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European Elections 2019: What happened this week?

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European Elections 2019: What happened this week?
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Welcome to our weekly round-up of EU elections coverage. With five weeks until voters go to the polls, we'll tell you all you need to know about how the elections work and the role of the parliament, as well as sharing the latest stories.

This week's election news has been largely dominated by the topic of Eurosceptism. We take a look at new polls that predict big gains for populist and anti-EU parties, hear from the front runners for the EU's top job and get an update from the Euronews road trip correspondents who have crossed into Italy.

EU top job candidates face off

As the race to be the next European Commission president heats up, the two main candidates, Manfred Weber and Frans Timmermans, faced off in a TV debate hosted by France 24.

Weber expressed regret over Brexit but concern that the UK is still having a say in the future of the bloc.

On the topic of Euroscepticism, Timmermans argued that criticism is not bad as long as it doesn't turn into ‘Europhobia’, adding that the EU needs to "convince people that Europe is a good thing for them".

Hot topic: Euroscepticism

Eurosceptic politicians have been pushing forward with campaigning. France's Marine Le Pen, leader of Rassemblement National, unveiled her manifesto with proposals that included leaving the euro, bolstering security forces, lowering taxes and getting rid of the European Commission.

Latvian Prime Minister Arturs Krišjānis Kariņš sat down with Raw Politics host Tess Arcilla to discuss his concern with growing Euroscepticism within the European Union. “There are politicians who are offering very simplistic answers to very complex issues," he said. "Generally, they're referred to as populists. My simple message is: don't fight the populists ... It's a worthless endeavour. But try to understand why are people listening to the populists?"

Latest polls

The first election poll to include the UK in its forecasts was released.

In the UK, the Labour party is predicted to lead (19 seats), with the Conservatives coming in second (12 seats) but it is Eurosceptic parties that show strength with UKIP and the newly-formed Brexit Party gaining 19 seats collectively.

Elsewhere in Europe two right-wing groups, the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) and Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) are predicted to make gains — with big surges forecast in Italy in particular.

The current biggest groups in, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), are set to take hits, both forecast to lose five points.

Rail line divides alpine communities

Euronews continued its EU road trip through Italian Alps where the construction of a tunnel connecting France and Italy is set to be a huge issue for voters. The tunnel is part of an overarching European plan to connect Europe with high-speed trains but many residents fear for the future of their communities and consider the project unnecessary, polluting and a waste of EU money.

Get all the latest updates from our EU road trip here.

Im-paw-tent vote

Animal welfare could be set for a boost in Europe as campaigners prepare an unprecedented assault on May's elections.

They are hopeful, based on polling from across the continent, of more than tripling their presence in the European Parliament. They hope to have up to seven seats in Brussels and Strasbourg and push the case for better animal rights.