EU Elections - The Outcome 2014
Eurosceptics rock the boat but old guard still captains the ship
Euroscepticism makes its mark
As predicted, the most significant development of the elections is the rise of the hardcore eurosceptic parties. On the right they command 141 seats, up from 99 seats in the current Parliament. In addition the constructive eurosceptic ECR group has won 44 seats (down from 57). With 185 seats, the eurosceptic groups on the right will have an important say in the legislature. Much will depend on the question whether the strongest parties, the French Front National and the British UKIP, both with 24 seats, will manage to join in a group together with other eurosceptic parties. If this is the case they will form the third strongest group. However, the participation of such parties in the Parliament’s day-to-day work is not certain: in the past, their MEPs have usually not attended committee meetings.
The new majorities and impact on decision-making
The centre-right EPP and centre-left S&D, both pro-European, will remain by far the strongest groups. The EPP has now won 212 seats (down from 273) and the S&D 186 seats (down from 196). Together they have a comfortable majority, and as in the previous Parliament many legislative files will be carried through by an agreement between these two groups. However, if EPP and S&D do not manage to find a joint position, the EPP will not have a majority with the other centre-right groups such as the liberal ALDE, which has now 70 seats (down from 83), and the ECR. Together these three groups often formed a coalition in the outgoing Parliament, gaining the upper hand in many legislative files. In the next five years the centre-right groups might therefore be forced to join forces with some of the hardcore eurosceptic groups to gain a majority against the centre-left. The fact that the German and the British liberals, both from the pro-business wing of the ALDE group, have lost dramatically will make it more difficult to forge a business-friendly position. The Greens have only lost slightly (down from 57 to 55 seats) and will probably maintain their influence on issues such as environment, climate and energy.
Next Commission President: Juncker’s hand strengthened?
This election marks the first in which the Parliament’s groups have put forward their own candidates for European Commission President, based on a generous interpretation of the Parliament’s new powers under the EU treaty. For S&D group candidate Martin Schulz, the outcome is a disappointment; EPP candidate Jean-Claude Juncker has come out strengthened in his bid to lead the next Commission. However, his majority is not clear enough to make his candidacy a certainty. The next days and weeks will show whether he can gather enough support from the other political groups and whether the Member States can agree on him as the next Commission President. It is still not clear to what extent the governments will take account of the Parliament elections in making this appointment.
New MEP heavyweights
The top German candidate for the CDU (EPP group), David McAllister, is the MEP with the strongest backing of any candidate and the personal support of Angela Merkel. He will certainly gain a top position in the new Parliament and has a good chance of being elected the new Parliament President. On the other hand the UK has lost its Conservative MEP Martin Callanan, who led the ECR group, and Graham Watson the leader of the UK ALDE group. From ALDE, former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt will remain an influential MEP and so will Martin Schulz from the S&D.