Brief

EU sceptics did not win the election

EU sceptics did not win the election

Summary The European Parliamentary elections in May were not entirely a landslide victory for the EU sceptics, despite them in a number of countries, such as Denmark, France, the UK and Greece, ending up as their countries’ leading parties. A cocktail of public frustration over the EU’s lack of growth and employment, protests against its Stability and Growth pact, along with immigration fears paved the way for the sceptics to march ahead. However, the political commentators’, analysts’ and the media’s subsequent claim that the sceptics “won the election” is a flawed assumption. The picture is far more complex. Major internal ideological and political disagreements can easily be found in the sceptics’ camp, meaning that votes for these parties are perceived as protest votes which do not have any real political influence.
 
The bottom line after the election was that the pro-EU parties are still the majority in the European Parliament, having 70 percent of the votes behind them. This will lead to more, rather than less, emphasis on the EU if the Parliament’s pro-EU parties can come together to form a new broad European coalition, as Think Tank EUROPA argues in this brief on the European Parliamentary elections.
 
The sceptics and the nationalist parties will become isolated in the decision-making process, as it is expected that the new broad European coalition at the centre will be able to agree on a host of major reforms and cooperate on an ad hoc basis with the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Group as well as the green group. But the EU sceptics can gain indirect influence if the major conservative and social democratic parties go on the defensive and adopt the sceptics’ rhetoric.
 
Think Tank EUROPA warns against reducing the election to a story about Europeans and the broad majority of the public demanding less integration and less EU. An analysis of the underlying voting patterns and surveys of Europeans’ attitudes towards the EU show that the vast majority of European voters do not want to revert to national identity politics or reintroduce national border controls. The majority of people actually want more emphasis on the EU in several key areas.
 
The sceptics and the national populist parties have fewer voters behind them than the group of European voters who want a more effective economic reform policy in the EU which reduces unemployment and inequality and creates new growth. There may be more votes to be gained by pursuing a more offensive EU reform policy, which reduces unemployment and creates growth in Europe, than by adopting the sceptics’ and national populists’ identity policy.

Main conclusion
  • Fears of EU sceptics gaining power should not be blown out of proportion
  • The European Parliamentary election was not a landslide election – aside from in individual EU countries
  • The sceptics will not gain any real political power
  • European Parliament is likely to be run by a large blue-red coalition
  • A new growth policy that creates more jobs and greater confidence in the future is the best medicine against EU scepticism
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