On the 17th of January, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) elected Antonio Tajani as their new President (as predicted by a simulation run by VoteWatch a week before). Since then, many speculations have been made about him and his views. As the main collector of information concerning the activities of the European Parliamentarians, VoteWatch was asked by the public to release the records of Tajani’s votes on some key decisions made in the EP in the first half of the current term. The infographic below shows the way in which Tajani voted, as well as the positions of the political groups that backed him to become EP President (EPP, ECR, ALDE), which most of the times coincide, while other times they don’t.
Most of the times, Tajani’s positions are in line with the EPP. In fact, he is a supporter of free trade and fewer regulations for businesses. He is also in favour of the current flagship projects of the European Union, such as the Common Defense and the relocation of refugees across the continent. However, he is less hostile to Russia than the average members of his own group, as he advocates for an improvement of the relations between the two powers. This is not surprising, given that, on average, Italian MEPs are more supportive of a reconciliation with Moscow. Tajani is also favorable to stepping up measures to increase tax harmonization across the European Union, as he believes his own country is heavily harmed by the fiscal competition unleashed by other Member states to attract businesses.
All in all, Tajani seems supportive of further EU integration and cooperation on migration, taxation and defense. Despite having drawn the support from the Eurosceptic ECR group during the Presidential election, our data shows that the new President favours the continuation of a pro-European course for the European Parliament.
The Presidential majority will struggle to become legislative majority
However, Tajani already made clear that he does not want to be a leader who guides the European Parliament towards a certain political direction, but rather a spokesperson representing all the members of the institutions. Notably, his election was supported by a winning majority made up of EPP, ALDE and ECR, which is now supposed to take the lead in steering the legislation through the EP. Interestingly, left-wing parties seem the keenest on depicting this new realignment based on two big opposing coalitions (EPP-ALDE-ECR against S&D-Greens/EFA-GUE).
Unfortunately for the supporters of this scenario, there are several limitations undermining the success of this experiment. Firstly, the formal agreement between ALDE and EPP cannot be easily extended to ECR, because of its pro-European agenda. Additionally, as shown by our infographics, the three groups supporting Tajani are far from being able to build a cohesive alliance (they do not even have a majority of seats in the institution).
As already mentioned, ALDE and ECR have opposite views on European integration (Guy Verhofstadt is a staunch federalist, whereas Syed Kamall advocated for Brexit), as well as on the stance to be taken by the EU on the alleged violations of rule of law in Central Europe (Poland and Hungary). On migration and women’s rights, ALDE is much closer to the left than the EPP and ECR. The Liberal group advocates for an open society, whereas EPP and ECR focus more on the defense of traditional values. This also explains why the social-liberal part of ALDE was quite unsatisfied with Verhofstadt’s decision of supporting Tajani.
However, EPP, ALDE and ECR have common views on economic policies, as they all share the same positive attitude on free-trade and reducing regulations for businesses. Regarding internal market-related issues, these groups already collaborate effectively with each other, and here they are also supported by the most economically liberal part of S&D (which is needed for reaching a majority). For these reasons, these groups might actually suffer from a shift to the left of the S&D as a whole, as they would need to rely on the support of some Eurosceptic hardliners for pushing their economic agenda through the plenary.
Consequently, the new model based on conflicting coalitions might be successful when it comes to appoint MEPs to the key positions in the EP, but it would hardly allow this coalition to establish a permanent legislative collaboration on the upcoming policy files.
VoteWatch Europe is watching closely the dynamics in the coalition formation to spot any changes and how these impacts on the policy output.
If you are interested in information concerning the activity and the voting behavior of other EU politicians, contact us at [email protected]