Wednesday

21st Feb 2018

Focus

Political battles risk paralysing new EU parliament

  • 'The debate will be between pro-European and anti-Europeans' (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

With the rise of euroscepticism on both the political left and right, simply retaining the current level of European integration during the next EP mandate will be a victory, says a veteran Brussels-based EU lobbyist.

Thomas Tindemans, head of Hill&Knowlton in Brussels, suggests that the changes in the next parliament will be such that previously technical discussions on legislation could be replaced by ideological disagreements on fundamental EU principles.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Noting that both extremes of the political spectrum are "fundamentally against the EU", Tindemans says: "If they can form important groups, if they can get rapporteurs, committee presidencies then you'll have a whole other debate."

"Instead of the mostly technical work now, you'll have a debate where fundamental principles are put into question: against the internal market or free movement, in favour of protectionism," says Tindemans, who has worked as a lobbyist for over two decades.

"So, if during the next [five year] mandate we manage to keep the integration we have now, that will already be a victory."

Looking ahead to the next European Parliament, where finding majorities for proposals is expected to be more difficult, Tindemans, a Belgian national, says the key question will be whether "the big parties co-operate sufficiently, or whether populism will prevail".

He reckons the new political contours of the parliament will mean that the centre-right EPP and the centre-left S&D will be "doomed to join forces".

This in turn will limit the nuance of political debate: "The present alternative majorities will no longer be possible. The debate will be between pro-European and anti-Europeans."

Meanwhile, even if groups will nominally remain the same, their make-up is likely to be very different. The current Liberal group has liberal and centrist pro-Europeans: "Will the balance between them shift?"

The anti-federalist ECR group is at the moment dominated by British Conservatives. But after the vote, they are set to be outnumbered by Poles. Will this have an effect on free trade, asks Tindemans?

And the big open question is whether France's Marine Le Pen, of the far-right National Front, will be able to form a group with the Dutch Freedom Party.

Don't fall for euroscepticism

Addressing businesses, the lobbyist says companies should not fall for euroscepticism.

"Companies are sometimes tempted by euroscepticism because of the many regulatory interventions during the previous mandate. But they should realise that eurosceptics are against the single market, against free trade, in favour of new barriers. This is not a model for growth and jobs."

"Companies should subscribe to the agenda of economic growth and job creation and ... should develop their arguments in that framework," he notes.

Tindemans says he has seen a shift in policy emphasis since the beginning of the crisis.

The trend in EU Institutions has been towards consumer protection, which is more about "restriction" and about "public intervention".

This, he says, is the flip side of liberalisation.

He points to a simple word search of EU databases saying that 25 years ago the most used words were 'internal market': "It was all about facilitating cross-border activities, removing barriers."

"Around the turn of the century, the words 'green' or 'ecological' or 'climate' were in every proposal. And now, since the beginning of the crisis, it's all about 'consumer protection'."

This, says Tindemans, is a result of a public that interacts more with institutions, and says what it wants, particularly on social media.

It is also partly a reaction to rising euroscepticism. The institutions were "looking for a new role, one that favours the citizen. This is why in the power balance between stakeholders, those defending the citizens and the consumers have a growing impact".

Nevertheless, he says that much of the legislation is at the request of companies: "For example, saving the euro and getting rid of the consequences of the crisis is the most pro-business decision possible."

The political dilemma

The next five years will be all about economic growth and job creation, which creates a natural dilemma. To do this "we have to deepen the internal market, but political forces go in the opposite direction".

"Stability and predictability are good for the economy," says Tindemans. "But to stimulate growth and jobs, other instruments will have to be added."

"Energy policy will be crucial. Research and innovation should also be a top priority."

Analysis

Power struggle looms after EU vote

In just over three week's time the European elections will be over but a new process will have just begun – an immense power struggle between the EU  institutions.

EUobserved

When two worlds collide

Two worlds collided at the end of last week. The shrill, uncompromising one of British politics and the technocratic, dry, world of the European Commission.

EUobserved

Schadenfreude and fire-walking in the EP

There was outright glee in the EP on Thursday. It was time to dust off everyone’s favourite German word for pleasure in the misfortune of others.

News in Brief

  1. Commission fines car cartels €546m
  2. Juncker: 'nothing' wrong in Katainen meeting Barroso
  3. Juncker appoints new head of cabinet
  4. MEPs decide not to veto fossil fuel projects list
  5. Factory relocation risks drawing Vestager into Italian election
  6. Irregular migration into EU drops to four-year low, says Frontex
  7. Macron's new migrant law faces opposition in parliament
  8. MEPs approve anti-smuggling bill on tobacco

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  2. International Climate ShowSupporting Start-Ups & SMEs in the Energy Transition. 21 February in Brussels
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  4. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  5. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  7. EPSUMovie Premiere: 'Up to The Last Drop' - 22 February, Brussels
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. Bank of Latvia sends deputy to ECB amid bribery probe
  2. We are not (yet) one people
  3. Intellectual property protection - the cure for Europe's ills
  4. Eastern states push back at rule of law conditions on funds
  5. Katainen explains: My friend Barroso did not lobby me
  6. A European budget: securing a prosperous future for Europe
  7. Poland wrong to log in ancient forest, says EU lawyer
  8. EU taxpayers risk bailing out MEP pension scheme

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue PlatformBeyond the Errors in the War on Terror: How to Fight Global Militarism - 22 February
  2. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  3. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  4. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  5. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  6. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  7. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  9. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  10. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  11. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  12. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission