It is clear from last weeks European Election results that the European Union needs to change direction. Millions of voters from across Europe chose to voice their anger at the European Project by voting for eurosceptic parties. The result has seen around 162 eurosceptic MEPs, from the FN in France to the Conservatives in the UK, getting elected. And if you were to include the so-called “Soft Eurosceptic” parties that number increases to 247 MEPs out of 751. It may not look like much of a landslide but if you bear in mind the fact that the largest group in the European Parliament is the EPP with only 265, you can start to see how much of an impact these new eurosceptics will have.
The introduction of these parties now means that the European Commission, the body that sends legislation to the Parliament, will now have to make sure that new legislation has mass support. It is likely that it will make the legislation more moderate and less inclined towards further European Integration. It may also force the commission to look to national governments more as the EP now has more extremist, and less cooperative parties, than the National Legislatures.
This is mainly due to the fact that the European Elections are still seen as Second Order Elections, which means that most people used their vote for UKIP, FN or XA as a protest at the Status Quo. It would be suicidal for the European Commission to ignore this result and carry on as though nothing has changed.
In fact it would seem that both David Cameron and Angela Merkel have noticed this. They have announced that they will not be backing any of the existing candidates for the position of President of the European Commission. Frau Merkel has withdrawn her support from the European Peoples Party (EPP) candidate for President of the Commission Jean Calude-Junker, whose downfall as Prime Minister of Luxembourg I covered a few months ago. Up until now there have yet to be any suggested replacement candidates for who the next President should be.
It is also likely that the Commission will be more eurosceptic as both Poland and the UK have governments lea by member parties of the ECR group. An interesting development in the election saw Martin Callanan lose his seat and it is possible that he may be tapped as the new UK Commissioner. Although Andrew Lansley is still top of the list of proposed candidates from the UK. The UK commissioner will act as our voice in the legislating wing of the European Parliament. Up until this point we have been “represented” by, the partisan Labour member, Baroness Ashton. It could be argued that the as a result the current coalition governments interests weren’t represented.
The current names for UK commissioner that have been thrown around include the former MEP Martin Callanan, MEP for the South East Daniel Hannan, leader of the House of Commons Andrew Lansley and former chief whip Andrew Mitchell. Only two of these names have actually been suggested by the Cabinet Office (Andrew Lansley and Andrew Mitchell). The other two were suggested by Guido Fawkes and Conservative Home respectively. The one thing that these four men have in common is that they are all keen on reform in Europe.
Of course the rise of these new eurosceptic parties could also spell the end for some of the key stone policies of the EU. Common Fisheries and Schengen are both in the firing line for the FN and UKIP. If these policies go down its only a matter of time before the rest of the EU policy finds itself being attacked.
I am reminded of what a French friend told me a few weeks before the elections, “Robert, these elections will be the end of the European Project”. At first I thought he was exaggerating, but having seen the surprisingly fast rise of the far right and far left, in countries you wouldn’t have expected, I think he may have been on to something.