As the dust settles and the emotion dissipates across the continent, we now need to look at the future. Here are our main take-aways that indicate what we can expect EU decision-making to look like in the coming years:
– Higher turn-out in EU elections means that the debates with regard to the decisions made in Brussels in the past years resonated among the publics in the member states. Higher interest has been noted all through the campaign, including on our special platform built to show what MEPs have done during the past 5 years: our www.yourvotematters.eu was a key source of information for over 2 million citizens (twice as much as 5 years ago);
– The higher turn-out did not prevent (but in some cases contributed to) the traditional parties losing substantial ground to a variety of new-comers: they lost to the centrist liberal-democrats, to the leftist greens and to right-wing conservatives. We can expect further transformations of the European political spectrum in the years to come;
– The big winner of these elections is ALDE-Renaissance. Not (just) because it gained substantially in absolute numbers, but because its position has become vital for making any sort of coalition. No matter how you combine the political forces, you simply can’t skip ALDE-Renaissance if you want to reach a majority: a broad pro-EU coalition, a center-left coalition or a center-right coalition cannot pass the 50% threshold without ALDE-Rennaissance. Already in the previous EP term ALDE won more votes than both EPP and S&D – this trend will increase further;
– The smaller-than-expected gap between the EPP and S&D (combined with poor results of both) will make it harder for EPP to push through their (initial) candidate for the Presidency of the Commission. Despite that, Weber looked last night almost as confident as Juncker looked in his election’s night speech 5 years ago. So did Timmermans. The most realistic scenario is that both of them will get a job and that of Timmermans will be other than the EC Presidency. Macron-Merkel talks will be the key to give us the names of the persons to hold the top posts.
– Paradoxically, Macron lost in France, but won in Europe. Although En Marche scored behind Marine Le Pen at home, it won just enough to make Macron the key player in the new ALDE-Rennaissance force. The big question that remains is how cohesive/united ALDE-Rennaissance will be in the next EP term under En Marche’s dominance (precedents point to a low level of cohesion of this group);
– EPP and Socialists remain the strongest groups mainly because of the smaller countries. From among the big EU countries, these two traditional forces have won only in Germany (EPP) and Spain (PES/S&D). They were hit by tsunamis in France, Italy (in the case of EPP), Poland and, in the case of the Socialists, also in Germany (and the UK*). The S&D will be, nevertheless, stronger than forecast thanks to their good results in Spain and Italy.
– Just as 5 years ago, EPP manages to edge the Socialists thanks to its Central Eastern European strongholds. Even in Romania and Bulgaria, where the Socialists were above EPP in the surveys, the outcome turned out to be the other way around. In Romania in particular, the troubled PSD was dealt a blow by the electorate despite its “efforts” to make it as hard as possible for the Romanian diaspora (the largest intra-EU foreign community) to vote. In a telling but twisted turn of events, the Dutch riot police ended up using physical force against the Romanian voters who were still waiting (“too enthusiastically”) at the door of the their embassy in the Hague when the polls were closed before they had a chance to cast their ballots;
– The smaller EPP-S&D gap will also make it even harder for the EPP to lose any of their members, ie. FIDESZ, who scored very high in Hungary and would be EPP’s third largest national party delegation;
– The League was confirmed as the largest party in Italy and Salvini will take the opportunity to show to the EPP that they are needed. The same goes for the PiS, who won in Poland. Mirroring the situation on the left side, the Greens, who did very well in Germany and France, will pressure the S&D.
– All in all, the next EP will be more fragmented than ever and, in legislative practice, coalitions will continue to be made on an issue by by issue basis. Majorities will be smaller and the votes of a few MEPs will make the difference.
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