Groups are ready. Parliament is ready to play

As 7 groups are formed and there are two major left-outs still looking for a place for themselves in the new European Parliament, the people’s institution is taking shape before it’s official launch on 2 July.

The Groups as of today

There are still moves between the Groups, as for example one new Dutch ECR MEP moved from ECR to the EPP because of the adhesion of Theo Baudet’s Euroskeptic Forum for Democracy into the ECR. One by one as they are today:

European People’s Party has 182 MEPs, Manfred Weber as its chair and one of his vice-chairs is Ewa Kopacz, former Polish PM. The key Polish MEP in the group affairs is Jan Olbrycht, who is one of the negotiators on behalf of the EPP with the other three groups (S&D, RE, the Greens). They negotiate the Parliament’s version of the Union’s agenda for the next five years.

Socialists and Democrats with 153 MEPs have chosen a new leader, Iratxe García. There are 8 Polish MEPs including former PMs Miller, Belka and Cimoszewicz, so it slightly surprising there is no Bureau member from Poland among the new S&D leadership.

Renew Europe grows to 108 MEPs with Dacian Cioloș as its new leader. The group is now French-dominated and dropping the adjective “liberal” is not co-incidental. Mr Cioloș Romanian party PLUS is situated in the “centert, centre-right area”. There are no Polish MEPs among the centrists.

Greens/EFA has 75 MEPs with Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts continuing as co-chairs. The Greens are clear winners of the elections, even if the “green wave” is limited not to all of the Union’s states. There are no Poles among the Green MEPs.

Identity and Democracy goes by ID and replaces ENF. ID is 73 MEPs strong. Marco Zanni is the group leader. There are no Polish far-right MEPs.

European Conservatives and Democrats dropped to 6th spot from 3rd, mainly due to the Tories terrible results. There are 63 MEPs with ECR. The group is dominated by Law and Justice (26 MEPs), and has a co-leadership with Ryszard Legutko (returning) and Raffaelle Fitto (new, previously vice-chair).

European United Left–Nordic Green Left or GUE/NGL is a group of 41 MEPs, a raw figure down from 52 in the outgoing Parliament, mainly due to losses in Czechia, Italy and the Netherlands. Gabbi Zimmer is expected to continue to lead the group. There are no Polish MEPs in the group.

The first of the two big national cohorts without a Parliamentary group are the British Brexit Party (29 MEPs), that run in the snap elections in the UK to make a point about the country leaving the EU. Hence there are no expectations as for if the party should seek a group affiliation as long as Brexit is scheduled to take place.

The second of the national big players is the Italian party Five Star Movement (M5S) with 14 MEPs. With the British they were at the core of the soon defunct EFDD group. Most of the other EFDD partners moved on to the ID group of failed to be re-elected. The Italians tried to run on their own European platform, but managed to get elected MEPs from only two countries, the other being Croatia (1 MEP, also looking for a new group). In the past the M5S was negotiating accession to what is now RE, but failed. Due to domestic politics M5S cannot join the ID (where La Lega rules), the S&D (where the Partido Democratico is strong), or the EPP (where Forza Italia is). Even ECR is problematic, as Brothers of Italy are said to be not open to welcome the big Italian actor. Shopping for affiliation there are two groups left: the Greens and GUE/NGL. What will happen?

The agenda play

The four centrist groups (EPP, S&D, RE and the Greens) are negotiating a coalition agreement. “This is an important development in the process of building of European democracy. In many countries with strong tradition of coalition governments there is an attempt to built a common agenda of the government first”, says professor Steven Van Hecke of KU Leuven.

There are 5 priority areas: (1) Environment, Climate Change; (2) Economic, Fiscal, Trade policies; (3) Digitalisation; (4) Rule of Law, Borders and Migration; (5) Europe in the World, or foreign affairs.

The Parliament takes the European Council’s Strategic Agenda and re-writes it. The European Council’s agenda has four points: (1) protection of citizens and freedoms; (2) economy; (3) climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe; (4) promotion of EU values on the global stage.

The outcome of the play when it comes to the strategic thinking about the Union in the future will be the new President of the European Commission’s political guidelines. At least this was the name given to the policy prioritisation document of the EC head five and ten years ago. The guidelines served as a base of the Barroso II and the Juncker Commission activities of the subsequent five years.

The names play

The European Council considered the Spitzen-candidates and none of them made the cut of obtaining a majority vote among the leaders, is the conclusion of the last European Council 20-21 June. The EUCO will reconvene for one more time ahead of the European Parliament to put forward a candidate for the President of the European Commission.

Who will it be? The speculation is endless, but the key question is: will the Parliament object, if the candidate proposed is not a previous Spitzen-candidate?

This seems to be a false question as the Parliament’s candidates were considered by the EUCO. The European Council respected the system of Spitzens. Yet none of them received a majority necessary to be proposed. This is why and when the EUCO leading people need to reconsider.

The system of Spitzenkandidates is not dead. Institutionally, it was respected. It is the European politics is real and we see a struggle for power. The first fight was for Mr Weber (EPP) to be named candidate. This failed. The EPP now wants for all the others to fail, too: Mr Timmermans and Ms Vestager, candidates of S&D and RE.

Should this be the case whomever the EUCO comes out with, will the Parliament say ‘yes’ to?

As long as Mr Sánchez has an oversight over the S&D, and the new leader of S&D is his MEP; as long as Mr Macron has an oversight over the RE, and the new leader of RE is a protégé of Macron; as long as Ms Merkel has an oversight over the EPP and she does – it seems that the European Parliament can be managed. Unless… exactly for the same reasons, that they are partisans to their national leaders parties, but at the same time they all seem to fight for the empowerment of the people’s chamber, the new leaders of the European Parliament will, in fact, stand up to their bosses in Madrid, Munich and Bucharest/Paris. Well, which value will be dominant?

Let’s hear the name, first. My bet, as early as today (23 June) – and I have always been terrible with bets – is that the current EUCO debate is between Barnier and Vestager. Mr Barnier could unify France and EPP, a social democratic lady could be welcomed as the EUCO leader (is Thorning-Schmidt still in the play?) and Mr Verhofstadt could become a President of the European Parliament. Unless the S&D would like for Mr Timmermans to take the High Rep position, then the EUCO leader could be a Eastern European – Dalia Grybauskaite is available. The only problem here is that only one lady is among the leaders and many actors are saying we should expect at least two ladies.

The people who try to square the circle at different levels are:

  • Donald Tusk, president of the European Council designed a formateur by the EUCO in the process
  • Angela Merkel, leader of the largest country of the EPP in the EUCO; Emmanuel Macron, leader of the largest country of RE in the EUCO; and Pedro Sánchez, leader of the largest country of the S&D in the EUCO
  • 6 Prime Ministers who are coordinators in the process, two of each of the political families: for the EPP – of Latvia and Croatia, Krišjānis Kariņš and Andrej Plenkovič, respectively; for RE – Mark Rutte and Charles Michel of the Netherlands and Belgium, respectively; for S&D Sánchez of Spain and António Costa of Portugal.

Good luck.

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