19th Aug 2019

Political group leaders meet amid alliance speculation

Political group presidents will meet on Tuesday (28 May) morning behind closed doors to discuss the European elections amid broader speculation on possible coalitions within the European Parliament.

They are also likely to discuss candidates for the next president of the European Commission - ahead of an informal dinner later that same day in Brussels between member state prime ministers and heads of state.

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

Whatever the final talking points in the so-called Conference of Presidents, coalition-building is likely to be a messy affair given the assembly's new balance of powers.

One EU parliament source said it "will take some time" - and that groups first need to reflect before making any real overtures.

"The groups need to focus and think. Right now there are only two groups that have confirmed leadership, the EPP [centre-right] and the Greens," he noted.

The leaders of the centre-right EPP, socialist S&D, liberals, greens and radical left GUE on Sunday evening all pronounced some variation of possible coalitions in the hopes of creating a large pro-European force.

Details, as usual, are tricky as groups begin to mull options and numbers before getting into the fine print.

Each has their own mix of priorities that will clash with others. The socialists say they want a majority based first around a programme and its content.

The loss of seats in the EPP and socialist camps, however, means there is no longer a clear majority for either, a first since 1979. The EPP dropped from 216 to 180 in the 751-seat assembly. The socialists went from 185 to 145, taking a thrashing in Germany, France and the UK.

Liberal kingmakers?

It puts the liberals under Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt in a strategic position. They have secured a comfortable third place with 109 seats, a figure that includes MEPs from French president Macron's Renaissance party, among others.

On Tuesday, the liberal delegations will decide on a new group name, which is provisionally: "ALDE plus Renaissance plus USR Plus".

Verhofstadt's own leadership position under the new group is also not guaranteed, amid broader questions on how the sides will get along.

A staunch federalist, Verhofstadt is eyeing a renewed opportunity to shake up the old two-party majority previously shared between the EPP and S&D.

In a statement, he said the group remains open to "all candidates that can gather the support of the political families that will compose the future governing majority."

A centre-left coalition or a centre-right coalition will need ALDE-Renaissance to pass the magic 50 percent majority threshold in the assembly.

A work around without the ALDE-Renaissance would entail the EPP, socialists and the Greens, who secured 69 seats.

It is unclear to what extent the left-leaning groups will see ALDE-Renaissance as a possible partner, given in part their pro-business liberal ideology.

Commission president - who?

Coalitions aside, another big priority remains who will become the next president of the European Commission.

The issue is likely to be discussed by the Conference of Presidents given the informal dinner later that evening, where heads of state or government will start the nomination process for the new EU institution leaders.

Their full attendance is not guaranteed.

Austria's chancellor Sebastian Kurz lost a motion of confidence at home on Monday following the political video scandal involving his far-right FPO coalition partner.

Trouble is also brewing in Belgium where the caretaker government under embattled prime minister Charles Michel is facing the daunting task of forming a new coalition.

Denmark is preparing national elections in early June and Finland still hasn't formed its own coalition government.

Questions also loom over the future of Italy's Five Star Movement who is in a government coalition with the far-right League. The populist Italian party lost seats, dropping it to third place behind the socialists.


Key takeaways from the European elections

European voters upset the status quo in the new European Parliament, breaking the monopoly of the mainstream centre-right and centre-left. Here are the key points from the 2019 vote.

EU Parliament ready for Council spat on top EU posts

The majority of political groups in the European Parliament - with the now exception of ALDE - are gearing up for a fight with EU premiers on who and how people will get the top posts of the EU institutions.


EU elections: populists gained votes - but lost initiative

A clear majority, including among populist parties, agree that the EU has added value. For the pro-EU forces, it is time to clarify and consolidate our vision, without ignoring the populists' election results.


Greens yet to be convinced by von der Leyen nomination

After a inconclusive meeting with Ursula von der Leyen at the European Parliament on Monday, all Green MEPs will now get to meet her on Wednesday - ahead of the key vote on her nomination as EU Commission president.


EU top jobs: winners, losers, and institutional battles

The decision on the top jobs shed light on key developments in the EU: the changing of the centre-right guard, the failure of the spitzen-system, Germany's confidence, Macron's political success, and the illiberal problem.

News in Brief

  1. Trump turned down: Greenland not for sale
  2. UK Libdems would back Clarke or Harman as new PM
  3. Six countries agree to take 'Open Arms' ship migrants
  4. Gibraltar judge: Iranian ship should be released
  5. Increasing fears of a global recession
  6. Far-right hate crimes on the rise in Germany
  7. EU steel tariffs have 'worked well' so far
  8. Italian court: Migrant rescue ship can enter Italian waters

Who is the new EU parliament president, David Sassoli?

The 63-year-old centre-left Italian MEP was elected president of the European Parliament, with 345 votes. A former journalist, Sassoli has experience as a vice-president of the parliament, but is little known.

Parliament outmanoeuvred in EU top-post game

The European Parliament on Tuesday lost a years-long power struggle, and gave up winning more influence on European politics via the so-called Spitzenkandidat process it had championed.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. Selmayr did not keep formal records of lobby meetings
  2. EU asked to solve migrant rescue deadlock
  3. Internal EU paper: Second Brexit vote was no longer 'distant dream'
  4. EU has 'zero incentive' to break open 'trilogue' deals
  5. Denmark plans import ban on EU-approved pesticide
  6. US offers Johnson helping hand on Brexit
  7. Italy: New government without Salvini in the making
  8. Brexit row delays financial products transparency review

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us