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New Power Balance, New Mandate: What Europe's Election Results Mean for the EU's Future

Author Brian Hayes
Published 11 Jun 2024
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Europe has gone to the polls and the results are in. The newly elected MEPs will meet in Strasbourg on 16th July and so begins a new mandate that will re set the EU agenda for the next five years.

The European Parliament is important, and its MEPs know the influence they can bring about in shaping EU policy from the Commission and from the Council. The EP has grown in stature and power since 1979, when the first directly elected Parliament came about. This time the EP has gone from 705 MEPs to 720. Half of all new MEPs are new!

The newly elected MEPs will meet in Strasbourg next month, beginning a new mandate that will re-set the EU agenda for the next 5 years.

 So, what do the results tell us and what do we expect to see?

Despite all the pre-election predictions, the centre ground of the Parliament has broadly held its own. The European People’s Party (EPP Centre Right) has increased its vote and seat share, Socialists and Democrats (S&D Centre left) seem to be returning the same number of MEPs, and the Renew group (Liberals) are down, but that’s mostly due to the poor showing of President Macron’s party in France. Unlike 5 years ago when we saw the green wave, this time the European Greens have lost about one quarter of their MEPs. Down but not out.

Those to the right of the EPP, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the Identity and Democracy group (ID) are likely to have about 130 MEPs - buts it’s not a surge. It was also a very good day for Independents or new MEPs yet to decide on group affiliation. They are collectively over 100 strong. Expect a lot of horse trading here as the main groups try to entice new MEPs into their political family.

The most likely outcome in the power play that will follow is for the existing broadly based coalition of the EPP, S&D, Renew, possibly with the Greens, to remerge as the controlling group of the new European Parliament. The big advantage that the EPP/S&D/Renew alliance has is that they are all pro-European. They will want to do a deal because they want the EU to work. There are positions to be filled from the EP President, Vice Presidents, Committee Chairs to coordinators. There is nothing to be gained by having a standoff between the Parliament and the EU Council on a Commission President Nominee that goes beyond September.

Each group will want to hear directly from the new Commission President Elect. It’s a secret ballot – so anything can happen. But I expect Ursula von der Leyen, the existing Commission President, to be the choice of the EU Council for another term. She will need at least 361 votes out of the 720 MEPs. She comes from the biggest European Party (EPP) in the Parliament and has the support of at least 12 EU heads of government. Expect to have a nominee from the EU Council summit meeting by the end of June.

The existing Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, must win 361 votes to be re-elected for another term.

The real test in asking how these election results have changed the political landscape happens when the new Committees begin to meet and do their work on proposed legislation. That’s when new alliances can emerge, committee by committee. The overarching political deal between the pro EU parties in Parliament is a deal on broad policy objectives, and especially on jobs. The real deal is the committee work, and we are still to hear what the new priorities of the new Commission will be. Will those new Committees, with more right leaning MEPs, push back on some of the EU regulatory agenda?

I do expect some push back on the EU Green Deal. I also expect a new EU Defence and Security Commissioner to reflect the new priority around EU wide security. There will be renewed focus on getting the EU Migration pact agreed by each Member State, and getting it operational by 2026 at least.

While the clear ambition of the Letta Report is around resuscitating the EU Single Market, will the EU relax state aid rules to respond to growing protectionism from the US and elsewhere? Europe wants to generate its own energy, so as not to depend on Russia; it wants manufacturing to be rebuilt in the EU so that supply lines can function; and it wants a capital markets union (CMU) that helps use existing EU capital to assist EU business successes. All of these will play a big part in a new Commission programme.

But first its raw politics for the next few months as key positions are decided upon.  A settling in period for the new Parliament and a time to set new priorities. Despite the size of the European Parliament and its enormous agenda – things will settle down by the Autumn.

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