European Parliament elections must take place between May 23 and 26, 2019. This election will probably confirm a current trend: the downward slide of traditional political groups (European People’s Party, Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democrats); and the rise of populist and Eurosceptic groups (e.g. Europe of Nations and Freedom). This paper aims to analyse the potential consequences on EU’s future.
A tense political context for European elections…
Within an uncertain international context, the European Union prepares its Parliament election in the midst of uncertainty and mistrust, since Donald Trump leads a commercial war against the free movement of goods and multilateralism in the West, and with an unpredictable Vladimir Putin who could potentially be tempted to interfere in the East. This election might constitute a historical shift for several reasons.
This election will take place in a populist and eurosceptic climate, with the infamous Brexit as a symbol. Because of the latter, 705 seats will be taken for the 9th legislative period (reduced from the current 751). But most importantly, the increase of distrust when it comes to European hot topics and emerging issues will certainly have a direct impact on the results of the election.
On the way to an anti-European society?
The main victims of this scheme could be the traditional groups. Thus, the EPP and the S&D groups might lose around 40 seats each in their current configuration. Quite the contrary, the ENF group could easily gain 15 to 20 seats, riding on the momentum of national movements such as the Northern League (Italy), Alternative for Germany and the Freedom Party of Austria. Furthermore, if the EFDD (European of Freedom and Direct Democracy) finds a way to retain the Five Star Movement (Italy) in its ranks, the group could maintain its number of seats in spite of the UK Independence Party leaving the Parliament.
The case of Viktor Orban and his political party, the Fidesz, will also raise questions: he is currently seating in the EPP Group, which is the symbol of a latent Europhobia in a group that is nevertheless considered as a moderate right-wing party. Some specialists thought that other populist parties could join Orban in the EPP, such as the National Rally (France) or Alternative for Germany… but it was before the European Parliament gave its consent to trigger Article 7 sanctions procedure for a clear risk of serious violation of the values of the EU in Hungary. Since most of Orban’s allies turned their back on him, his party (14 seats at the EP) could join the ENF instead.
In front of this situation, the creation of a “Europhile group” could happen. A political party such as La République en Marche could aim to gather other political movements across Europe to create a new parliamentary group. This would not be an easy task since it requires no less than 35 Members from 7 different EU Member States. In addition, the ruling party of President Emmanuel Macron has seen its position weakened: his party is favoured by only half a percentage point against the National Rally. Nonetheless, if a Europhile initiative takes shape, it could have a decisive impact on the gathering of a majority in the Parliament.
What impact on EU’s life after 2020?
As tumultuous negotiations related to the future MFF (2021-2027) are actually conducted, it is possible to speculate on the impact of this election for this budget programming.
Indeed, since the Lisbon Treaty entered into force in 2009, the European Parliament exercise, jointly with the Council, the budgetary function. It means that if an agreement on this future MFF is not reached, the European Commission could face a Eurosceptic rebellion as the EU priorities have been redefined, putting “Migration & Asylum” theme in the middle of its strategic priorities and multiplying the budget of its program by 4. Then the future movements between Brussels and Strasbourg in the following months should be carefully followed.