Policy paper 237
The battle for Europe’s future: political cleavages and the balance of power ahead of the European Parliament elections
Thierry Chopin, special advisor at the Jacques Delors Institute, Nicolò Fraccaroli, PhD candidate in Economics at the University of Rome Tor Vergata, Nils Hernborg, Master student in International Economic Policy at Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po, and Jean-François Jamet author of several books and articles on European integration and the Economic and Monetary Union, highlight the forces at work in this campaign for the European elections.
This paper investigates the practical implications of the political dividing lines (cleavages) and expected outcomes ahead of the European Parliament elections of 23-26 May 2019. These dynamics will determine the political balance and direction of the new European Parliament and European Commission for the next five years.
For this purpose, we first provide novel projections of the composition of the future European Parliament, both with and without the UK, as the UK’s participation remains unclear at this stage in view of the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. We then compare these projections to the current composition of the European Parliament, showing that the future Parliament will likely be more fragmented, less pro-European, and contain a larger number of anti-establishment right-wing Members of the European Parliament.
The composition of the future European Parliament is however only partially informative of the balance of power that will underpin European politics in the next legislative term. Future coalitions and majorities needed to appoint the European Commission and vote legislation will in fact depend on the dominant ideological cleavages. We hence analyse the evolution of cleavages in the European Union from a historical and political science perspective and outline their potential political consequences. Notably, changes in the political landscape could lead majorities to be based on cleavages related to societal values on selected topics. The latter may end-up reviving the left-right divide on policy choices related to salient issues such as immigration, compared to differences of views on European integration which are expected to underpin majorities on EU constitutional issues such as the coalition necessary to appoint the next European Commission.