The pro-EU centre fragments but holds
Elections to the European Parliament took place between 23 and 26 May. These elections will determine the composition of the European Parliament for the next five years, and will provide an important indication of the direction of the European Commission. Later this week, European Council President Donald Tusk will convene an extraordinary summit of European heads of government to have the first discussions on the President of the European Commission.
The two largest parties of the European Parliament since its first elections in 1979 – the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) – have for the first time lost the ability to form a majority on their own, losing seats across Europe. The winners of the elections are the liberals, greens and Eurosceptics. The Liberals (ALDE) increased their seats in Parliament with the inclusion of French President Macron’s La République en Marche.
The Greens, who increased their share of seats and saw surprise gains in France, Germany and Ireland, are describing a ‘Green Wave’ in Europe. Eurosceptic parties are also on the rise, with Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement national winning 22 seats and beating Macron for share of the popular vote. In Italy, Eurosceptic party League, led by Matteo Salvini, has come on top, with 28 seats, up from 5 in 2014.
Turnout rose across the European Union, with figures rising in almost all Member States. The total turnout is estimated to be 51%, up from 42.6% in 2014. Turnout in European elections has long been a concern of the European Institutions, for fear that low turnout contributes to the perceived lack of legitimacy of the European Union.
The next European Parliament will be more fractious and unpredictable. A stable political climate in 2019-2024 in Brussels is achievable, but will require a greater allocation of resources for interest representatives. No longer will it suffice to target selected political groups to influence legislation.
Shifting our focus to what’s next…
With the elections results in, attention now turns to the allocation of political responsibilities in the European Institutions.
Decisions must be made as to who will lead the European Commission, the European Council, the European Parliament and the European Central Bank.
Within the European Parliament, opaque political bargaining will now commence to determine composition and leadership of various committees.
Within the European Commission, the leadership will determine the political direction of the next Commission as well as the prioritization of key files. As all eyes watch this post, the technical levels in the Commission are already well underway with preparatory work for the legislative proposals that will be sent to the Council and the European Parliament later this year.
Early advocacy activity should focus on tracking these appointments in the European Parliament, political intelligence gathering on internal horse-trading, and scenario planning to prepare for the autumn onslaught.
Business should also focus on the allocation of the committee coordinator positions within each political group, whose behind closed door impact in coordinating a group’s position quietly determines the shape of the European Parliament’s legislative positions.