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A Not So Sharp Right Turn

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Photo: Shifting Colours to the Right. The European Parliament's colour palette is shifting towards cooler, right-wing shades. Source: European Parliament
Photo: Shifting Colours to the Right. The European Parliament's colour palette is shifting towards cooler, right-wing shades. Source: European Parliament

The European Parliament elections have created issues for the leaders of Germany and France. In France, an early parliamentary campaign has begun. In Germany, Olaf Scholz risks losing his seat. A group of small far-right parties has rapidly entered the European Parliament, and now, negotiations with them are inevitable. The good news is that the governing coalition structure from the previous European Parliament is likely to remain largely intact.


Implications for Europe? There are currently no substantial reasons for a sharp change in the policies of the EU's governing bodies. However:


The voice of Eurosceptics will become stronger. While they cannot dismantle the EU, they can certainly unsettle current politicians in Brussels.

EU unity in the face of threats from the east is already growing and is unlikely to be reversed at this moment.

Russian influence through far-right forces will not strengthen significantly, as cooperation with Russians and promoting Russian narratives have become too toxic. Without this, we would see a concert of marginal figures acting on Kremlin's orders.

The green agenda will not be entirely removed but may take on more pragmatic forms.

A policy to counter Chinese expansion—trade, political, and military—will start to form. Surprisingly, the strengthening of the right wing in the European Parliament will support this.

There will be numerous discussions around limiting illegal migration, not just talk but also an intensification of migration restrictions already implemented by the previous European Parliament.

Fasten your seatbelts, turbulence is ahead.


The Far-Right Has Arrived

The European People's Party (EPP), which retains the largest representation in the European Parliament, is considered centre-right and conservative. Although pre-election polls predicted them 170 seats, they managed to secure 186 (as of the morning of 11 June). This is even more than the 182 seats they held in the previous European Parliament.


The Socialists and Democrats (S&D), who hold relatively moderate left-of-centre positions, have significantly lost ground. After holding 154 seats in the previous European Parliament, S&D now has only 135, according to the recent election results. Interestingly, they received even fewer seats than the 142 predicted by polls, undermining Olaf Scholz's position in Germany.


The "Renew Europe" party (Renew Europe Group) secured 79 seats, more than the polls predicted before the vote. However, this liberal and pro-European party has significantly lost compared to the previous European Parliament, where they had 108 seats.


At this point, it's worth pausing to look at the total composition of all three parties, as they formed the ruling coalition in the previous term. Currently, the three political groups have 400 members. This is enough to form a new coalition (the minimum number is 361), but not enough to effectively push through legislation. This is because coalition members are not obligated to vote unanimously. The coalition includes representatives of different national parties, and national interests may vary.


We will soon see how this plays out during the process of appointing the President of the European Commission. Thanks to Polish voters, the EPP faction now includes 20 Polish MEPs, based on final data. This is roughly half of the coalition's margin of safety that the possible EPP + S&D + Renew Europe coalition might have. It is unlikely that Polish representatives will be enthusiastic about another term for Ursula von der Leyen as President of the European Commission, given her firm opposition to the Polish government regarding the green transition for Polish farmers and the inconsistency of some new Polish laws with EU framework principles.


Frankly, the 444 MEPs who formed the ruling coalition of these three parties in the previous European Parliament gave coalition leaders and the President of the European Commission much greater room for manoeuvre. Now, negotiations will be necessary. Temporary allies will need to be sought among the 45 MEPs who have not joined any key European parties and among the 55 newly elected MEPs who have not yet declared affiliation with any political forces.

Photo: At first glance, not much has changed. But that's not the case. Who entered the European Parliament for the next five years.  Provisional results (13-00, 11/06/2024)  Source: European Parliament, The Gaze



Marginal Far-Right Gain Strength

According to the European Parliament's rules, a political group must consist of at least 23 MEPs from at least seven countries. Naturally, small delegations from certain national parties cannot meet these conditions. They will either have to remain independent or act as satellites within more powerful groups. Independence sounds appealing in parliamentary terms, but in reality, it means having limited influence and gaining benefits only in exchange for specific votes.


Becoming a satellite within a major political group isn't always feasible, as it requires the willingness of key parties within that group. A notable example is Viktor Orbán's Fidesz party from Hungary, which secured 11 seats, as predicted by polls. While this is respectable for a national party in a relatively small country, Fidesz won't be able to join the ECR (European Conservatives and Reformists Group) that is dominated by the Brothers of Italy, led by Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Before the elections, the ECR distanced itself from Fidesz due to its overtly pro-Russian stance.


Of the two far-right groups represented in the European Parliament, the ECR gained more seats in the new term. Previously, it had 62 MEPs, but now it has 73, slightly below the 76 predicted by polls but still a significant result. The "Identity and Democracy" (ID) party, also far-right, lost seats, securing only 58 compared to 73 in the previous term. ID also performed worse than polls suggested, which had forecasted 68 seats. Their situation would not have been better if ID had not severed ties with the overtly pro-Russian German national party AfD.


AfD, with its 15 seats won in Germany, wouldn't have hindered ID. However, ID would have likely lost support from moderate voters who favour traditional values and stricter immigration controls but reject collaboration with Putin.


Analysts are now considering the potential formation of a third far-right political group in the European Parliament. An alliance of several marginal far-right parties could easily surpass the 23-member threshold and meet the seven-country representation requirement. This would be a nightmare for the moderate forces in the European Parliament. While it's practically impossible to prevent this, the influence of marginal far-right forces can be significantly weakened. For example, there are already discussions about including the ECR in the ruling coalition.


This isn't surprising, as the ECR appears respectable compared to the numerous marginal far-right groups that have emerged in the European Parliament.


Green Failure

The Greens (Greens/EFA Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance) secured 53 seats, better than the pre-election forecast of 41 seats. However, this is a significant drop from the 74 seats they held in the previous term.


A catastrophic failure of the green movement amid huge emissions and pollution problems? This has been caused by two simultaneous factors. Firstly, the clumsy implementation of green transition norms, which have been costly for the agricultural sector, industry, and transport. These measures have predictably led to higher production costs, exacerbating already high inflation caused by economic stimulus measures to counteract the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Secondly, even the slowest to grasp have realised that there are more immediate and powerful threats, namely the war in Ukraine—the largest conflict on the continent since 1945.

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