Who will lead Europe?

Who will lead Europe?
In an analysis divided into 7 paragraphs, Ditmir Bushati brings a clear explanation of political Europe that in the end is what directly affects everyone's lives. What did the votes of Europeans and powerful countries such as France or Germany, even Italy show with their vote?

What mood are the Europeans in? What annoyed them, irritated them, what excited them?

Who leaves and who comes. All in the opinion below.

Bushat's post

Elections to the European Parliament are always accompanied by the question of who will lead Europe, but they are nothing more than 27 parallel elections, as each country decides for itself how to elect representatives in Strasbourg. European elections have historically been second-rate elections, but with an impact on internal political developments, as evidenced in France with the calling of early parliamentary elections by President Macron. European elections are becoming more and more political, driven by internal agendas rather than a vision for Europe. Therefore, analyzing the results is a complex process.

Pendulum to the right

Clearly the pendulum has swung to the right. The political weight of the center-right and far-right forces has increased. However, the contraction of the political parties grouped around the center is small, from 59% to 56% of the seats in the European Parliament, compared to the last elections.

The European People's Party not only came out first, consolidating the established tradition since 1999, but also experienced growth. The European People's Party has grown in numbers and influence in most EU member states, which makes it an irreplaceable political factor in the formation of new EU institutions.

The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats came second, but the hemorrhaging of its votes has not stopped. The Liberals were significantly reduced, due to the heavy defeat suffered by President Macron's party in France. Again, the aforementioned political groupings will have a leading majority in the European Parliament.

The 2019 elections were marked by the triumph of the Greens, which pushed the EU towards the adoption of the Green Agenda. In these elections, the Greens were significantly reduced, ranking as the second smallest group in the European Parliament. The fact that the three reports that were requested by the EU on the eve of the renewal of the European institutions stands out: (i) on the preparation in the field of defense, drawn up by the former Finnish president, Sauli Niinistö; (ii) for the internal market, drafted by the former Italian Prime Minister, Enrico Letta; (iii) for promoting competitiveness, drafted by the former Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi; the environment does not appear as an issue. It is clear that we will have a Europe less focused on meeting the objectives of the Green Agenda.

Breaking the "sanitary cord"

The extreme right gained ground. The group of Conservatives and Reformists has grown, as a result of the success of the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's party in the elections, but also of similar parties in Poland, Spain and Sweden. Even further to their right, the political grouping Identity and Democracy increased, as a result of the results of Marine Le Pen's party in France and the Freedom Party in Austria. Growth, which would be more substantial if this grouping had not kicked out the Alternative for Germany Party a few weeks ago, which brought Chancellor Scholz's Social Democrats to third place.

It is worth noting that the far-right parties scored important victories in states where they never had the opportunity to exercise power, mainly in France and Germany. In states that have been damaged by populist governments, traditional parties achieved good results. Although in every European election there has been talk of a "sanitary cordon" against far-right parties, it must be admitted that none of these subjects have violent rhetoric. Ursula von der Leyen herself, in the Maastricht debate that took place between the candidates for president of the European Commission, broke the concept of the "sanitary cordon", leaving open the possibility of cooperation with these political groups on the condition that they respect the European vocation, the principles of the rule of law, and the EU's current stance towards Russian aggression in Ukraine.

If we take the above-mentioned far-right groups together and add here the votes of Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán's party, they are ranked second, after the European People's Party, leaving the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in third place. in the European Parliament. The potential of this cooperation exists even though it is not easy. Although the conglomerate of the extreme right agrees with the need for a "war from within" against the "Brussels elite", there are strong differences between them in foreign policy and especially in their attitudes towards Russia.

The unknowns of the new political leadership

The first challenge after the constitution of the European Parliament concerns the division of important European positions. The Socialists and Democrats mandated German Chancellor Scholz and Spanish Prime Minister Sánchez, while the European People's Party is expected to mandate Polish Prime Minister Tusk and Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis, to find an acceptable solution for the division of European responsibilities.

Over time, the EU's ability to translate the election result into new institutions and a new political leadership has become more difficult. Previously, it was easy to identify who could lead the European Commission, the European Parliament or key positions such as the European Central Bank. Now everything is more complicated. We saw this in 2019, as European leaders took several weeks to decide the president of the European Commission. Perhaps more time will now be needed to reach a political compromise, due to the snap elections in France called by President Macron.

The current coalition format between the European People's Parties, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats and Liberals, which provides support to the European Commission, can also be joined by the Greens, whose negotiating space has narrowed due to the poor result election. However, "flexible parliamentary majorities" can also be created, thanks to the possible cooperation between European People's Parties with Conservatives and Reformists. Although other traditional parties have excluded the possibility of cooperation with this grouping, Giorgia Meloni, as the symbol of the Conservatives and Reformists and as the prime minister of the third country in terms of weight and size in the EU, is expected to play an important role in the constitution of the institutions European. All the more so that the leaders of the two main EU countries, Germany and France, suffered electoral defeats.

The 100 non-aligned MPs

Another unknown of these elections are the 100 MPs, a high number compared to the previous parliament, who are not connected to the existing political groups in the European Parliament. The practice so far shows that this typology of MPs cannot be treated as a whole. However, each political group tends to negotiate with them in order to increase their ranks, as it is known that the membership of deputies in political groups has indisputable advantages, in terms of full access to the management of parliamentary structures.

A stricter EU with immigration, less green

For the next five years, in terms of political direction, it is likely that the rightward tilt of the European Parliament will make the EU even stricter on migration issues. The EU's current immigration policy has been influenced by the right for more than a decade. The idea to secure the borders, to further extend Europe's security by giving funds to neighboring countries (Turkey, Libya, Tunisia), is really an approach that comes from that policy. So, on the one hand, the right, and the extreme right, have shaped the political agenda of the EU, and on the other hand, this trend will be emphasized, due to the election results.

Also, the EU is expected to be oriented towards an agenda that will be more brown than green, focused on industrial policies in the field of defense. So we can have a renewal of all the industrial priorities of Europe. However, the difference between, on the one hand, the prioritization of expenditures for national defense policies and, on the other hand, the financing for the reorganization of the European economy and for the common European defense should be underlined. An EU influenced by the extreme right will struggle more to find common ground on securing funding for common defence.

An EU that is more "sovereignty" and less green would hardly want to finance a European industrial policy, even if this is what is needed to boost the EU's competitiveness in the energy and digital transition, let alone to make any progress on the agricultural policy reforms needed to achieve environmental protection goals and advance the 36-nation enlargement process.

Will the enlargement process progress?

EU enlargement can progress by considering it as the flip side of its internal decline, but also as an opportunity to undertake deep institutional reforms. In other words, an EU that is organized in the form of concentric circles, expanding and deepening simultaneously for different policies, which would facilitate the decision-making process. However, an EU with nuances or what is worse with illiberal representation identified even in key positions, would not have the political will and credibility to talk about the rule of law, neither with the candidate states for EU membership nor in the international arena.

The US elections and the future of Europe

The European elections ended without giving an answer to the question of who will lead Europe. Perhaps the presidential elections in the USA will be more decisive for the future of Europe than the elections for the European Parliament. This happens because of divisions within Europe. The defining line in the EU is not necessarily between right and left, or between north and south, but between countries that demand more autonomy, Europe's sovereign autonomy, and countries that have never believed in this autonomy. In this context, the presidential elections in the USA, in one way or another, will also affect the course of the EU in relation to the European integration process, the security architecture of Ukraine, which suffers the consequences of Russian aggression in Europe, and the cooperation with NATO.