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On 23 January we hosted in Brussels Professor Simon Hix of the European University Institute in Florence, author of top textbooks on the functioning of the EU, to discuss the latest developments of the 2024 electoral race.
Our detailed report provides insights into the overall trends and how these could impact EU’s politics and policies.
Note: we deliver private, tailored presentations and analysis to stakeholders about the political shifts in 2024, their policy impact on specific sectors and how to cope with these changes. If interested, contact our CEO&founder, Doru P. Frantescu, at [email protected].
Our latest electoral projections show that the centrist groups in the European Parliament, especially S&D and Renew, are set to lose ground after next year’s elections, thus leading to more polarisation and fragmentation in this chamber.
Latest developments: we see a fresh surge in the size of the right-wing camp, especially due to the strong growth trend of parties such as Alternative for Germany and Wilders’ PVV party in the Netherlands, while Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia keeps leading the polls in Italy. The graph below shows how the European Parliament would like if elections were to take place today.
Importantly, many parties still lack a political affiliation. Most of these parties belong to the right-wing side of the political spectrum and are likely to join the ranks of either the ECR or the ID group. Among them, there are parties such as Zemmour’s Reconquete from France and the more prominent party of Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, as well as former governing party Movimento 5 Stelle from Italy.
In order to provide a more realistic picture of the likely balance of power between the political groups after the elections, we assumed the potential affiliation of parties that are currently looking for an European family. Some of the nationalist parties are “incompatible”, for instance, Romanian AUR and Hungarian Fidesz. In this case, we assumed that Romanians would join ECR while the Hungarians the ID group. Zemmour’s party would join ECR, while Le Pen’s RN would stay in the ID group. As a likely outcome, the ID group might secure more than 100 seats in the next term, the ECR would be competing with Renew for fourth place, while EPP and S&D are likely to remain unrivaled as the two largest groups in the European Parliament.
Importantly, the performance of the political groups is likely to be uneven across the different European countries. For example, groups such as ID and the Greens/EFA tend to be stronger in North-Western countries such as France and the Benelux, while ECR gets more support from Southern and Central-Eastern Europe.
How would this translate into actual majorities?
The moderate centrist groups would still have a majority of seats to support the work of the Commission on broader issues on which they can agree. However, when it comes to more specific, regulatory matters on which the EPP and S&D compete, the balance of power between the left and the right is likely to be more even (close to 50 - 50). This means that the outcomes of key votes are likely to be decided by the moderate MEPs who make up their mind at the last minute.
How does this translate into changes of policies ?
Thinking in terms of stable center-right or center-left coalitions is not sufficient to forecast the direction of policies in the next EP, because the MEPs do not vote as blocs, not even within the same political group, when it comes to key decisions (like sensitive paragraphs or amendments). Conversely, the more that EP has increased its powers and the more the individual MEPs are engaged by interest groups, the more these individual MEPs develop their own views (instead of taking instructions from their rapporteurs) and the less they vote as party blocs.
As an example, the chart below shows the nuances in the positions of the MEPs, even within the same political group, when it comes to regulatory matters such as restrictions on data transfers or pharmaceuticals.
For this reason, the changes in the policies in the next EP are not always in the same direction. Here are a few examples of decisions in this EP and how they would go in the next EP:
Feel free to contact us at [email protected] for more information about the impact of the next EU elections on specific policies, as well as the likely swing voters on different issues.
We are also keeping track of the lists of candidates for the European Parliament elections, as some of the national parties are already putting forward the names of their leading representatives. This is the case of parties from most North-Western countries, especially Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Finland, but some candidates have also been already announced in Czechia, Hungary, Romania, etc.
By combining our electoral projections with the lists available so far, we are already able to estimate the names of close to 200 likely MEPs after the elections.
Some interesting findings from our preliminary list (which are not representative of the plenary as a whole, since the Greens are more strongly represented in North-Western Europe, while ECR parties are weaker):
The latest electoral developments, with incumbents being defeated in recent elections in Luxembourg, Poland and Netherlands, strengthens our forecast of a high turnover of EU Commissioners after the next elections. Due to the above-mentioned frequent changes in domestic politics, the political majorities that appointed most of the sitting Commissioners are no longer in power, thus reducing the re-appointment chances of incumbents from countries such as Poland, Italy, Sweden, Finland, among many others to virtually zero.
We are keeping track of the likely changes in the European Commission and trying to predict the make-up of the next College of Commissioners. The table below indicates the current chances of incumbent Commissioners of staying on after next year’s reshuffle (focus on the colours of their cells).
From the ranks of the EPP, von der Leyen is likely to remain the most prominent person within the Commission if re-elected President, which looks possible (although anything but certain) at the moment. Despite domestic competition, heavy-weight Dombrovskis from Latvia might also be able to clinch a third term in the Commission, thus further strengthening his influence in the Berlaymont.
Within the centrist family Renew, the influence of French Breton is on the rise, also due to the backing that he receives from Paris.
After the departure of Timmermans, the Socialists & Democrats are still looking for a leading voice inside the Commission (their leading candidate Nicolas Schmit is unlikely to stay as Commissioner, since his party belongs to the opposition in Luxembourg) and the task is complicated by their small number of governments that this political family is controlling at the moment. Slovak Sefcovic currently has an upgraded role due to Timmemans’ departure, although the relations between his party SMER and the S&D family are at a historical low (the party was suspended from the Socialist party and the group). It is possible that, if Sanchez is able to steer clear of troubles over the coming months, Madrid might still have a shot at putting forward another PSOE member for an important position in the Commission.
Commissioners from smaller countries or political families (such as Meloni’s ECR) also have a role to play, depending on the weight of the candidates that they will put forward, as well as their ability to negotiate with the next President of the European Commission.
At Eumatrix.eu, we are keeping track of rumors and reporting on the likely members of the next European Commission and their portfolios. If you are interested or for more information, feel free to contact us at [email protected]
While the increase of nationalist factions in the European Parliament would make us think that we can expect a push-back against the EU, other trends point in a different direction. The citizens’ trust in the EU has remained stable, or even strengthened since the previous EP elections in 2019. We are not seeing correlations between how “Eurosceptic” a government has been and a substantial increase in anti-EU sentiment among the citizenry of that country. For example, the trust in the EU among the citizens in Poland and Hungary has remained high, despite the governments of these countries being at odds with the Commission for many years. Moreover, the Polish and Hungarian citizens, as well as the Scandinavian citizens (who are not in the euro-zone) are more supportive of the EU than the French and German citizens. This is a first indicator to point that the bigger risk for the EU may still be the loss of support at its hard core.
Against this background, the leaders of the EU institutions seem to have a better approval rate. While the available data is limited to just a few countries, it does highlight that EU Commission President von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michiel are not perceived as negatively as the national political leaders. The explanations may be many, but the outcome is that this plays to the advantage of the EU institutions. Notably, the leaders of the EU institutions have a higher approval rate in Scandinavia, Spain and Italy than in the hard core France and Germany (and even in France and Germany the EU leaders are less negatively perceived than Macron and Scholz).
To this, we need to add the fact that the European Commission and Parliament have now become more stable than their corresponding national institutions, i.e. the European ones are not reshuffled (or it is much harder to do so) before the end of their legal term in office. Hence, the job of MEP and Commissioner is becoming more stable, hence more appealing for higher profile politicians. This differential in the predictability of the national vs. European political arenas makes some of the political leaders and stakeholders alike think that it may ultimately still be easier to have “certain big things done” (i.e. regulatory reforms) at EU level. This logic may explain why leaders like von der Leyen push ahead with EU institutional reforms that would lead to strengthening certain powers of the EU institutions (despite probably having bigger issues in securing an equally ambitious budget from the member states).
While the European Parliament is set to become more fragmented, the EPP is likely to mantain a strong representation in the European Commission. This is due to the fact that the EPP is in power in several small to middle-size Member States, which are likely to propose EPP-affiliated Commissioners. This bodes well for the EPP to keep the Presidency of the European Commission (since each country will have 1 vote regardless of their weight).
Importantly, when looking at the voting weight in the Council, the EPP is still underrepresented in the largest Member States, as Poland is biggest country to be likely led by the EPP next year. Germany and Spain are led by centre-left coalitions, and France is under the centrist rule of Macron's party, which will compensate the predominance of the EPP in smaller countries with regards to votes within the EU Council.
The groups that are closer to the fringe of the political spectrum are set to be substantially underrepresented in both the European Commission and Council next year, as these parties are often not the leading parties in their countries. These political families will try to leverage their relatively higher share of seats in the Parliament during the negotiations for the election of the new President of the Commission in order to get their priorities more strongly represented in the policy agenda for the next legislative term.
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