Blog post

A democracy under severe strain…

Newsletter July-August 2024

Full newsletter here

Quote this publication

Matelly, S. “A democracy under severe strain…”, Newsletter, Jacques Delors Institute, July-August 2024

The last newsletter of the Jacques Delors Institute was published a few days before the European elections at the very beginning of June. At the time, the polls predicted a surge of extreme right-wing parties in Europe. A few months ago, we had estimated that their division would limit the balance of power in their favour for the next term of office. However, I also wrote in that June letter that “all over Europe, at the same time, there is a particularly destabilising sense of the concerns of citizens, who are calling for a united and protective Europe, and a temptation to take a break from integration”. It was only a few days ago, almost yesterday, and yet it seems like an eternity since events have accelerated since that fateful 9 June 2024.

First there were the European elections, which revealed a rise in the far right, albeit tempered by the fact that the top 2 groups in Parliament – the European People’s Party and the Socialists & Democrats – held firm. However, by coming together, the French, Hungarian and Austrian far-right groups elected to the European Parliament have succeeded in creating a new political group, Patriots for Europe, which is now the third largest group in Strasbourg, ahead of the Renew and European Conservatives and Reformists groups. The distinctive feature of this new group is its anti-European and pro-Russian stance. This is the first time a Eurosceptic group has reached such a position. In the previous mandate, Identity and Democracy had 73 deputies, making it the fifth group in the European Parliament.

Beyond these European results, another striking feature of these elections was the significant differences in the results from one country to another. Except for Luxembourg, far-right parties made progress in all the founding countries, even coming out on top in France and Italy, while the Iberian Peninsula and the Scandinavian countries tended to marginalise their extremes.

Following these elections, the appointments to key posts and the agenda for the next 5 years were the subject of intense debate. This is a crucial time for Europe, as Arthur Leichthammer and Nils Redeker of the Centre Jacques Delors in Berlin point out in their article on “Boxing Smartly by the Rules – What the EU can learn from its EV Anti-Subsidy Investigation against China“, or the publication by Pascal Lamy, Geneviève Pons, Sophia Hub and Arianna Lombari of Europe Jacques Delors on “Circular Bioeconomy: A climate-friendly solution for the EU agri-food sector?

However, the biggest surprise on 9 June, the last day of the elections, was undoubtedly the French President’s decision to dissolve a national assembly that had been without a clear majority for 2 years. This was followed by 3 weeks of twists and turns that were widely followed by other European countries and beyond, so crucial did the stakes appear to be.

These last weeks were also marked by elections in the United Kingdom. The Labour Party led by Keir Starmer won a large majority. Sébastien Maillard believes that this change may herald a new, and probably closer, relationship between the United Kingdom and Europe. However, after 14 years of domination by a Conservative party that led the country to leave the European Union, but also drove a section of the population into decline and poverty, the task will be an arduous one. Election after election, our democracies are being put to the test. This is the observation made by Nicole Gnesotto in her June Blogpost on the risks to the European Union of the far right coming to power in France. The scenario has certainly not materialised, but it is nonetheless a possible scenario in the years to come if the situation resulting from the ballot box in France leads to a deadlock and new elections. The next election will be in the United States in November. Stay tuned…

To end this editorial on a more optimistic note, two and a half years after the start of the war in Ukraine, Daniel Debomy deciphers the latest Eurobarometers. He points out that European support for Ukraine remains strong, despite a slight erosion and notable reservations in some countries.

Finally, at the beginning of July, the city of Lisbon hosted the Agora Jacques Delors, a 4-day conference organised jointly by the Institut Jacques Delors, the Scuola di Politiche and the Academia Europea Leadership. The event brought together more than 130 young people of 33 different nationalities, each more enthusiastic than the last to exchange views with European commissioners, ministers and political leaders.

Have a great summer!

Sylvie Matelly 

Director of the Jacques Delors Institute