying it’s “key to restoring peace in Europe.” 

Scholz leads an unpopular three-party coalition. Recent national polls have shown his center-left party far behind Germany’s main center-right opposition bloc and at best roughly level with the far-right Alternative for Germany party. 

The Socialists and Democrats President Iratxe Garcia Perez also addressed the issue of rising populism in the June elections, saying those parties “only pose a threat to our European project.” 

The meeting comes after the EU’s largest political party, the center-right European People’s Party, met in Bucharest last month, where representatives endorsed Ursula von der Leyen’s bid for a second five-year term leading the bloc’s powerful Commission.

Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit from Luxembourg was chosen as the Socialists and Democrats lead candidate for Brussels’ top job. The next Commission chief will require approval from leaders of all EU’s member states. Almost half of the EU’s 27 national leaders are members of the European People’s Party. 

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