Will Europe be a different place this Monday?

Alexis Tsipras for the Party of the European Left, Ska Keller for the Green Party, Martin Schulz for the Party of European Socialists, Jean-Claude Juncker for the European People's Party and Guy Verhofstadt for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (from left to right) participate in the EE2014 - Eurovision debate between candidates for the Presidency of the European Commission. (EP Audiovisual Services 15/05/2014).

Alexis Tsipras for the Party of the European Left, Ska Keller for the Green Party, Martin Schulz for the Party of European Socialists, Jean-Claude Juncker for the European People’s Party and Guy Verhofstadt for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (from left to right) participate in the EE2014 – Eurovision debate between candidates for the Presidency of the European Commission. (EP Audiovisual Services 15/05/2014).

According to the latest projections, the four traditional and clearly pro-EU parties or rather Parliamentary groupings, that is the center-right European Peoples Party (EEP), the center-left Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the centrist Alliance of Liberals & Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and the ecology group Greens-European Free Alliance (G/EFA) are expected to win a clear victory in tomorrow’s European elections, despite heavy losses foreseen for the three of them. Only the Socialists are expected to increase their showing in tomorrows’ elections bringing them very close to the probable winner EPP.

A sum up of projections in the 28 EU countries, presented by Wall Street Journal, estimates that those four parties will elect 521 deputies in a house of 751. This is a 69.4% lead for the political parties supporting wholeheartedly the European project, a quite comfortable majority judged by national parliamentary standards. However, in the European Parliament things are different.

The pro-EU parties to prevail

The four pro-EU parties commanded a 79.2% lead in seats in the last Parliament, which was dissolved a few days ago and yet a number of crucial EU legislative proposal had a rough time in the Plenary. The reason is that the European Parliamentary parties are in reality loose international groupings of MEPs, without strict obligation to party discipline. Deputies take into account not only their political or ideological party affiliation, but the interests of their countries and their personal constituencies/regions together with a number of other factors. As a result, a clear majority in the European Parliament over a crucial issue demands elaborate compromises. Sometimes the needed for reconciliation of the competing forces is so detailed and cumbersome that the final result is a monstrous legal construction very difficult to apply or even deprived of any real impact.

As they say in politics, quantities can change the quality. In the case of European Parliament this election may turn out a larger than predicted victory of forces representing Eurosceptics, chauvinists, extremists, populists and even harlequins or makeshift leaders and political platforms, unscrupulously exploiting the difficult economic situation in many countries. If this will be case, the new EU legislative will be a mine field. The European Parliament though will be a difficult place and an uncooperative institution, even if the above mentioned projections turn out to be accurate and the four traditional pro-EU parties gain a clear but much reduced majority.

Will it be enough?

The reason is that a thin majority in the European Parliament is not enough to vindicate a controversial or complex law as was the compromise on the completion of the European Banking Union, with the approval of the bank resolution fund and board. Tradition and the European Treaties want it, that the Council of the member states and the Parliament should both approve all important legislation with increased majorities. The reason for this is that the European law must conciliate not only national and sectorial interests but it has also to placate a lot more stakeholders of various inclinations, with access to parliamentarians.

For all those reasons and one more, this election is era changing. The additional factor is that the Lisbon Treaty has greatly upgraded the role of the European Parliament. The approval of the legislative with a vote in the Plenary is now a prerequisite for every EU law. It was not by chance that during the past eighteen months the Greek, the Lithuanian and the Irish Presidencies of the Council rushed through the EU law machine a great number of legislative actions, in order to avoid the ‘terra incognita’ of the new Parliament.

The EU ‘law machine’

During those past months, the EU accomplished a large number of ground breaking reforms in key sectors like finance and banking, agriculture and fisheries, internal market, citizens’ rights etc. However, there are still pending thorny issues like the trade and otherwise relation with the US, data protection, immigration policy and of course the needed measures to overcome the present economic stagnation.

Capital markets have already shrunk ahead of the election. The exit polls in the first two countries Britain and Holland, which held the EU elections in their territory last Thursday, are contradictory. In Britain, Nigel Farage’s UKIP Eurosceptic party is thought to have won an easy victory over the traditional mainstream political parties, the Conservatives and Labour. On the contrary, the Netherlands’ Freedom Party must have disappointed its strongly anti-EU leader Geert Wilders. According to exit polls it ended up in the fourth position despite a populist agenda.

Five years is a long time

All in all, this Sunday’s outcome of the EU elections cannot reverse the EU project. It may delay it but it can’t dissolve it. Understandably, this election will be the last one fought under favourable conditions for the extremists and the eurosceptics. Hopefully, after five years the EU would have left behind the recession and the economic stagnation era by abandoning the austere ideology.

Even the austerity and low inflation loving President of the German central Bank, the Bundesbank, Jens Weidmann, said yesterday that he favours the extraordinary monetary measures for growth announced by the European Central Bank. He explained that even if Eurozone doesn’t run the danger of deflation, a long period of very low inflation may also be very detrimental for the economy. At last Germany seems to understand its role as leading economy of Europe.

 

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