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June Brief: Whither von der Leyen?

The 2024 EU Parliament elections will have an impact on European foreign policy. It proposes that the newly elected representatives may sort themselves into three possible coalition arrangements with different foreign policy impacts.

June Brief: Whither von der Leyen?

Montag, 12. Februar 2024

Whither von der Leyen? The impact of the EU Parliament election on European foreign policy



From 6 to 9 June, the EU went to the polls to elect 720 representatives for the European Parliament (EP). The EP experienced a "shift to the right": the centre-right EPP secured the most seats, the eurosceptic and nationalist ECR and ID made noticeable gains, the centre-left and left S&D and the Left stagnated, and the Greens and the liberal Renew Europe group lost the most representatives. Negotiations over governance in the newly elected EP are now in full swing. Their results have a significant bearing on EU foreign policy.

 

The new distribution of EP seats reveals three possible governing arrangements. First, S&D, EPP and Renew may reform the governing coalition they have in place. The three political groups still hold more than the 361 seats required for a majority in the EP. A reformed governing coalition would feature a strengthened EPP and a weakened Renew group. Governance may shift towards the right, which could reinforce EU cooperation with North African countries on immigration. It may also challenge the values-based foreign policy the current coalition has led.

 

A second arrangement would feature the same political groups in government but may receive increased policy input from the ECR. The ECR, EPP, and Renew lack the necessary seats to form a governing coalition. At the same time, the EPP has signalled its willingness to collaborate with the ECR; Renew has not ruled out governing with the ECR. In contrast, the S&D seems closed to collaborating with the former. Therefore, an emboldened EPP and weakened Renew may retain their governing arrangement while increasing policy cooperation with the ECR regarding discrete policy areas. Such an arrangement may provide for an unstable governing coalition, which may undercut EU efforts to put forwards a coherent foreign policy approach towards international issues like the Israel-Hamas War.

 

Third, the governing coalition may stay intact but include the Greens as a member. Increasing support for the ECR and ID may create a focal point for policymaking for political groups at the centre and to the left of the centre in the EP: fight the opposite side of the body. S&D, Renew, and the Greens recently signed a declaration calling on the President of the European Commission and democratic parties to reject cooperation with far-right and radical parties. Policy convergence may happen in the context of the Green Deal, which may receive more generous support as part of the post-2020 multiannual financial framework. This arrangement may help the EU meet its international commitments regarding climate change.

 

The EP is unlikely to contest von der Leyen as President of the European Commission. The current governing coalition is likely to endure. Similarly, one may expect EP support for Ukraine's defence against Russia to continue. At the same time, a rightward shift in the composition of the EP has opened three separate political paths for the political groups of the governing coalition: (1) reform, (2) fracture, or (3) converge. The path they choose will be subject to intense scrutiny at the international level.

Authors

Gergely Toeroek

Gergely Toeroek

Europe

About this working group

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. To the east, Europe is separated from Asia by the Ural Mountains, the Ural River, and the Caspian Sea. The continent includes a diverse range of countries, including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and many others. Europe is known for its rich history, cultural diversity, and significant influence on global politics, economics, and culture. Key regions within Europe include Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Northern Europe, and Southern Europe, each with its own unique characteristics and contributions to the continent's identity.

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