The 2014 elections for the European Parliament have seen a major result for euro-sceptic parties. One obvious question is: what will happen now? Some elements are worth considering to address the question.
First, Some of the most impressive results obtained by euro-sceptics are in countries that have been EU members over a long time, notably France – a founding member of the EU – and the UK. However, these are also the countries that have historically displayed the highest degree of ‘reluctance’ to surrender national sovereignty to the EU. Countries that have historically been more orientated to centralising important functions at the EU level, like Germany or Italy, have also registered the electoral success of the parties in government. Central Eastern European countries have displayed more ‘normal’ results, although it should further be noticed that some governing parties have here limited traditions of long-standing support to the European project.
Second, the two main groups in the European Parliament remain the European People’s Party and the Socialist (and Democrats) Party. Also the Liberal Democratic Party (ALDE) has conserved a relatively significant number of Members in the European Parliament, notwithstanding the defeat in countries such as the UK. The majority of the Parliament remains pro-European project, albeit we have learned the many differences there are within and between groupings.
Third, the euro-sceptic parties that will have an important representation in Brussels are very heterogeneous. Do they have the ideological glue and the political personnel to develop a consistent position in the European Parliament?
Fourth, once elected, politicians have the tendency to reinforce the role of the institution where they have a role: will the new euro-sceptic MEPs be willing to fight hard to destroy the institution where they have a voice (and a seat)? Experience suggests that ‘revolutionary’ parties, especially when they give voice to popular resentment rather than having a strong own agenda, tend to modify their behaviour. will charismatic leaders so different (and divided also by the language they speak – still a major difference of European politics from national politics) be able to call the shots and keep them ‘in a revolutionary mode’? For how long, and on what concrete platform?
It will be interesting to observe the dynamics of the next legislative period: it might be profoundly different from previous ones – or not at all.
by Professor Edoardo Ongaro