The 2019 European Elections: Challenges and Opportunities
After the 2019 European elections, the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) counted 179 in total, whereas the Progressive Alliance Of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) party achieved 153 seats. It seems the hegemony of traditional parties has been seriously undermined. And as a new five-year term for European institutions begins, the message is clear: people want change.
Both the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) and the centre-left of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) suffered the biggest downfalls. They have lost their absolute majority in favour of Greens, Liberals and left and right-wing populists. The result is a more fragmented Parliament where Liberals and Greens will have the opportunity to potentially create strong alliances and avoid a volatile parliament. So what can we expect now?
The Current Picture
In order to understand the challenges ahead of the European Union, first of all we will give an overview of the votes. Secondly, we will define what challenges lie ahead for the European Union from a short, mid and long term perspective and finally, we’ll analyse the opportunities that can be deduced from the results.
Figure 1 proves that the hegemony of the two biggest political parties has come to an end, echoeing the results from many individual European countries in the past decade. Many people expected a wave of anti-EU forces to sweep the continent but despite the alarming headlines, the Europe Union has resisted. Populists didn’t perform as well as it was expected in countries such as Spain or Germany where the Socialist and Green parties won.
The rise of Greens, mainly in Germany, Portugal and Finland and the populists in Poland, Italy and France balances the new parliament. Nevertheless, we cannot overlook eurosceptic and populist forces which still secured almost 25% of the seats and will likely make it more difficult to approve proposals.
The EU citizens have spoken, now it’s the politicians turn. The most important short-term challenge the EU faces is to build stronger alliances. They cannot afford a lockdown in parliament or an extension of current mandates. In order to achieve this, the political parties need to reach the required majorities for electing the next main positions within the EU’s institutions such as President of the European Commission and Parliament, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and the President of the European Central Bank.
Money is not everything, but almost everything needs money and so does the EU. One of the most important mid-term challenges is to approve the next EU’s multi-annual financial framework for 2021-2027. This is the EU’s long-term budget and the one responsible for aligning EU spending with its political priorities. In other words it is the economic roadmap of the European Union.
So, why is it a challenge? Firstly the increase of the budget proposed by the EU has led to protests by some contributors such as the Netherlands and Nordic countries.
Secondly, back in February 2018, the 27 EU heads of the state or government agreed to increase funds in the areas of stemming illegal migration, defense and security and the Erasmus+ program. In order to make this increase, European authorities have to make budget cuts in other areas with cohesion and agriculture policies being the most affected.
These two policies represent more than the 80% of EU’s budget and currently greatly benefit southern countries such as Italy and Greece as well as Eastern countries such as Poland and Hungary. These two groups have largely criticized the new measures and won’t make things easy for the EU in this respect.
Even so, the European authorities aim to fix an agreement in the European Council in the fall of 2019, however after seeing all interests at stake, there will likely be a delay.
Another mid-term challenge that needs the EU’s attention is to complete the banking union. Today, two of the three pillars of the banking union are in place. The SSM (Single Supervisory Mechanism) and the SRM (Single Resolution Mechanism) established during the 2013 debt crisis. However a third pillar is vital in order to strengthen the economic and monetary union, the EDIS (European Deposit Insurance Scheme). This common system for deposit protection will close the banking union circle and insure the EU citizens’ deposits across Europe.
The banking union should be complete so that the EU is in a better position for another economic crisis.
An ageing population is of increasing concern and currently fertility rates don’t allow for a replacing of the population. By 2030, the ageing population will put more pressure on the health systems of the EU and change societal needs quite significantly. The European Union should think about replacement policies or other forms to encourage birth rates in order to not lose human capital.
The number of voters for the 2019 EU Elections was over 50% for the first time since the elections of 1979. The highest numbers turned out in Belgium and Luxembourg and the lowest rate came from the UK.
With a greater awareness of the impact of climate change, it’s no surprise that the most successful party was the Greens. The Greens have the opportunity to rise their voice and make sustainable changes. They reached second place in Germany and third in France, taking a total of 70 seats, 19 more than they secured in the 2014 elections.
Maybe it is not wise to talk about a green wave in Europe for now, but what it is clear is the greens have come to stay, without undermining the Greta effect. Greta Thunberg galvanized the impact and increased the interest in climate change. This is a golden opportunity for the EU to become a leading force in the fight against climate change
The standardisation of eurosceptic forces and the arrival of new ones means that the Greens will push the EU to build stronger alliances, to avoid a volatile parliament as well as harness the opportunity to promote social, economic and political integration.
Celia Muñiz Hernández
As Security and Political Risk analyst, Celia seeks to better understand international relations and to study the development of political events in order to predict social, geopolitical and economic trends. Celia gained experience during her internship with to Intelligence Fusion and undertook further diverse courses regarding geopolitics of natural resources and the 21st century hybrid threats.
Currently preparing the access to the Diplomatic Corps in Spain, Celia holds a Master’s degree in International Relations by the Diplomatic School of Spain and a bachelor degree in Law by the University of Salamanca.