Europe faces decisive elections on the future of a threatened continent.

The European Union ends the legislature of all crises: the remnants of the economic recession; the covid-19 pandemic, which left society scarred, and Russia’s war against Ukraine, which overthrew the continent’s security architecture and led to one of the greatest metamorphoses of the European project: greater integration and progress towards rearming. And the EU ends the most important European Parliament elections in its history. The elections, from 6 to 9 June in the 27 Member States, will be a plebiscite for the future of an EU threatened from without, but also from within — by populism, euroscepticism and ultranationalists; by inequality, the disconnection of elites and crises in basic social elements, such as housing — and fear of losing competitiveness and becoming irrelevant if reforms are not carried out.

The European elections are also key for large countries in the bloc, such as Germany — where coalition government parties are fighting to contain the rise of ultranationalists —, Poland — they will be the thermometer for Donald Tusk’s new conservative-liberal Executive —, or Spain, will illuminate a European Parliament with enormous decision-making weight in which another great challenge will be discussed: the next major expansion towards the east that promises to absorb (gradually) Ukraine. All polls anticipate an advance by ultra-right forces, which could displace the liberals as a third force and will try to set the agenda to implement an even harsher migration policy or leave environmental measures aside.

The rise of the ultra-right and the flirtation of a right-wing European People’s Party (EPP), which threatens to break the traditional cordon sanitaire with some ultranationalists, threaten to dynamite the grand coalition between conservatives and social democrats (in recent years with liberals and greens as intermediaries) that has sustained the EU for the last 70 years.

outgoing parliament

In 2019, 751 parliamentarians were elected, which reduced to 705 after the departure of the United Kingdom. Now, 720 will be elected.

Broken Number of Parliamentarians
European People’s Party 177
Renew Europa 102
Greens/European Free Alliance 72
Conservatives and Reformists 68
Socialists and Democrats 140
Identity and Democracy 59
European Left 50
Not registered 37
Total 705
Majority 353

While political tension and polarization deepen in Europe, where there have even been cases of political violence, such as the assassination attempt on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, and countries like Russia and China multiply their attempts at interference to destabilize, the bloc community is not yet prepared for its great geostrategic and historical challenge. “Russia is waging a full-spectrum war against Ukraine and a hybrid war against Europe. China is pursuing a strategy of global dominance which means a strategy of divide and rule in Europe”, analyzes Constanze Stelzenmüller, director of the US-EU center at Brookings.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen (PPE), a candidate for re-election, stated that internal and external dangers threaten democracy in the EU. But as he talks about foreign interference, Russian disinformation campaigns and warns against “Putin-friendly” ultra-right parties like the Alternative for Germany (AfD) or Marine Le Pen’s French National Regroupment, more and more voices on the left are speaking out. they accuse of “whitewashing” the ultranationalists, differentiating between unacceptable parties and acceptable ones.

“The main priority of the next legislature will be to defend democracy and the European project”, says Iratxe García, president of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) in the European Parliament, who warns against whitewashing by ultranationalists and populists who may try to set the agenda. “Furthermore, we cannot fail to focus on the green agenda, competitiveness, industrialization, the rule of law”, continues the PSOE’s number two in the European elections.

“We have seen enormous challenges in the last five years: Brexit, the pandemic, the war in Ukraine. It is likely that next time there will be more crises that we will have to face with unity”, says Dolors Montserrat, number one on the PP list.

But there is something that underlies any political debate: reality and data. “The EU will have to meet ecological and energy transition objectives in a much more difficult environment,” notes Jeromin Zettelmeyer, director of the Bruegel think tank. This is due to the fact that the EU has less money, there has been an increase in the deficit — coronavirus pandemic, energy shock — and countries with deficits of 4% or 5%, such as Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, and there is nervousness in markets. All this in a scenario that will require large investments in the medium term for defense, with an extremely complicated global panorama, with Russia, an increasingly aggressive China that has increased its cooperation with Moscow and the possibility of Donald Trump returning to the White House .

One of the great challenges of the next legislature, in which the European Parliament will have a lot to say, will be competitiveness. Or better yet, try to ensure that the community block does not fall behind.

The recipes that the EU applies now are those of the pre-covid world, before the Russian invasion, in an era of innocence about the peace project and with a Europe centered on itself, said Mario Draghi, former Italian Prime Minister and former president of the European Central Bank, who is preparing a report on competitiveness. “Europe had the wrong approach. We turn inward, seeing ourselves as competitors, even in sectors like defense and energy where we have deep common interests,” Draghi said in April.

Whatever happens in the USA, with Trump or another Joe Biden government, Washington will be even more protectionist. And also China, which is flooding the market with its “overcapacity” and state-subsidized companies, against which the EU is now trying to shield itself.

The Union will have to carry out reforms in its single market, capital market and unify the electricity and energy market, says Zettelmeyer. Also rethink “smart” ways of channeling state money into research and development in areas important for European competitiveness. And the big question is the distribution of European money versus national money. It won’t be long before the big battle over the multiannual financial framework, the blueprint for how European funds are distributed, begins. And not just in quantities; also in the structure, which will probably see the reform of cohesion funds and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), with a big fight from some Member States, and will include a chapter for defense.

With Russia’s war in Ukraine, fears of a regional escalation in the Middle East by Israel’s war in Gaza and turbulent movements in the Sahel, the next legislature will be a litmus test for defense Europe. The Union, which woke up to its own fragility with the invasion launched by the Kremlin, seeks to implement its first defense industrial strategy to boost uneven, fragmented and neglected military production for years, promote joint procurement schemes and catapult European military projects.

Here, too, it will struggle with financing problems and the disparity between member states geographically closest to Russia, such as Poland or Estonia, which literally speak of a “war economy” and warn that the Kremlin could test the security commitment of allies. from NATO soon; and others, like Spain, which is at the rear of defense spending and where anything that sounds like a military budget is very divisive.

“Strategic autonomy” is the great concept that has been established in the legislature of all crises, in which many States have seen their paracetamol stocks depleted during the pandemic because they are no longer manufactured in Europe, but in countries like India, and which seeks in its defense material arsenals, but purchased 60% of what it sends to Ukraine from the United States. It is also increasingly aware that powers like China provide most of the components needed for the green transition. And the EU seeks to move forward on a path to eliminate these dependencies.

Still, many voices, like Constanze Stelzenmüller of Brookings, believe it may not be realistic to achieve it. “The EU, especially as it continues to expand, must take further steps towards integration: through qualified majority voting, common financing, joint defense acquisitions and innovations, union of capital markets,” she says. “But none of this will be worth anything unless it achieves political cohesion, and Paris and Berlin are apparently incapable of providing it,” she says. And she launches: “NATO’s ‘dirty secret’

is that while US nuclear and conventional defense and deterrence have been fundamental to maintaining Europe’s security, Washington’s most important contribution to peace and stability in Europe has been reassuring the EU’s smaller and newer member states. , worried about French domination or German unilateralism”.

Not The Country.


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