Tuesday, 24 June 2014

State of the political groups

The various national political parties in the European Parliament have had until today to form political groups: by allying with parties from at least 7 other Member States with a minimum of 25 MEPs between them, they are entitled to EU funding and are in a better position to get good seats on parliamentary committees. For the mainstream groups of the Socialists and Democrats, the European People's Party, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats and the European Greens-European Free Alliance, there has been little change, with most of the movement on the right of the political spectrum.

Current group positions:

EPP: 221
S&D: 191
ECR: 68
ALDE: 67
UEL: 52
Greens: 50
EFD: 48
Non-Attached: 43
[The EP still lists 11 as "others", so they might join a political group yet and possibly change the rankings again].

The Europe of Freedom and Democracy has managed to reform. The grouping that Nigel Farage led in the last Parliament looked like it might be squeezed between the European Conservatives and Reformists and the new far-right alliance of Le Pen and Geert Wilders, but in the end enough MEPs from different countries were found. The biggest gain for the EFD was the membership of the Five Star Movement, which had been considering joining the Greens. The EFD has grown from 32 to 48 MEPs despite the change in membership (the Danish People's Party has left for the ECR) and the reduction in total EP seats, and it remains the smallest group.

The European Conservatives and Reformists have been the biggest winners from this group reshuffle. From being the fifth group in size, behind the Greens, in the last Parliament, the ECR is set to edge out the Liberals as the third biggest group (growing from 54 to 68 MEPs). This should be a big boost to its political weight in the EP, but it's unlikely that it will win the EP Presidency given the likely EPP-PES deal to take turns over the post. The ECR attracted the Eurozone-skeptic AfD and the Danish People's Party, along with a smattering of other individual MEPs. It's possible that this intake could shift the ECR in a more national-conservative direction, so while the group may be founded on a free market platform, this could start to take a back seat to concerns over free movement of people and cultural issues. This might depend on how far the AfD takes a socially conservative direction and whether it can retain a free market outlook. It will be interesting to see if the ECR will "detoxify" the Danish People's Party, or if they will toxify the ECR...

The United European Left grouping has also boosted its numbers from 35 to 52, with the Spanish party Podemos. EUObserver reports that the group is split between those that are anti-EU and those who favour more integration to solve economic and social issues (it seems that Podemos leans towards federalism). Meanwhile the Le Pen-Wilders project for a far-right alliance has failed to bring together enough MEPs from across the EU to form a political group. For now the Front National and the PVV will sit as Non-Attached.

For the EPP and S&D, little has changed. The German delegation is the largest now in the EPP and the S&D's biggest delegation will be Italian, but apart from that there doesn't seem to be any major changes. Likewise ALDE and the Greens have not had any major additions or losses in the re-shuffle - which could be seen as both groups having settled identities (any liberal/Green party that could join probably is already aligned with them).

Over this splintered Parliament it looks like Martin Schulz will re-take the President's chair as part of the coalition between the EPP and S&D. It remains to be seen if the Grand Coalition will stick together on the big issues or if it will only stay in place as a deal over the top posts.

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