TRENDS

Victor Rivera

Thu, Mar 21


Mind the Politics - The New EU Political Landscape

Introduction

March kicks off the start of the campaign for the forthcoming European Parliamentary election which will takes place between the 23rd and the 26th May.  This election will encompass pressures like no other as it will likely fall within an unresolved Brexit divorce between the UK and EU as well as the rising in strength and political power of Eastern European countries.   Additionally, there has been a surge of independent forces forming across France, Germany and other Central European countries.

 

About the European Parliament

The current 751 members of European Parliament are divided into 8 groups, of which the three predominant groups hold 62.8% of the seats.

The European People’s Party (EPP) form the largest representation, amassing 218 members, or 29% of total seats.  This Christian democratic political party have amongts their main leaders Italian Antonio Tajani, incumbent President of EU Parliament, Angela Merkel of Germany, and Klaus Lohannis from Romania.

The Second group is The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) who consider themselves to be “centre-left” oriented but their origins are as a socialist group. They currently hold the second biggest representation with 186 (25%) members of Parliament, including former Parliamentary President Martin Schulz and Udo Bullmann from Germany as their main leaders.

Finally, the third largest political group within the European Parliament is the European Conservative and Reformists (ECR) which progressed well in last elections, acquiring 74 seats, equivocal to the 73 seats currently held by the UK members of European Parliament which at this stage, may or may not be running in this year's elections in May.

Unfortunately, due to Brexit, the ECR and the S&D will be the parties most impacted in members, as 24% and 10% respectively, of their current seats are held by UK Members of European Parliament, leaving the EPP with the greatest chance to maintain a significant majority in the upcoming elections.

 

Is Growth the New Power?

Perhaps the choice of closing debate at the last European parliamentary meeting, with Peter Pellegrini, Prime Minister of Slovakia centred on the future of Europe, was not a coincidence.

Slovakia stands as one of the fast-growing Eastern European countries.  Displaying a broadly healthy economy, they have managed to acquire significant power within the European Union following the incumbent President of the European Council, Donald Tusk from Poland, as well as Mr. Klaus Lohannis from Romania who currently holds a leading position in the EEP, supporting the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

 

The Rising of New Forces

As stated on the European Parliament’s web page, “The Parliament sees its role not only in promoting democratic decision-making in Europe but also in supporting the fight for democracy…”.  One wonders if this is the principle that has inspired new leaders with limited previous political experience.

On one side, the Yellow Vests, the French independent movement that began in November 2018 protesting against rising taxes and costs of living, gained significant support due to their achievements in the implementation of new fiscal policies improving minimum wage and successfully reducing taxes for low earners on the 10th of December. These successes allowed its three most important leaders to head independent lists for election in the European Parliament.

Some might view the potential division of the three Yellow Vests candidates as negative for the political movement while others might consider that the Yellow Vests are implementing Philip of Macedon’s strategy to "divide and conquer".

On the other side, the far-right movement led by the Alternative For Germany started small in 2013 and dispite being short the minimum threshold to sit in the Bundestag, this did not halt the movement. By 2017, they managed to become the third largest party in Germany and are now ready to play a significant role in the upcoming European Elections.

Even though these two groups are significantly different in their political and social ideologies, they both share the commonground in opposing the current immigration policies implemented by the leaders of the EU.

However, they are not alone in their oppositions as other countries including Hungary have clearly stated their opposition to current EU immigration policies.  By accusing EU leaders of promoting mass migration, Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary had circulated a letter to each household in his country stating that the EU “has not learned anything from the horrible terror attacks of the past years” and “wants to bring even more migrants to Europe”.

 

In Conclusion

The upcoming European Parliamentary elections will no doubt be like any other in the past.  Brexit leaves ECR and S&D, the second and third biggest political groups, with less members in the Parliament which means they must now rethink and restrategize in order to gain the required seats.

Within the historically strongest political group, the EEP will be losing Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of their most important and iconic leaders in the Eurozone’s history.  In her departure, she has certainly made efforts to endorse the emergence of the uprising Eastern European political powers which display progressive economic growth and healthy economies. 

More importantly, the new movements are gaining momentum despite holding different ideologies.  Their shared commonality against current Eurozone immigration policies could see them gaining support in neighbouring countries.

We'll find out how the new European Parliament will be formed only after the 26th of May but it's likely that we will be faced with historic changes in the European Political landscape.


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