|2009 European Elections – A post-elections analysis|
Updated on 31st of July
A clear centre-right victory
The European elections, held simultaneously in 27 countries for the first time in history, ended in a clear victory for the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and a defeat for the Party of European Socialists (PES). According to EUobserver, Europeans turned largely to the centre-right parties in reaction to the economic crisis and because Social Democrats were unable to persuade Europeans – under pressure from the economic crisis, unemployment and growing social problems – that they could provide the answers.
As predicted by many surveys, the EPP-ED group retains its majority, emerging as the largest group in the new European Parliament with a total of 265 (36% of the seats) against 184 MEPs for the Socialist group. Following the negotiations, which took place shortly after the elections and which saw national political groups joining one or another European political group, the PES and the ALDE (Liberals) count now respectively 184 and 84 seats. There is no doubt that the Christian-democrats remain ahead of the Socialists. The power of the Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) has considerably decreased whereas the Greens/European Free Alliance group became larger, winning 55 MEPs, up from 43 last time around.
Following the elections, official results reported a loss of influence of the smallest groups, the eurosceptic Independence and Democracy (IND/DEM) remaining at 2.5% of the seats, the Union for Europe of Nations (UEN) and the Confederal Group of the European United Left / Nordic Green Left (GUE / NGL) both losing one percent. As for Libertas, the new pan-European anti-Lisbon Treaty party, EUobserver analyses the score as a failure with only one candidate elected.
Right takes all in the EU
Despite fears that voter turnout would plunge, participation in these elections remained almost stable, with 43% of voters heading to the polls. In the 2004 elections, it was 45.9%.
In the five largest EU countries – Germany, France, Italy, the UK and Spain – the EPP did well. In the first three ones, the parties of government won whereas Spanish and British electors sanctioned the parties in power by voting for right-wing parties. In Hungary, Greece and Bulgaria, the opposition won as well. Thus, whether in power or opposition, conservative parties have benefited from the electorate’s anxiety about the recession, Presseurop writes.
The far-right won substantial support in some Member States, particularly in te Netherlands and Austria where far-right parties won around 17%. Though, in Belgium, anti-immigration party Vlaams Belang obtained a bit less than five years ago. Similarly, ultranationalists in Bulgaria and Romania lost a few percentage points.
New alliances appeared in the EP
The British Conservatives left the EPP-ED group after their leader, David Cameron, decided to form a separate anti-Lisbon political group. Despite being deprived of some 29 British MEPs, the EPP remained by far the largest grouping in the 736-seat parliament. This new group called ‘European Conservatives and Reformists’ (ECR) succeeded to gather 54 members from 8 different countries. As the new condition to create a political group in the EP is to have 25 MEP’s from 7 different countries, the group would be significantly weakened if an MEP left. The ECR has now almost as many MEPs than the Green group but the Greens seem stronger because they are not threatened of dissolution with their 55 MEPs from 14 different countries.
The Socialist group in the European Parliament re-branded itself ‘Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in Europe (S&D)’, after absorbing the liberal component of Italy's main opposition party, the Partito Democratico. The move, increasing the grouping's MEPs by 21 (to 183), is a serious setback for the ALDE group, which has already suffered from the bad score of its French delegation.
The two right-wing groups UEN and IND/DEM were unable to survive in the EP after the European elections, which stressed their lack of influence in the EP and the impact of the new requirements for the creation of a group in the EP. From a merger of those two dissolved group, a new eurosceptic group called ‘Europe of freedom and democracy’ was created, which has 30 members from 8 Member States. All the former members of UEN and ID did not join the new alliance. Some joined the ECR group, such as the 15 Polish MEPs members of the party "Prawo i Sprawiedliwość" ("Law and Justice", the party in government in Poland), formerly members of UEN. Others are "non-attached": they are not member of any political group. As always, non-attached MEPs, who are so far 27, have no common political line, although most of them come from the far-right, and they are often marginalized in the Parliament (limited speaking times, few attributed reports, no political position assigned in the Bureau nor in the Committees, etc.).
The presidents of the European Parliament political groups remain the same
The last week of June, freshly-elected MEPs voted for the President of their political groups. Almost all of them remained in post: Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Greens), Joseph Daul (EPP) and Martin Schulz (S&D, former-PES) were re-elected. As the Green group decided to keep a two co-Presidents structure (male and female), the Green MEPs elected Rebecca Harms (Germany) to replace Monica Frassoni who was not re-elected as MEP.
Jerzy Buzek (EPP, Poland) has been elected in July as President of the European Parliament. According to an agreement between the two major groups, Martin Schulz should take his place for the second half of the term. Another president will then be elected to head the Socialists and Democrats group.
The Left Group’s new President is German MEP Lothar Bisky, who succeeded to French Communist Party representative Francis Wurtz.
Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian prime minister, was elected president of the ALDE group on 1st of July.
Despite the fact that a Tory appointment was expected, the Polish Conservative Michal Kaminski (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość) was finally elected President of the new group of conservatives and reformists Europeans.
The eurosceptic group ‘Europe of freedom and democracy’ is co-chaired by the Italian Francisco Speroni (Lega Nord) and the British Nigel Farage (UKIP).
A new Culture Committee formed
The new Culture Committee was formed, as 19 other parliamentary committees, during the first plenary session of the new European Parliament in Strasburg in July. The Committee currently comprises 32 full members - of which 24 are new MEPs - and 30 substitute members. Given that over three quarters of the Committee are first time MEPs, it may take time for the Committee to get going, whilst these new members could bring some dynamism to the process.
Veteran MEP Doris Pack (EPP – Germany) has been nominated as the Committee chair – after many years in the Committee and always in a dominating force, she has the potential to drive an ambitious agenda for the next mandate.
Helga Truepel (Greens – Germany) is returned as vice-chair and continues as a member of the Budgets Committee.
The EPP group has a dominant 38% of members, reflecting the overall composition of the Parliament and making it difficult for the other groups to form strong alliance blocks for voting.
The Committee will meet for the first time on September 2/3 2009 in Brussels.
More info at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/members/expert/committees/search.do?committee=2872&language=EN
Who will be the next European Commission President?
Despite the large victory of the Christian-democrats, the election results do not give a clear indication of European Commission President José Manuel Barroso's chances of securing a second mandate at the EU executive's helm. At the European Council held on 18-19 June, EU leaders agreed as expected to nominate the former Portuguese prime minister again. However, during the first plenary session of the Parliament on 14-16 July, the MEPs decided to postpone the nomination to the fall.
Recently, Liberals, Greens and Socialists started joining forces to prevent Barroso’s reappointment, instead proposing Belgium's former Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. According to EurActiv, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-chair of the Greens group, had proposed joint action for electing Verhofstadt at the Commission's helm to Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, president of the Party of European Socialists. Rasmussen had accepted and is currently touring European capitals to secure support for the election of Verhofstadt.
This development looks like bad news for the EPP, whose leader Joseph Daul has called on the 8th of June for a grand coalition between the EPP, the liberal ALDE group and the Socialists and Democrats Group to reappoint Barroso. As the vote in the European Parliament is secret, the EPP needs help from outside its ranks to get Barroso reelected. If the ALDE would agree to make a coalition with the EPP, they would have at least the simple majority – but the liberal group seems unstable. That is why the EPP will have difficulties to secure a majority coalition despite his lead.
What would the Lisbon Treaty change for the European Parliament?
"This new parliamentary term will be decisive for the European Parliament. With new, improved working methods, and the statute of co-legislator strengthened by - and we hope as quickly as possible - the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, the Parliament will be in a strategic position at the heart of European decision-making," the EPP leaders said.
With a few exceptions, the new Treaty would place the European Parliament on an equal footing with the Council as lawmaker in areas where this has not been case so far, notably in setting the EU budget (the EP would enjoy full parity), agriculture policy and justice and home affairs.
The European Parliament also welcomes the new rights that national parliaments would gain if the Lisbon Treaty is ratified by all Member States. National parliaments would, first of all, gain a new right to be informed on the evaluation of policies conducted in the area of freedom, security and justice, proposals to amend the treaties and new candidate countries' applications to join the Union.
The 4-7 June European election results must already be taken into account and political leaders consulted when nominating the President of the new Commission, says the Parliament. Indeed, if Lisbon were in force, the Commission President would be elected by the EP on a proposal by the European Council.
As for a second Irish referendum, France and Germany set out plans today to shape the future of the European Union, saying they would push to pressure Irish voters to approve a treaty. Polls continue to predict a ‘Yes’ vote on the treaty this time around.