Groups are ready, EU Parliament is ready to play

As of 20 June, the graph shows the provisional results of what positions political parties will potentially be holding. [EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT IN COLLABORATION WITH KANTA] [European Parliament in collaboration with Kanta]

Seven political groups have been formed in the new European Parliament and there are two major left-outs still looking for their place ahead of the Parliament’s inaugural plenary on 2 July. Piotr Kaczyński takes a look at the groups and their Polish members, as well as at the strategic agenda for the next five years.

Piotr Kaczyński, formerly a researcher at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) in Brussels in 2007-2012, runs a blog called 2019EUelectionsPoland.com.

There are still some moves between the groups, as for example, one new Dutch ECR MEP moved from ECR to the EPP because of the accession of Theo Baudet’s Eurosceptic Forum for Democracy to the ECR.

Here are the groups as they are today:

European People’s Party has 182 MEPs and Manfred Weber as its chair. One of his vice-chairs is Ewa Kopacz, former Polish prime minister. The key Polish MEP in the group affairs is Jan Olbrycht, who is one of the negotiators on behalf of the EPP with the other three groups (S&D, RE, the Greens). They negotiate the Parliament’s version of the EU’s agenda for the next five years.

Socialists and Democrats, with 153 MEPs, have chosen a new leader, Iratxe García of Spain. There are eight Polish MEPs including former prime ministers Miller, Belka, and Cimoszewicz, so it slightly surprising there is no Bureau member from Poland among the new S&D leadership.

Renew Europe (former ALDE) has grown to 108 MEPs, with former Romanian Prime Minister Dacian Cioloș as its new leader. The group is now French-dominated and dropping the adjective “liberal” is not a coincidence. Cioloș’ Romanian party PLUS is situated in the “centre, centre-right area”. There are no Polish MEPs among the centrists.

Greens/EFA has 75 MEPs with Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts continuing as co-chairs. The Greens are clear winners of the elections, even if the “green wave” has not taken root in all EU states. There are no Poles among the Green MEPs.

Identity and Democracy, or ID, replaces ENF (Europe of Nations and Freedom). ID is 73 MEPs strong, Marco Zanni is the group leader. There are no Polish far-right MEPs.

European Conservatives and Democrats dropped to the sixth spot from third, mainly due to the Tories’ terrible results in the UK. There are 63 MEPs with ECR. The group is dominated by Poland’s Law and Justice (26 MEPs) and has a co-leadership with Ryszard Legutko (returning) and Raffaelle Fitto (new, previously vice-chair).

European United Left-Nordic Green Left or GUE/NGL is a group of 41 MEPs, a raw figure down from 52 in the outgoing Parliament, mainly due to losses in Czechia, Italy and the Netherlands. The group is expected to decide on its leader on Thursday (27 June). There are no Polish MEPs in the group.

The first of the two big national parties without a Parliamentary group is the British Brexit Party (29 MEPs), which ran in the elections in the UK to make a point about the country leaving the EU. Hence there are no expectations that the party should seek a group affiliation as long as Brexit is scheduled to take place.

The second of the big national players is Italian Five Star Movement (M5S) with 14 MEPs. With the British, they were at the core of the soon-defunct EFDD group. Most of the other EFDD partners have moved on to the ID group or failed to be re-elected.

The Italians tried to run on their own pan European platform but managed to get MEPs elected from only two countries, Italy and Croatia (one MEP, also looking for a new group).

In the past, the M5S tried and failed to negotiate accession to what is now RE. Due to domestic politics, M5S cannot join the ID (where La Lega rules), the S&D (where the Partido Democratico is strong), or the EPP (where Forza Italia is). Even ECR is problematic, as Brothers of Italy are reportedly not open to welcome the big Italian actor. There are only two groups left: the Greens and GUE/NGL. What will happen?

The strategic agenda

The four centrist groups (EPP, S&D, RE and the Greens) are negotiating a coalition agreement. “This is an important development in the process of building European democracy. In many countries with a strong tradition of coalition governments, there is an attempt to build a common agenda of the government first,” said professor Steven Van Hecke of KU Leuven.

There are five priority areas: Environment and Climate Change; Economic, Fiscal, Trade policies; Digitalisation; Rule of Law, Borders and Migration; Europe in the World, or foreign affairs.

The European Council’s own Strategic Agenda, which Parliament will debate and tweak, has four points: protection of citizens and freedoms; economy; climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe; promotion of EU values on the global stage.

The outcome, in terms of the EU’s strategic direction, will represent the political guidelines for the new president of the European Commission. The guidelines served as a basis of the Barroso II and the Juncker Commission activities in 2009-2019.

EXCLUSIVE: What countries really think of the EU's strategic agenda

EU member states broadly supported priorities highlighted for the next five years, although they called for a more “positive” vision. Despite the demands made by the capitals, the latest version only included few changes, according to the latest draft and the minutes seen by EURACTIV.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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