The largely pro-Russia Eurosceptics may have triumphed in EU parliamentary elections, but don’t expect major changes in EU policy towards Russia anytime soon.
A woman walks past a banner promoting the European elections in front of the European Parliament in Brussels May 25, 2014. Photo: Reuters
Held from May 22 to 25 in 28 countries of the European Union (EU), the elections to the European Parliament (EP) have brought some interesting results – especially for Russia. The mainstream media is primarily commenting on the significant breakthrough of the Eurosceptics, and for good reason.
European voters elected a considerable number of those classified as Eurosceptics to the European Parliament – in total, a minimum of 150 MEPs. Meanwhile, all the traditional “political families” of the EU (the Center Right, Socialists, Liberals and Environmentalists) have suffered varying degrees of losses.
Given the fact that 751 MEPs will work in the new EP, a generalized conclusion can be made that the new European Parliament majority in Brussels, just as was the case after the elections in 2009, will shift from the center to the right.
This means that once again in the EU decision-making system, the leading role will belong to the European People’s Party (EPP). Representatives of the EPP include the current Chairman of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The EPP, although it lost almost 60 seats in these recent European elections, will still form the largest parliamentary faction with its 210 MEPs.
In previous years, the EU has pursued a consolidated foreign policy, guided not only by the consent of the leading European capitals, but also by the consolidated approach of major trans-European parties – the Populists, Socialists, and Liberals. It is likely that, in general, this scheme will continue after May 25.
Nevertheless, we can no longer speak about the full unity of all the leading actors. The new statement by the Conservative British Prime Minister David Cameron reiterating his threat to leave the EU (made against the background of the victory in the United Kingdom of the openly Eurosceptic far right Independence Party) – is further evidence of the “crisis at the top” in the EU. At the same time, we can talk about the “crisis of democracy” in the Union. After all, only 43 percent of citizens of EU member states bothered to vote in the May European elections.
However, if there are serious differences between the Social Democrats, Center Right and Conservatives over the strategy for the further development of European integration, it’s too early to exaggerate their differences on foreign policy issues.
L-R) Matteo Salvini, Italy's Lega Nord party member, Austria's far-right Freedom Party (FPOe) member Harald Vilimsky, Marine Le Pen, France's National Front political party head, Dutch far-right Freedom Party (PVV) leader Geert Wilders, PVV member Marcel de Graaff and Belgium's Flemish right wing Vlaams Belang party member Gerolf Annemans address a joint news conference at the European Parliament in Brussels May 28, 2014. Photo: Reuters
Of course, in the newly elected European Parliament, there will be more of those left wing and far right Eurosceptics who criticize the current course of the EU with regard to Russia – and this appears to be beneficial for Russia. However, globally, the European majority made up of Populists, Social Democrats and Liberals has been preserved.
And this means that we can hardly expect MEPs to be changing their general approach to the issue of Crimea joining Russia. It is also obvious that the majority of MEPs, on the whole, support the Transatlantic Treaty between the EU and the United States concerning free trade.
There is no doubt that the new majority in the EP, even with the shift to the right, is still Atlanticist in its outlook, oriented to active military, economic and political cooperation between the EU and the United States.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.