Industry leaders have welcomed the results of the European parliamentary elections, in which centre-right parties emerged as the dominant players, but several lobby groups have expressed concern about the low numbers of voters going to the polls.
Philippe de Buck, director-general of BusinessEurope, described the turnout as disappointing, saying this was something that would have to be addressed by politicians. He added that the relative success of pro-business groups shows the public do not associate any particular political philosophy with the financial crisis.
“The results reinforce the position of the centre-right and show that there is no ideology to this crisis debate. We will have to see how the Parliament organises itself before we can say what kind of majority is possible, but I am quite confident we will be able to address important social, economic and business issues,” he said.
De Buck said the success of green parties must be taken on board, but added the green economy is already on the political and business agenda.
He said continuity will strengthen the position of the Parliament and may even support European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, who is seeking to be reappointed at the head of the Commmission.
“This strengthens his position given that he comes from the centre right. In any case, it is important that there is a quick decision on the future of the Commission in order to avoid having a lame duck EU executive,” he said.
Andrea Benassi, secretary-general of UEAPME, the European craft and SME employers’ organisation, also expressed concern about turnout.
“The low level of participation is a worrying signal that embodies the failure to engage citizens in a truly European debate. On the positive side, however, those who decided to vote have clearly privileged pro-European and pro-integration candidates in a Parliament that is bound to gain more clout if the Lisbon Treaty comes into force,” he said.
He noted that the nationalist and Eurosceptic tide which some predicted largely failed to materialise.
“This is good news for European small businesses, which thrive in an open and competitive internal market and have always supported the European project,” Benassi said.
Gábor Papanek, executive director of GKI Economic Research in Hungary, said it was difficult to be sure how the result would affect European companies. “The problem is that the European Parliament has too little impact on economic life and its activity is not transparent,” he said.
The European Small Business Alliance issued a statement welcoming the new parliament and highlightnig the need to focus on reducing the administrative burden faced by SMEs.
“Much has been done last terms towards improving SME policy. However, we still have a long road ahead of us with regards to enabling SMEs to get our European economy back on track. I sincerely hope the new parliament is aware of this and I urge them to do whatever is in their power to help us create the possible environment for our European SMEs,” saied Tina Sommer, President of the ESBA.