Wednesday

26th Jun 2019

Analysis

Key takeaways from the European elections

Turnout up, but why?

After 40 years of diminishing interest in the European elections, 2019 finally brought a rise in turnout in the EU elections. For 27 of the 28 EU states, with the exception of the UK, the estimated turnout came in at 50.5 percent, the European Parliament said. The turnout in the last European elections inco 2014 hit a historic low of under 43 percent. Why the interest now? Some in the parliament already argued for the success of the Spitzenkandidaten system, ushered in by the EU parliament to force the national leaders' hands when picking the next EU commission president. Climate change, the 2015 migration crisis, and populists' relentless drive against the perceived 'Brussels elite' all contributed to the increasing interests of voters.

Centre-right and centre-left suffers

A grand coalition of left and right lost its 40-year long majority to parties looking to upset the status quo. The centre-right European People's Party was down to 180 MEPs from 217 according to the parliament's calculations (it could lose 13 MEPs more if Hungary's Fidesz leaves the party family), and the Socialists & Democrats will have 145 compared to 184 seats gained in 2014. The voters have opted for a more fragmented parliament, and the majority coalition will need to include more parties. European People's Party lead candidate Manfred Weber called for an EPP, Socialists, liberal and green alliance underlining "stability", while socialist lead candidate and Dutch EU commissioner Frans Timmermans called for a "progressive alliance" with liberals, the greens and the far-left, without the EPP - although that, for now, does not add up to half of the 751-seats. "There is no stable majority against the EPP possible. My message is 'join the EPP'," Weber said on Sunday night.

New liberal group forms

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

After months of speculation, the formation of a new liberal group was announced by a parliament official on Sunday evening. He told journalists that due to the request of the liberal group in parliament, ALDE, French president Emmanuel Macron's party and a Romanian party alliance will be added to them. The liberals are now projected to have 109 seats compared to the current 69. "That means that no solid pro-European majority is possible without the help and participation of our new centrist groups," liberal group leader and lead candidate Guy Verhofstadt told the press on Sunday, in what sounded like a hint that he would be fine with an EPP and Socialist coalition including the liberals. "A coalition can be built of those who want to change things," Danish commissioner and other liberal lead candidate Margrethe Vestager said later, hinting she could support a progressive coalition. In any case, liberals are set to be king- or queen-makers.

'Green Wave' stops soon

The Greens were first to celebrate on Sunday night as exit polls trickled in. Greens have certainly made a slash in Germany, where they emerged as the second party in the country with 20.7 percent, behind chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU/CSU with 28.7 percent. In France too, the Green party saw a surge in support, scoring 13 percent and getting third place behind the far-right and Macron's centrist party. In Ireland, Greens gained 15 percent of the votes. Greens have also done well in Belgium, in Brussels, the Flemish and French-speaking Greens are expected to become the largest group. Overall, all this leads to a gain of 17 MEPs, according to the European Parliament's calculations, and their best-ever result, making the party the fourth largest in the parliament. It also exposes the 'Green Wave's' obstacles: a low presence in southern and eastern Europe.

Populists get over 100 seats

Marine Le Pen won in France, Nigel Farage claimed Britain and Matteo Salvini is victorious in Italy, Orban landslide in Hungary - these populists and nationalists victories would have sounded the pro-EU alarm normally. But on Sunday night, it was business as usual. Populists were expected to do well in the European elections, and some projections even envisioned a third of the seats going to anti-EU forces, making legislation in the parliament almost impossible, crippling the EU machinery. According to the parliament's projects, their current groups can add up to a total of 112 MEPs, up from 78. Eurosceptic conservatives mean another 59 MEPs. A lot depends in how closely these groups can work together when it comes to setting their own agenda in the parliament, upsetting the EU's legislature, and changing the bloc to their liking.

Poland and Romania backfire

While Hungary's premier Viktor Orban held onto his massive dominance in the country, with his Fidesz party winning 13 seats, in Poland and Romania, and other eastern European countries where the rule of law and democratic principles were challenges by the government, opposition parties made important gains. In Poland, the country's ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) came out only narrowly ahead compared to a pro-EU alliance, in a vote seen as a test of the party's nationalists ahead of the general elections later in the year. In Romania, the ruling Social Democrats (PSD) suffered big losses, exit polls put them tied for first place with opposition centrists. A new grouping of parties, USR-Plus, secured third place with 24 percent of the votes, giving a boost to the liberals in the EU parliament.

Berlusconi and Puigdemont in

Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont, living in self-imposed exile in Belgium, has won a seat in the European Parliament, and so did former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, making sure the European Parliament will remain a colourful place for politics of all sorts of flavour. Puigdemont cannot take up his new role without returning to Madrid where he faces jail. Making things even odder, Britain's Brexiteer Nigel Farage could steer one of the biggest parties in the next parliament, in an election that was never supposed to have taken place in the first place in the UK.

Interview

Populists 'could be the opposition parliament needs'

Dutch historian and writer Luuk van Middelaar argues populists could be the new opposition in the next European Parliament and a better reflection of EU public opinion - thus actually reinforcing the body's status.

News in Brief

  1. EU warns Turkey as 'Gezi Park' trials begin
  2. EU universities to share students, curricula
  3. Migrant rescue ship loses Human Rights Court appeal
  4. Denmark completes social democrat sweep of Nordics
  5. Johnson offers 'do or die' pledge on Brexit
  6. Weber indirectly attacks Macron in newspaper op-ed
  7. EU to sign free trade deal with Vietnam
  8. EU funding of air traffic control 'largely unnecessary'

Spanish socialist leader strengthened by EU vote

The Spanish social democrats becomes the biggest national group among the European socialists, after winning the Spanish European election - which also sees a Catalan separatist in jail elected as MEP.

EP parties planning 'coalition agenda' ahead of jobs summit

Political bosses of the European Parliament's groups, hoping to assemble a majority coalition, are eyeing putting forward an political agenda - and possibly a name for the commission top job - before EU leaders gather in Brussels.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  4. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  6. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  7. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  8. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  9. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate

Latest News

  1. EU moves to end car-testing 'confidentiality clause'
  2. EU parliament gives extra time for leaders on top jobs
  3. Europe's rights watchdog lifts Russia sanctions
  4. EU-Vietnam trade deal a bad day for workers' rights
  5. EU 'special envoy' going to US plan for Palestine
  6. Polish judicial reforms broke EU law, court says
  7. EU study: no evidence of 'East vs West' food discrimination
  8. Russia tried to stir up Irish troubles, US think tank says

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  2. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  3. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  6. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  11. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  12. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  2. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  5. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us