How to Govern a Fragmented EU: What Europeans Said at the Ballot Box



Susi Dennison, Mark Leonard, Pawel Zerka, Teresa Coratella, Josef Janning, Andrzej Mendel-Nykorowycz, and Jose Ignacio Torreblanca | European Council on Foreign Relations

As prime ministers and presidents head to Brussels for European Council meetings in the post-2019 European Parliament election era, they will find that they have to navigate a new, more political Europe. Pro-Europeans have claimed victory in the May vote: turnout leaped to 51 percent, and two-thirds of voters supported pro-European parties, which topped the polls in 23 out of 28 member states. But many voters also supported anti-European or Eurosceptic parties, whether of the left or right. These parties secured almost one-third of seats in the new European Parliament. The European Union that is emerging is, therefore, more fragmented and more polarised than ever before.

The two main political groups have lost their majority for the first time in the history of the Parliament; they have also lost their majority in the European Council. Appointments to the new European Commission will reflect this new political make-up. In many ways, this was a split screen election: some voters showed up to vote because they feared a possible collapse of the EU, or because they wanted to send a message to political leaders to find solutions to climate change and rising nationalism. But other voters wanted to regain national sovereignty and deal with Islamic radicalism and migration.

This split screen election need not mean a split screen Europe, however. The election showed that Europe’s biggest feature is its volatility, rather than settled tribal divisions. In this new Europe, we can expect a permanent campaign: parties and Parliamentary groups will now have to assemble shifting majorities if big decisions are to pass.

To understand what politics will look like in the coming years, the European Council on Foreign Relations, in collaboration with YouGov, carried out a ‘day after’ survey in the six largest EU member states. In addition, researchers in ECFR’s network across all 28 member states have analysed the manifestos and campaign promises of all the political parties that won seats in this election. This report studies five ‘maps’ which should guide the formation of these new, shifting majorities; the next generation of EU institution leaders should also study these maps carefully to help them identify where best to focus their energy and attention.



[To read the original report, click here.]

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