We have a very interesting Spring ahead of us in Europe as we select our new representatives for the European Parliament (EP). But what are the pivotal events to follow? What are the three changes that will affect the future of EU?
1) Voter Turnout
Firstly, it is vital for a democratic EU to have the support of its citizens. Thus, it will be very interesting to see how many people vote in the EU elections this time. The turnout has declined in all EU elections, even if the power of the EP has increased. Will these elections be the first time this trend is changed? Will the politicians be able to concretise the effects of EU for the voters? For example an EU without the free movement of goods or food security would be completely different from today’s EU.
2) New Alliances?
Secondly, it will be central to see how the far-right and euro-critical populists will perform in elections and more importantly whether they will be able to form one group in the EP. That would be a huge change; currently, they are dispersed in three groups, making them less powerful than they could be. A new common political group could have an important broker role. It is already difficult for different party groups to reach consensus. In the Council, for example, it is more and more difficult to find agreement on human rights or gender questions. However, more important is to follow how the present big parliamentary groups succeed. Who looses the least, conservatives (EPP) or social democrats? Will the liberals (ALDE) and Macron find each other and form a group together? The whole composition and especially the power balance between the political groups in the EP could change drastically, meaning new coalitions and changes to policies.
3) Finnish Presidency
Thirdly, one should also follow what Finland is doing. It will have the EU presidency for six months after the elections. This is when the new parliament is formed and commissioners are selected. During this period, the Commission’s five-year plan is also established and the multi-annual financial framework (MFF) negotiated. It is therefore a vital time when all the future proposals and the use of EU money are decided.
Together, higher voter turnout, new political alliances and the forthcoming Finnish presidency all have the potential to change the face of the EU in 2019.