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European Elections 2024

EU Elections: The Boys (and Girls) are back in town




The predicted Far Right ‘surge’ did kind of happen, it was very real for both Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz. But the European Elections left the same three political groups poised to call the shots in the new Parliament as in the last one, writes Political Editor Nick Powell.

There is no denying that the parties to the right of the dominant Christian Democrat group in the European Parliament did well overall in the European Parliament elections. Setbacks for ECR group member PiS in Poland were more than outweighed by the progress achieved by parties further right again, notably AfD in Germany and especially Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France.

Yet even as President Macron was responding to the result in France by dissolving the National Assembly and calling a snap national election, the main political groups in the European Parliament were signalling that nothing had changed when it comes to who will decide what happens.

If anything, their position has strengthened, the ECR was left arguing that it was part of the ‘centre right’ and should be part of the majority bloc in the new Parliament. But the centrist Renew Group was clear that it was not about to abandon its tactical alliance with the centre right and centre left, despite claiming it was ‘too early’ to decide whether to back Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for a second term.

But there was no hesitation from the Socialist and Democrats Group, who congratulated both the European People’s Party and Ursula von der Leyen on winning the election and promising to respect the Spitzenkandidat principle, so long as the EPP remained part of a ‘pro-rule-of-law’ majority and showed ‘no ambiguity’ towards the ECR and the parties further to the right.


The EPP leader, Manfred Weber, promptly invited the S&D and Reform to join once again ‘the pro-democratic alliance’, though he did then invoke an even more venerable German political principle than respecting Spitzenkandidaten: Realpolitik. He said that the next steps are for first Olaf Scholz and then Emmanuel Macron to endorse Ursula von der Leyen, paving the way for her name to be sent to the Parliament as the European Council’s nominee for Commission President.

Clearly, even a politically weakened Scholz’s endorsement is essential for von der Leyen, who once served with him in government in Germany. As for Macron, he will still be President of France whether his decision to hold a snap French parliamentary election pays off or not. Though he’ll less able to influence the Renew Group and so perhaps less likely to insist on considering alternative candates.

Manfred Weber was gracious enough not to mention it was none other than President Macron who had him rejected as Spitzenkandidat five years ago, when Ursula von der Leyen was the beneficiary. His EPP colleague, Roberta Metsola, asserted that ‘the centre has held’, and with it -as she didn’t say- her chances of remaining European Parliament President for another 30 months.

It all seems a lot like business as usual, whether the voters wanted that or not. Though by and large, the people have spoken primarily about their domestic concerns. And that is far from uniformly bad news for the European project. Giorgia Meloni’s moves towards the political mainstream have been vindicated. Viktor Orbán’s ‘illiberal’ democracy has been strongly challenged in Hungary by Peter Magyar.

But in Brussels, the Boys are back in town. And especially the Girls, if the current and very probably future Presidents of the Parliament and Commission can forgive my familiarity.

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