European Parliament 2019: the Parliament and Europe to Come

The European Parliament (EP) elected on 26 May 2019 will not likely resemble the current one. These elections will occur in a context of internal tensions within the European Union, turbulence on the international stage, migration-related and social challenges, spreading fears, identitarian flare-ups, and populism. All these phenomena could lend a significantly more European, and less national tone to the campaign than usual.

Is extremism on the rise? A rise in extremism is likely, but limited to the Parliament level: only major countries send sizeable quotas of MEPs, and the departure of British MEPs will shrink the size of the nationalist camp. Right-of-traditional-right groups already represent 20% of the current Parliament, and will likely remain divided. A significant reconfiguration of the radical left is not expected, though it could win a few more seats. Internal troubles in the two major traditional parties, the EPP (European People’s Party), and the S&D (Socialists and Social-Democrats), could weaken them to the point of losing their current 55% majority.

In total, even if a majority hostile to European integration, or capable of tweaking the current programme, is less plausible than suggested, majorities will be harder to build in future, and inter-institutional relations could change. As such, the “centre” group has an important role to play, regardless of the choices made by La République en Marche, as do the Greens, who are expected to gain new seats and be more influential than in the past. Re-adjustments, or even a re-shuffle based around a charniere group, could have substantial consequences on the appointment of the new European Commission President, who is elected by the European Parliament and will, as a result, become the leader of a parliamentary coalition which must be built.

Habitually, European elections are first and foremost national elections, and attract low voter turn-outs (49.5% in 1999, 42.6% in 2014). The outcome may differ in 2019, however.

Various signs, be they political stances, or media opinions, indicate that these elections could occur under different auspices and in another context than previous ones: tensions within the European Union, turbulence on the international stage, migratory issues, social conflict, spreading fears, identitarian flare-ups and populism. All of which surpass the national framework.

This paper is the result of a working group chaired by Pascal Lamy, President emeritus of the Jacques Delors Institute, with Christine Verger, Advisor at the Jacques Delors Institute acting as rapporteur, and composed of Pervenche Berès, Member of the European Parliament, Jean-Louis Bourlanges, Member of the French Parliament, Monica Frassoni, Co-President of a European political party, Valentin Kreilinger, researcher at the Jacques Delors Institut–Berlin, Alain Lamassoure, Member of the European Parliament, Alessia Mosca, Member of the European Parliament, and Geneviève Pons, Director of the Brussels office of the Jacques Delors Institute.