With the European elections behind us, three conclusions from the results are now clear.
With the European elections behind us, three conclusions from the results are now clear: turnout was higher across all 28 countries than in any recent election; there was a modest pro-European upswing but no solid victory, leaving strategic elbow room for the sovereigntists and populists. The traditional political groups – the centre-right EPP and Socialists – lost ground as expected, with the new Liberals and Greens making surprise gains at their expense.
Two developments heightened public interest: head-on conflict between the governments of several member states on immigration and the economy on the one hand, and strong competition between the traditional parties and Eurosceptic sovereigntists and populists on the other. As a result, turnout was up at just over 50% – the highest in 20 years on the heels of a record low in 2014 (less than 43%). This was perhaps also stimulated by the pro-European and Eurosceptic parties’ opposing promises to change the EU, building positive expectations of the birth of a “Second Europe” that differs from the creations of the EPP-S&D axis in recent decades.
A real opposition
The increased strength of the sovereigntist/populist groups means we could now see an opposition capable of making a real impact in the European Parliament, assuming the groups’ different national members manage to get along. (That doesn’t seem very likely at the moment.) At the same time, there’s potential for a new transversal pro-European group that breaks things up by welcoming parties across the spectrum, from Macron’s centrist-liberal party to parties of the left like Tsipras’s Syriza.
The alliance of the centre-right and Socialists with the Liberals is unlikely to be problematic, with ALDE having previously supported the grand coalition in moments of difficulty. The Greens, however, are another matter, since the environmentalists have consistently opposed many of the economic and industrial dossiers supported by the PPE and ALDE in the past.
It is still early days in the process of appointments to the Commission, Council and even ECB, but two things are clear: the new EP will be more fragmented than ever, and although the coalitions will continue to work dossier by dossier and problem by problem, they will now be hampered by smaller majorities, with the votes of just a few deputies swinging the balance.
Window of opportunity
What happens between July and late autumn will lay the ground for the next European five-year term, from the formation of the parliamentary committees through to the appointment of the President of the Commission and the confirmation of new Commissioners in the autumn.
This important period is an exceptional opportunity to build on new and established relations with the new MEPs, helping them gain a solid grasp of your sectors by providing them with written and oral briefings on the key questions that impact your businesses.
You will need to become personally engaged on an ongoing basis, even when there is nothing imminent on the agenda, to establish yourself as known and respected interlocutors. Moreover, you will need to involve top management in these one-to-one relations and assist them to build broad relationships that extend beyond dossier issues.
The same engagement should be pursued at national level with local public affairs team members supporting the most influential MEPs in their constituencies, coordinated from and working with Brussels to provide regular landscape analyses and to optimise the timing, agendas and impact of top management visits.
Our award-winning work at BOLDT aims to develop targeted strategies, to deploy messages that are political and not too technical, to concentrate on core priorities, and to ensure every argument is backed by facts and figures tailored to the specific interests and concerns of each individual interlocutor.
Engagement with MEPs should start now. We will be posting updates over the coming months as the new shape and leadership of the Parliament becomes clear.
Want to find out more about why your organisation’s approach to the European Parliament matters to your business? Contact Simone Ceruti.