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The Rise of Energy Prices in the EU and the Populist Surge




Since 2022, the European Union has experienced a significant rise in energy prices, driven by various factors including geopolitical tensions, supply chain disruptions, and policy shifts. The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has particularly strained the EU’s energy supplies, as it relies heavily on Russian gas. Efforts to phase out Russian Arctic liquefied natural gas (LNG) have faced division among EU countries, further complicating the energy landscape.

Despite falling gas prices in early 2024, the European energy crisis is far from over. Persistent risks, such as potential supply shortages and the instability of global energy markets, may continue to drive prices upward, putting further strain on households and businesses. The economic fallout from rising energy prices has had a significant impact on the political landscape in Europe. Populist parties have capitalized on the negative economic situation, using it to bolster their support base. These parties often position themselves as defenders of the working class, promising to protect citizens from the adverse effects of rising costs and perceived policy failures by the establishment.

An illustrative example of the populist surge in Europe is seen in France. In the 2024 European elections, National Rally capitalized on economic discontent and anti-establishment sentiments, securing 31.5% of votes in the European elections, more than double Macron’s Renaissance party. This shift reflects a broader trend of rising populism across the continent. The party’s success underscores the challenges facing pro-European centrist parties, which, despite holding onto their core support base, are increasingly pressured by the growing influence of populist movements​.

In recent elections, populist and extremist parties have made significant gains across Europe, challenging traditional political structures and threatening to reshape the European agenda. Their rise has introduced new challenges for the EU, as these parties often advocate for policies that are at odds with the EU’s collective approach. Given these dynamics, it is crucial for EU policymakers to proceed with caution in managing issues like the energy crisis. Balancing the need for energy security, economic stability, and environmental sustainability requires careful planning and coordination. Missteps could exacerbate economic inequalities, fuel further political instability, and undermine the EU’s cohesion.

A comprehensive and balanced approach is needed to address the root causes of energy price increases while mitigating their impact on vulnerable populations. This involves investing in renewable energy sources, enhancing energy efficiency, and diversifying energy imports to reduce dependence on any single source or region. Additionally, transparent communication with the public about the necessity and benefits of these measures can help counter populist narratives that exploit economic anxieties.

The rise of energy prices in the EU since 2022 has not only highlighted the vulnerabilities in Europe’s energy infrastructure but also provided a fertile ground for populist parties to gain traction. As Europe navigates this complex landscape, it must do so with a clear-eyed understanding of the potential economic and political consequences. Ensuring energy security and affordability while maintaining social and political stability will be key to the EU’s future resilience and unity.


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