European elections are set to take place at the end of May. One of the big questions is whether or not the UK is legally obliged to participate if it hasn’t official left the union by that time. Given the current situation, that might well be the case. But more important than the scuffle about Brexit is the political situation in the countries that are staying.
Some columnists point out the rhetoric around how crucial this election is, is overblown. They point out that Parliament doesn’t play a decisive role in the inner workings of the EU. They’re not entirely wrong. But what is true, is that there will be an uphill battle for Berlaymont. Parliament needs to approve the EC, and will do so with a view on policy matters, as well as from the perspective of their national interests. Just as importantly, the European Council needs to be happy with the new Commission.
If the surge in eurosceptic and conservative reformist parties in Europe holds up until May, the new commission president is facing a significant balancing act. He or she needs to satisfy on tax questions (because the French president needs to calm the Yellow vests at home), all the while not upsetting tax competitors Ireland, Luxembourg or Malta. The president will need to deal with Commissioners sent by Poland and Italy without seeming partial. Their posts can’t be too important, but must still satisfy their governments. Thus, the Italian Commissioner cannot be in charge of migration, but youth and sport is not enough.
The larger the group of eurosceptics and conservative reformists in the European Parliament, the harder it will get for the new president. If, for instance, the composition would need the approval of the Greens, it would become a real challenge to balance the new Commission with members sent by the centre-right and conservative governments of Germany, Austria, Poland, Hungary and Italy.
And it isn’t the only the usual suspects who might complicate things. Denmark, Sweden, and Finland have also proven to be sceptical towards an increase in the EU budget, and depending on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, the Commission president will need to deal with Baltic countries demanding more money for their farmers, all the while needing to cut significant parts of planned budgets for 2021-2027.
If these different scenarios come true, the only easy thing will be to keep the people happy who believe that the Commission should take its foot off the pedal in legislative matters.
This article was first published by the Luxembourg Times.
Pictures are Creative Commons.
Thanks for liking and sharing!