The wave was strong, the dam resisted: EU democracy more beautiful than ever
ANGELO SANTAGOSTİNOThe Euroskeptical wave that emerged out of the European elections has struck with force, but the dam, albeit with some damages, resisted, in such a way that the results of the election on May 23-25 for the renewal of the European Parliament can be synthesized.
Any one of the 28 countries has a specific feature. In France, Marine Le Pen is the new “Reine de France”, humiliating both the socialist government of president Hollande and the UMP of the former president Sarkozy. On the other side of the channel, the U.K. Independence Party is the clear winner.
Both Cameron’s Conservative Party and Miliband’s Labour Party face to the Triumph of Nigel Farage and are no less mortified, in terms of lost votes than their Parisian colleagues. In Germany, the Christian Democrats of Angela Merkel, a second winning woman in these elections, is still dominant, although they have lost some seats.
However, in the country where the European Central Bank has its headquarters, the so-called Eurotower, the anti-euro party Alternative für Deutschland, makes a breakthrough, gaining access to the European Parliament. In Denmark and Austria, other far right Euroskepticals are smiling, while in Greece, the far left of Alexis Tsipras wins the electoral race. In Italy, the result is astonishing, labeled as historical, the endorsement for Matteo Renzi and his Democrat Party, while the two Euroskeptical lists M5S of comedian Grillo, and Forza Italia, of former- Premier Berlusconi, lose heavily in respect to any pervious election. Finally, in the Netherlands, we find a crying Euroskeptic, Geert Wilders, disappointed after incurring in an unexpected and severe defeat.
The European People’s Party holds the relative majority (28%), although suffering a loss of 60 seats. Second is the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (25%). Distances narrow in respect to the previous legislative period (35% for the EPP and 26% for the S&D), a situation that will probably lead to a re-edition at the European level of the German “Große Koalition.” Strasburg as Berlin? Possible. Paradoxically, the Euroskepticism outburst will have, as a first effect, a more German Europe.
More generally, the new European Parliament is polarized between pro-European groups holding almost 70% of the seats, and a remaining 30% split between a variety of right-wing and left-wing Euroskeptical groups, which will hardly find any form of unitary action. Concluding: the European Parliament is solidly in the hands of groups committed to improve the process of economic and political integration and the enhancement of European democracy.
Constructing a better democracy
Actually, constructing a better democracy will be the first problem the European Parliament will have to deal with. For the first time, due to the reform introduced with the Lisbon treaty, the European Parliament will not be a spectator, but the key institution in the election of the president of the European Commission. The candidate of the EEP, former premier of Luxembourg, a veteran of the European institutions, Jean-Claude Juncker, claims victory, but his opponent socialist Martin Schulz, objects that a party suffering such a huge loss of seats does not have a mandate strong enough to hold the presidency of the European Commission.
As democracy is the confrontation of ideas, this skirmish marks a good start for the EU’s enhanced democracy.
The president of the European Commission voted by the Council will need appointment from the European Council. Cameron has announced that he will lobby against Juncker, who he considers too federalist. However, European leaders will hardly trigger a conflict with the European Parliament, much less in this delicate moment. The European Council would risk strengthening Euroskepticism whether appointing its own candidate. At any rate, a qualified majority voting will allow European leaders to decide rapidly.
However the alarm has sounded. However resistant and resilient the European dam has proved to be, whatever solid appears the pro-EU majority, in a democracy anyone has a say, the right to be heard, listened and to have their opinion to be taken into account in the decision process. The EP will have to work at aiming at restoring the shaken confidence of a significant part of the electorate, probably higher that the share of votes gathered by the Euroskeptical parties. Many voters might have decided to give a further chance to the process of integration.
Employment, especially youth employment, and growth are the two main priorities in Europe. The problem is what type of instruments the new members of the EP will find in the EU’s toolbox. Two very powerful instruments lie in this toolbox: the single market and the common commercial policy. Both are mighty engines for growth, capable of boosting growth, investments and, consequently, employment. Furthermore a single market also means instruments to facilitate the birth of new enterprises and the necessary financial and technical assistance they need. A further priority is financial stability. Much has been done, but the work to set up a full-fledged banking union is not over.
The challenge ahead is great. Good work!