The Brief – The Zombie-Factor

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

It is one month to go until the European elections, the campaign is starting in earnest and the favourite sport of political pundits around Europe has become trying to predict the outcome of the elections. But can we really?

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past couple of months, you will have seen at least seen a dozen surveys and pollsters drawing up possible scenarios Europe will have to face after its citizens cast their votes on May 23-26.

In many countries, it is enough to connect the dots between the electoral lists and the latest polls and take an ‘educated guess’ to predict who the next MEPs are likely to be.

Far-right Eurosceptic populists are expected to make great gains while centrist, pro-European parties such as Spain’s Ciudadanos or France’s La Republique en Marche! are also on the rise.

While Eurosceptic parties may or may not be able to attract as much as a third of the vote, the major traditional parties of the centre-left and centre-right are taking huge hits in polls.

What is, however, far more difficult is to imagine what the structure of the future hemicycle could be and what shape the political groups could eventually take. The traditional forces have kept a firm grip on power in the Parliament so far, but soon they might be forced to forge new coalitions, or even create new groups.

It could be because of this uncertainty, however, that many of the new or smaller parties are keeping their cards close to their chests and leaving us guessing whom they might align with after the polls.

Pragmatism might call for shifting alliances, jumping from project to project and policy issue to policy issue, rather than for adherence to ideological principles. In other words, “Give me the power, and then we can sort out the ideology.’

This for sure will apply to the fate of the Spitzenkandidaten: Will the candidate whose party has the largest majority really become Commission President? Or will the result be a power struggle between institutions and member states?

What we can say with certainty is that Europe – and particularly the European institutions – cannot ignore the larger political changes sweeping the bloc. It will be a more lively Parliament, even if only for the mere fact that this could be the most politically confrontative chamber we have seen so far.

And then there is the Brexit uncertainty, of course, that can paralyse the next Parliament (and all other EU institutions, too).

In the minds of many, the May polls have become a decisive vote on the future of the European Union. Many analysts are calling this election “fight for the soul of Europe”.

Is Europe’s next big election heading for disaster then? Keep in mind that the narrative was almost the same five years ago, when the grand coalition between Christian Democrats and Socialists was deemed doomed, and the Eurosceptics were ante portas. The result was Juncker’s ‘Commission of the last chance”.

But that’s the tricky thing with predictions – they can turn out to be wrong. There is always a matter of uncertainty – a zombie-factor, if you will, that stirs things up.

The Roundup

By Zoran Radosavljevic

Bad news for Bulgaria: The Juncker Commission will not lift the monitoring on Bulgaria under the so-called Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, Commissioner Vera Jourova said.

EU officials confirmed that the bloc is not considering joining China’s Belt and Road initiative, contrary to what German Economic minister Peter Altmaier has previously said.

Spanish citizens have been subject to a series of disinformation campaigns ranging from fake news about Prime Minister Sánchez signing a Catalan independence deal, to conspiracies about migrants and propaganda against gay people, a new study has found.

And French President Emmanuel Macron said he was in favour of renegotiating the EU’s Schengen area, even if the result would be a “Schengen space with fewer countries”, because common borders and Schengen “don’t work anymore”.

Russia will start the controversial delivery of the S-400 missile defence systems to Turkey in July, even though Washington has threatened Ankara with sanctions if the deal goes through.

Greece’s leftist Syriza government and centrist Potami have accused the conservative opposition New Democracy (EPP) of “censoring” EPP Spitzenkandidat Manfred Weber’s comments during his election campaign launch in Athens this week.

Marine Le Pen, head of France’s National Rally party, said Europe’s populist far-right parties are offering a “new European harmony” to voters in the European Parliament elections next month.

A new label in France aims to encourage the emergence of projects that reduce and sequester greenhouse gas emissions, EURACTIV’s media partner Le Journal de l’Environnement reports.

Look out for…

Spain goes to the polls on Sunday in a parliamentary election pitting the ruling social-democrat PSOE against the Partido Popular (EPP), with sidekicks Ciudadanos, leftist Unidas Podemos and far-right Vox possibly playing a key role.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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