A far less consensual European Parliament will take office in 2019

General Politics

This is an excerpt from Global Counsel's latest publication Europe in the Global Economy, which can be downloaded in full here.

If Eurosceptic parties can translate national successes into representation in the EU legislature, the pro-EU majority will come under strain. Eurosceptic parties are currently present in four political groups: the European People’s Party with Hungary’s Fidesz; the Europe of Freedom and Democracy with Italy’s 5 Star Movement; the European Conservatives and Reformists with Poland’s Law and Justice; and Europe of Nations and Freedoms with France’s National Front, now called Rassemblement National. Recent election results in Italy, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have seen increased representation of far-right or other Eurosceptic parties. These remain rooted in national politics, with little organisation at European level in comparison with the established EPP, Social Democrats and Liberals. However, speculation is growing that a new group — formal or informal — could bring these national parties together, potentially around a platform of immigration control, although their main driving force is likely to remain blocking rather than starting initiatives.

Further pressure on the centrist consensus of recent decades is the collapse of support for traditional centre-left parties. The centre-left has declined across the European Union, scoring less than 10% in the last Polish election and less than 25% in countries where social democrats recently governed, such as the Netherlands, France, Germany and Italy, while the new PSOE government in Spain is a vulnerable minority administration. The causes of this are complex, but many of these parties’ leaders are concluding they must move further to the left to re-engage with their traditional voter bases. For the S&D group there is a real risk of losing their traditional share of top jobs in the next European Parliament to more Eurosceptic rivals.

The biggest unknown remains whether President Macron can replicate his electoral success in France at EU level. Macron has kept Brussels institutions guessing since his rise to power in May 2017 about whether his En Marche movement might align with ALDE, a liberal grouping that shares many of his views. However, En Marche is now working on an election platform with Spain’s Ciudadanos, with the intention of building a larger pan-European movement outside the traditional party structures. This gives some hope to pro-Europeans about maintaining a pro-European majority in the European Parliament. This, however, is to ignore one of the main lessons of Macron’s success in France: it seems equally likely that any new centrist movement draws supporters away from the two main parties, rather than weakening the extremist parties.

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