The Morning After: European Elections Results, Reactions, and Implications for Sustainable Transport.

The European Elections– Why Do They Matter?

Between the 6th and 9th of June, Europeans across the bloc headed to the polls to elect the future members of the European Parliament, the bloc’s only directly elected legislative body, which plays a critical role in adopting EU-wide legislation, which it does along with the Council of the European Union following a proposal by the European Commission.

The ordinary legislative procedure (more information) is, compared to most national governments, quite complex, but readers should note that Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) play a pivotal role in shaping, amending, and debating legislation which can impact over 450 million people in the world’s largest economy.

European Election Results – Winners and Losers

Winners.

The elections saw the traditional centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) increase its sizable presence in the parliament by nine seats compared to the outgoing parliament at the time of writing.

The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which are to the right of the EPP and tend to be more critical of the European Union, also saw four seats gained. In contrast, the most Eurosceptic and far-right group, called Identity and Democracy (ID), saw significant gains, namely in France, leading to an overall gain of nine seats.

It should also be noted that the German anti-immigration and Eurosceptic party AfD, which was expelled from the ID group due to a series of scandals and is currently a Non-aligned party (NI), won 15 of the 96 seats allocated to Germany.

In Europe’s four most populated countries, Germany (96 seats), France (81), Italy (76), and Spain (61), Eurosceptic parties (ECR, ID, AfD in Germany, and M5S in Italy) won a total of 82 out of 320 seats.

Those who held their own.

The traditional centre-left party, the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, or S&D, lost two seats overall. This can be considered a satisfactory result, given that pre-election polling suggested that the S&D would see a significant decline. Moreover, S&D parties saw significant gains in France (+6 seats), Italy (+5), and Romania (+4).

The “Left group” which is to the political left of the S&D and which includes come greens, communists, and Eurosceptic parties lost one seat overall, but saw minor gains in Finland (+2), Sweeden (+1), and Belgium (+1).

Losers.

The European Elections saw significant losses for Renew and the Greens.

Renews is a liberal pro-European group which saw a 22-seat loss compared to the previous parliament, notably in France where it represented president Macron’s coalition, in Spain where the party lost 8 of their 9 seats, and in Romania where it lost 5 seats. The party did make some minor gains in Czechia, Bulgaria, and Slovakia (+2 seats in all the respective countries).

The Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, also known as the “Greens”, also saw electoral decimation, losing 20 seats overall, with major losses in Germany (-9) and France (-7).

Who Will Lead the Next Parliament?

As it currently stands, no single party has a majority and whilst Eurosceptic and populist parties to the right of the political spectrum made electoral gains, the centrist coalition consisting of the EPP, S&D, and Renew will likely maintain legislative power with ad hoc support from the weakened Greens and slightly strengthened ECR – a party which tows the line between “Euro-critical” and Eurosceptic.

Reactions & Implications for Sustainable Transport.

The Green Mobility Magazine has collated a number of reactions from around the broader sustainable transport network. We have added emphasis (bold) to key pieces of analysis.

“This vote hasn’t been a tectonic shift to the far right. The far-right made clear gains, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into more power for the next five years, as most of them will not be palatable partners for the centre-right EPP. The EPP’s main task will be to make industry competitive again – the threat from China and the US is not going away. Now all eyes will be on the EPP leaders to create a coalition that makes it happen.” – Linda Kalcher, Executive Director, Strategic Perspectives.

“’Most stakeholders and I’m sure voters are concerned by the headlines regarding the far-right surge in the European elections, and the potential unravelling of the Green Deal and EU transport policy. But a closer look at the actual results reveals the pro-EU parties, that make up the so-called grand coalition that dominated the last Parliament and were the principal architects of the Green Deal, secured around 60% of the seats. Therefore, they will continue to dominate this one. So, for example the EPP, S&D and Renew will continue to dominate the TRAN & ENVI Committees. The priority will, in my view, remain decarbonisation, with a focus on the implementation of the huge legislative challenge that is the Fit for 55 package, rather than enacting any new laws. […] Yes, there will be some pragmatism shown on timing, most notably on the 2035 ban on fossil fuel engines, but that is more about an understandable desire to be technology neutral rather than any sign of a weakening of the commitment to net zero. Personally, I hope the new lawmakers give more emphasis to two issues that I feel were neglected in the last mandate. Road safety and accessibility. In some cases, we even went backwards. As we transition to a zero-carbon transport system we must make sure it is safe and accessible for all.” – Mark Watts, Director, LP Brussels. Member of the Green Mobility Magazine Editorial Board.

“Despite important gains, far-right parties don’t have a majority without EPP to dismantle the European Green Deal. The responsibility is on other political forces to form a new and stable coalition that addresses the concerns of Europeans: the cost of living and energy price crisis, the risk of desindustrialisation and rising inequalities. Continuing the net-zero transition agenda in this mandate is a strategic choice to reposition the EU on the map of industrial powers, create green jobs in the emerging net-zero industries, and reduce energy bills. Such a plan could cement a coalition between the EPP, Socialists and Democrats, Renew and the Greens.” – Neil Makaroff, Strategic Perspectives.

“No far right landslide but a win for #VonderLeyen’s #grandcoalition at #EUelections. #GreenDeal is safe but the next years will be less about “ambition” and more about industrial transformation and making the energy transition work for ordinary people. […]  Specifically on green policies, the EPP is looking for symbolic concessions, not (!) a general rollback. Sadly for me, undoing 100% zero emission cars in 2035 is top of their hit list. […] Generally speaking it will get a little harder to get green policies adopted. Hard doesn’t mean impossible though. It’s just that “there won’t be any more decisions made without the EPP” to quote EP veteran Peter Liese (CDU-Germany).” – William Todts, Executive Director, Transport & Environment (T&E) via LinkedIn.

“The pro-European majority should allow for a sensible approach on the #energy and #climate agenda, recognizing low-carbon energy and clean technologies manufacturing and deployment in Europe as key for EU’s strategic autonomy (but EP leaning to the right will reduce the overall level of ambition, as already seen on #chemicals, #nature protection and #agriculture issues in the past years). […] The #industrialpillar of the Green Deal will come at the forefront of the new agenda which is expected to be focused on #competitiveness of industries: ex. launch of a Competitiveness Strategy for Europe, a EU Competitiveness check on EU policies, European champions, #derisking from China, better infrastructures…” –  Dina Gherasim, Head of EU energy & climate policies,  IFRI, Center for Energy & Climate, via LinkedIn.

“More right-wing MEPs will mean more work to build coalitions on policy issues. I think the bigger question is whether Von der Leyen will be re-elected. It’s ultimately the Commission that will set the direction of transport and other policies and the President who will determine how important transport is treated.” – An airline industry executive who wished to remain anonymous.

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