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European Politics after EP Election (Zhao Chen)

European Politics after EP Election (Zhao Chen)

Author:Zhao Chen From:Site author Update:2017-08-21 13:43:57

Except the political parties reorganizing coalitions in EP, the European election also means the new generation of European institutions’ birth which made the election more important. Now we have known for sure the coming President of European Commission and European Parliament, Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz. It will take one more month to bring us the other leaders, like the high representative of Foreign Affairs and Security, as well as President of Council. The EP election is not like the elections of member states that could immediately tell us who is the President or Prime Minister. It need some time. Whatever, I plan to make some analysis and prediction on European politics and China-EU relations in the future.

European Party Politics after the EP Election

In the EP election in May, radical parties, or so called far right and far left parties won more than one fifth votes. Especially in France and UK, national Front and Ukip became the no.1 parties in their own country with the slogan of anti-EU and anti-immigrants, which was named the “earthquake” by the media. While in sum, these anti-establishment parties are still in the margin place either in EU politics or in member states.

Firstly, the People Party and Socialist Party group occupied the first two posts. They won 410 seats in the total 751 seats that has surpass the half, though not reaching the line of absolute majority. Now the central left and central right parties have more and more common grounds on economic and social policies and may become a “grand coalition” on the EU level in the future. In Germany , CDU and the SPD has been two ruling parties in one big coalition government. And in France, the French media invent a new political noun of UMPS, which shed light on the similarity of French centre right party UMP and centre left party PS, Party of Socialist. The outstanding performance that the radical parties showed in the EP elections may push the two central parties closer. And the union of the centre parties can guarantee the decisions could be passed in EP in most time.

Secondly, the radical parties are not mature enough to get the same success in the practically political running as in the vote campaign. Lacking of the systematic political ideas and political experience, the radical parties often become one day trip tourist or invisible partner in the governments. One more serious problem for the radical parties is that they are not united between themselves which means a lot for European party group politics. The Chairwoman of National Front, Maria Lepen’s failure to make a new far-right party group in the European Parliament is an evident example. She didn’t get the enough support from at least 28 MEPs who must come from at least 7 different countries.

Therefore, the party politics scenario in Europe maybe become the extreme parties vs. the mainstream parties. As the criticizer to the government, the anti-establishment parties benefit from the debt crisis which could be easily put on the head of the ruling mainstream parties. The far-right parties drew attraction from some populist and nationalist in terms of their anti European integration and anti-immigrant policies. The far-left parties won some votes from the social democratic party camp who not agree to turn right. At the same time, the centre parties are much more nearer for against the challenge of extreme parties. In EP, the mainstream parties have begun united to stop the populist parties getting important posts. There is none EP vice-president from the extreme parties and the list of 14 VPs is just made in this July.

European Institutions after EP Election

This election is the first EP election since Lisbon Treaty has been approved in 2009. Lisbon Treaty empowered the EP greater power and it is seen as a strategic measure for improving EU’s democratic legitimacy. I personally think EU becomes more democratic not only because of the increasing power of EP, but also of the practical election campaign. In the process of the EP election, a German word, “Spitzenkandidaten”, hot candidate, was created to describe the potential president of European Commission. The two Spitzenkandidaten, Martin Schultz and Junker, each represented the Socialist Party group and People Party group, had a TV debate to attract attentions of voters in the whole Europe. The People Party group finally become the first party group which means Juncker is the first Spitzenkandidaten. In some extent, Junker is the choice of European people as the President of the Commission. When the Council discussed the appropriate President of the Commission, the European leaders have to consider this factor. In fact, EP declared that the leaders of member states must respect the result of EP election and it would veto any nominated candidate but Junker.

About the Commission, Juncker is a gentleman and good at compromising, but  it is almost impossible that we can see another powerful President of Commission like Jacque Delor in 1980s. Now EU looks more intergovernmental and more dependent on the deliberation in big member states. And after the veto of France and Netherland on EU Constitution Treaty, the federalism idea has been faded gradually, political regime appears stagnated which make the reform rather difficult. The member states governments shows no zeal for European integration but consider European issues from their national interest.

About the Council, France and Germany, the two key countries, still have different opinions about which strategic economic choice should be in the post debt crisis era, about growth or austerity should be the first priority. Nowadays, Germany hold a high prestige either in economic area or political area. It seems clear that Germany will continue increasing its influence within the framework of EU, but who will be Angle Merkel’s strong companion is a key issue in the European integration process in terms of the weakness of French economy.

Conclusion

Internal issues, rather than international issues, were the main focus in this EP election. After the EP election, under the impulse of far-right parties, immigration and other social issues may become the hot debate topics in Europe. The rising of far right parties will not interrupt the development of China-EU relationship because they are quite inward seeing and they will go against TTIP before against BIT negotiation between Europe and China.

The mainstream parties have common understanding about insisting on globalization and Beijing has become equally important as Washington in their mind in the economic field. They have realized that Chinese market and its investment in Europe is indispensible for helping Europe to get rid of the shadow of debt crisis.

US pivot to Asia has both economic and security intentions, while Europe care about Asia mainly from the economic perspective. Now either centre right party government, or centre left party government, put EU-China relationship rather important place.

(Contant Zhao Chen:zhaochen@cass.org.cn

The Institute of European studies Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,All Rights Reserved

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