The new European Parliament is likely to unleash a “backlash” against the British-American economic model, Michiel Van Hulten of PA firm Burson-Marsteller told EURACTIV in an interview, predicting that all its mainstream political groups are “likely to argue for much tighter regulation of the economy” in the wake of the crisis.
Last month’s EU elections made the political make-up of the new Parliament “more complex” and “more diverse than ever before,” argues Van Hulten, managing director for government relations at the consultancy’s Brussels branch.
UK opposition leader David Cameron’s decision to withdraw Tory MEPs from the European People’s Party (EPP) to form a new group, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), adds to this complexity, according to the PA chief.
“The decision by the Tories to leave the [former EPP-ED] group means that the EPP will now become more homogenous and pro-European, probably shifting to the left a little,” Van Hulten predicts.
“It looks like the EPP will be able to work more closely with the Socialists & Democrats [S&D group] and would like to do so, which means the new European Conservatives and Reformists group risks being marginalised on the big debates,” he says.
Likewise, Laurent Chokoualé Datou, general manager of PR firm Edelman’s Brussels office, recalled that the EPP and the Socialists “have a long-standing track record of striking technical compromises across the apparent left/right divide”.
Indeed, Helmut Weixler, head of the press office for the Green group, recently told EURACTIV that he believed the Socialists had already agreed to form a “grand coalition” with the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) after the summer break (EURACTIV 07/07/09).
Van Hulten goes further, however, foreseeing “a greater degree of agreement between the EPP, the Socialists & Democrats and the ALDE groups on the process of European integration”.
“All three groups are fully supportive of the Lisbon Treaty and can be expected to support cautious further moves in the direction of further integration,” he predicts.
Speaking yesterday in Strasbourg, ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt praised the commitment of the Parliament’s three largest groups to “pro-European values,” hailing their intention to seek a political consensus at the heart of the European Union […] to respond in a […] united way” to the multiple challenges facing Europeans.
“This is the first time that such a cross-party platform has been agreed and one which I have personally defended strongly from the beginning. I am convinced that in these times of crisis, the European Union needs a common vision for its future and that will require a degree of political agreement on the way ahead,” he said.
Before the EU elections, Verhofstadt had declared it was time for the EU “to move forward [in] a single effort to save [its] destiny,” calling on Europe’s political forces to “unite and not divide” (EURACTIV 16/04/09).
Van Hulten also believes that the EPP and Liberals will team up to “use the new strength of the centre-right to call for less red tape resulting from European legislation,” making it easier for businesses to operate in the EU.
Others support this view too, with Georg Danell of Kreab Gavin Anderson foreseeing “a centre-right coalition on most business-related legislation between EPP, ALDE and ECR”.
For Caroline Wunnerlich of Fleishman-Hillard Europe, the EPP has a key choice to make: “concede more in the name of a pro-European consensus,” or achieve its objectives with “uncomfortable bedfellows”.