A new start for Europe?

Published 27.05.2019 23:41
Updated 28.05.2019 00:04

European Parliament (EP) elections have taken place all over the EU's 28 countries. The idea to directly elect a European Parliament dates back to 1976. The idea then was to organize a similar election in all member states on the same day, to give the impression of unity and appurtenance to a common institution. Well, already at this stage, problems emerged because each EU country has a different tradition of voting. Some voted on Sunday, some on Saturday and a few on Wednesday. This is why the EP election results take a long time to become official. This also shows how diverse the EU remains, but also underlines the motto "united in diversity."

The European Parliament remains to date the only international parliament directly elected. In that sense, it fulfills a very important symbolic role: That of a future society closely integrated but also largely autonomous... For years, the role of the European Parliament remained obscure, distant and hard to understand for the general public. A parliament that did not really make legislation is obviously not very easy to understand. This deficit of the EP has been mostly covered and corrected over the years by enhancing its prerogatives and rights with every amendment of the founding treaties. The European Parliament today holds a very important legislative role through the co-decision process. The budgetary functioning gives the EP as much authority as the Council of Ministers and the "assent" procedure offers the EP a right to veto on all the international agreements signed by the EU.

Still, the EP elections were not really on the agenda of the public, for whom EU functioning remains a mystery. Participation has decreased consistently and continuously at each contest. For the political parties in member states, the EP remained a sort of "Second Division" for candidates who were not elected in their national parliaments. This approach did not help to give the EP the recognition it deserved in public opinion.

This time it looks like a change has occurred. First of all, and totally unexpectedly, the participation in the elections saw a rise for the first time in 20 years. This is a positive sign. Secondly, the rise of the Europhobic extreme right, heralded before the elections, took place, but to a much lesser magnitude than expected. Thirdly, despite the regression of center right and center left parties, there was an important increase in the votes for the Liberal Group (ALDE), which was also totally unexpected. There is also a very strong increase in Green parties, especially in France, Ireland and Germany, which was not foreseen.

In a nutshell, the inability of the euroskeptic extreme right to form a coherent political group will help the conventional parties of the center right (EPP) and the center left (ESP) to be dominant, in spite of falling short of obtaining a majority in seats. This will very likely help the ALDE to become a major player for the election of the parliament speaker and also for other nominations. The Greens will become a sizable force to reckon with, although they have shown their specificity in making political deals in the past.

Yes, so the EU-supporting political forces have obtained a majority in all the EU member states, except Italy. Great Britain is going to leave and the strength of the euroskeptic wing will thus diminish. But there is a large contingent of extreme-right MEPs and this might play a very nasty role in Europe in case of a large-scale political crisis, as it did back in 1929.

Regarding the effects of this new composition of the EP on EU-Turkey relations, probably not much change will occur. Our relations with the EU are in such a dreadful state that it would take much more than an EP election to reboot them.

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