Dr. Dilek YİGİT
Elections to the European Parliament which is one of two wings of European Union legislative power, in other words, using European Union’s legislative competences with the Council of Ministers, were held on 22-25 May 2014. What makes these Parliament elections important is that this is the first Parliament election in the process in which the European Union is tackling Eurozone crisis; therefore, it also gives the opportunity to analyse how hard the impact of Eurozone crisis will be on European politics.
Eurosceptic parties made big gains in the elections. Even though the control of European Parliament is presumed to be with the centre-right and the centre-left parties and Eurosceptics are split between left and right, Eurosceptic parties’ success is non-negligible. With no doubt, Eurosceptic and far-right parties’ success will have an effect on the European Parliament’s legislative process; however, in any case the Parliament will share its legislative power with the Council of Ministers, therefore said effect won’t be as oppressive as the pro-Europeans fear. I would like to pinpoint something. If European Parliament were the only legislative power in the union, in other words, if it didn’t share its legislative power with the Council of Ministers formed by the member states representatives, the impact of the Eurosceptic and far-right’s advance would be more palpable. In consequence, judging by the European Parliament election results, “European Union is scattering” or “Integration movement is loosening up” cannot be considered as healthy thoughts. However, it would be much more accurate to comment on Euro-scepticism and anti-integration’s success by saying “it might decrease the acceleration of the integration movement”.
In this case, although it can be superficially said that Eurozone crisis plays a role in the rise of the Eurosceptics and far right in European politics, it is of utmost importance to analyse the results not only on supranational level but also on national level because, as often stated within the academic community, European Parliament elections are “second-order” elections. That is to say, while European Parliament election candidates base their propaganda on national political and economic problems, European voters make their choices according to the national issues not to the supranational issues. When viewed from this aspect, European Parliament elections are actually sort of interim elections which send messages to the member states’ governments support them or criticise them.
Under these circumstances, especially the success of the France’s far right National Front in the Europe Parliament elections can be regarded as “an earthquake”, as stated by French Foreign Affairs Minister; however, this “earthquake” is more likely to shake France, rather than the European Union, because French people has sent a message full of criticism to the French government. The same case is valid for the United Kingdom; United Kingdom’s Independence Party, which seeks Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, gave a message both to the Conservatives and to the Labour Party claiming that the support they got from the British people is diminishing.
Besides, in the European Parliament elections, it should be stated that the impact of Euro-scepticism and anti-integration parties’ success on the European Integration relates not only to their position in the European Parliament but also to the competence to lead their governments’ European Union politics on the national level.
What will be the European Union’s agenda after the European Parliament elections? The European Union’s agenda will be to choose the president of the European Commission. In accordance with the Treaty of Lisbon, “taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members.” In case a majority cannot be reached, European Union Summit acts by qualified majority and designates a new candidate which will be elected by the European Parliament with the same method within a month. Now the Summit will be in the spotlight; the Summit has to designate the name of the candidate who could get the majority of the votes in the European Parliament. Since the said candidate will be nominated by taking the Parliament results into consideration, it is unlikely for the Summit to designate a candidate supported just by the Eurosceptic and anti-integration parties. Such a decision would be against to the Treaty of Lisbon and this candidate won’t get the support of the centre-right and centre-left in the Parliament, which means (s)he won’t be elected.
With that in mind, the European Parliament’s election results might carry a risk of a decrease in the acceleration of the integration movement; however, these results cannot be interpreted as “European Union is scattering”. The election results will rather be felt on the state members’ national governments.
* Dr. Dilek Yiğit is Chief of Division at Undersecretariat of Treasury, Turkey
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views of the Undersecretariat of Treasury.