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Edelman Brussels Public Affairs Brief “Year of Change”

A year of change for Europe’s regulatory landscape © European Union 2014 - European Parliament

Coming soon – the world’s only multinational elections Campaigning is underway in every country in the European Union (EU) ahead of elections to the 751-member European Parliament. Over 413 million European citizens will have the opportunity to express their views on the political make-up of the EU for the next five years. With Edelman’s latest Trust Barometer confirming that levels of trust in government across Europe are at historic lows on the back of a significant economic and political crisis, these elections are scheduled to be more than ever an opportunity for protest voting.

Voter participation has been dropping: 62% in 1979  43% in 2009

Why do these elections matter? The European Parliament has more influence than even most Europeans realize. It exercises real decision-making power over laws proposed by the European Commission and amended by national governments, covering almost everything from international trade to the single market, food labelling to data protection, and banking regulation to renewable energy targets. It also has power over implementing regulations, too, where it is increasingly seeking to flex its muscles. Its post-election political shape will therefore affect the policy-making outcomes that business can expect, as well as the atmosphere in which such debates are conducted.

The elections will take place over a period of four days from 22-25 May but the results will be announced for the whole EU on Monday 26 May. In many countries, mainstream political parties have been losing ground to more radical or populist parties

Edelman Brussels Public Affairs Brief “Year of Change” May 2014

– on the left and the right – which are campaigning against European integration and the national and European political establishment. Although many of the topical campaign issues, such as austerity measures and immigration, are not areas where the European Parliament takes a lead, the elections are providing a space for a very public assessment of the state of the Union. This is increasing the pressure on the other parts of the EU machinery, especially at national level, to respond. The number of eurosceptic members in the next European Parliament (MEPs) is therefore likely to increase significantly (see predicted results below). While they will certainly make a lot of noise at home, it remains to be seen whether the diversity of these parties will allow them to be effective as a voting group in the Parliament. Indeed their radical approach is likely to have the somewhat counter-intuitive effect of forcing the pro-European mainstream parties, traditionally political opponents, to work together to form a majority in the centre. Organisations seeking to influence MEPs would therefore need to find support from both the centre-right EPP group and the centre-left S&D group.


A wider significance this time This year’s elections also have wider significance than determining the future of the European Parliament. For the first time the leaders of the EU’s 28 governments are obliged to take the election results into account when in June they nominate the next President of the executive body, the European Commission. The President is powerful because s/he heads up the EU institution that determines the EU’s policy agenda and produces all legislative proposals. In mid-July their nominee must face a grilling and be “elected” by a confident and more sceptical new European Parliament. As an additional hurdle to a smooth decision, the existing political groups have put forward their own presidential candidates to try to force the hand of the governments. This vote is therefore far from a formality. The candidate Commission President’s hearing before Parliament will also set the tone for similar hearings in September when MEPs get to vet and approve – or not – all the candidate European Commissioners.

Who the European Commission President will end up being is a matter much discussed in Brussels as well as in national capitals, not least because the decision will in turn impact potential nominees for the other two key EU positions, both of which have an international outlook and need to be filled in 2014. These are: •

the President of the European Council, who chairs meetings of the heads of state and government, and who represents the EU at international level such as the G7 alongside the Commission President, with whom s/he needs to work closely; and

the High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Europe’s “foreign minister”, who has played a very visible role internationally over the last years.

The European Parliament elections are therefore a first and determining piece in the EU puzzle.

Latest predicted results According to the latest Votewatch.eu prediction, the centre-right EPP group and the centre-left S&D group will remain the two biggest blocs. A diminished liberal ALDE group will be third and the radical-left GUE group fourth, with the conservative ECR, the Greens and the eurosceptic EFD battling for fifth.

41

205

63

ALDE Greens/EFA S&D

48

Significantly, a new group of far-right parties is also taking shape, which means that there could be three groups to the right of the EPP with approximately 40 seats each.

GUE-NGL

Seats

The picture shows how the groups would sit, from left to right politically, in the European Parliament.

216 39

EPP ECR EFD

39

NI

99

Source: VoteWatch.eu, 7 May 2014

In our next Year of Change briefings, Edelman will analyse the impact of the media reaction to the European Parliament election results once they are known and look ahead to prospects for the political direction of the next European Commission. For more information about the elections or about Edelman Brussels, contact: Martin Porter, Chair, Edelman Europe & CIS Public Affairs and General Manager, Edelman Brussels martin.porter@edelman.com www.edelman.be

Edelman Brussels Public Affairs Brief “Year of Change” May 2014


Edelman brussels pa brief year of change 14 may 2014