The European Parliament and Supranational Democracy: the 2019 Elections
Is the European Parliament the core of European supranational democracy? Does the Parliament’s direct legitimacy ensure strong democratic representativeness? Where does the European Parliament stand between centripetal forces of transnational politics and centrifugal nationalist tendencies? How effective is the EP in terms of output legitimacy, when its action is appraised in sensitive policy areas ranging from eurozone economic governance to security or justice? How relevant are the horizontal supervisory powers of the EP over other EU institutions? Last, but not least, what did the process and the results of the last European Parliament election (May, 2019) tell us about all the abovementioned questions? The panel therefore aims at debating core issues of representation, legitimacy and governance in the European Union from the perspective of the European Parliament role in the European Union’s institutional framework. Special attention is paid to the circumstances, the events and the results of the 2019 election, notably in Portugal. The panel presentations draw on previous joint work of the authors in preparing a book on the 2019 European elections.
Presentations of the Symposium
The European Parliament Elections and Transnational Politics
The paper examines the way the European Parliament political groups organised transnationally, in order to face the challenges of the 2019 election. Party politics in the European Parliament have long been marked by a major dividing line between pro-integration forces and Eurosceptics. A broad centre (covering right of centre and left of centre parties) has traditionally supported the European project managing to build integration on a broad political consensus that was not, as a general rule, substantially challenged in the Parliament. However, the present decade with its many crises and inherent impacts upon national and European electorates introduced new actors (new representatives) and has shaken some of the ‘central’ consensus. From the perspective of democracy, oppositional politics gained momentum in the Parliament and may well be expressing more vehemently the voice of the streets, often left outside the walls of the institutions, and thus reinforcing the core political nature of parliamentary representation. At the same time, the process suggests growing transnationalisation in party politics and tendencies across Europe, even among Eurosceptics. With reference to the political guidelines and programmes of the political groups in the running for the 2019 election, as well as to the election final results, the paper thus discusses the transnationalisation of European politics, the major dialogic topic of which seems so far to be the pro- vs. against- integration alignment.
The European Parliament and the Eurozone Economic Governance
The paper addresses the role of the European Parliament (EP) in the context of Eurozone economic governance. To that purpose, the discussion focuses on two different dimensions: monetary policy and fiscal policy. In both areas, the EP performs a rather muted role, considering the specific competence assignment within the Eurozone (centralisation of monetary policy on the European Central Bank (ECB) together with the highly sensitive political independence status granted to the monetary authority; and decentralisation of fiscal policy on national governments, in compliance with Eurozone’s fiscal rules). Yet, the EP has been able to cooperate with the ECB. It remains to be seen whether this is the outcome of an opportunistic move from both the EP and the ECB. At the same time, a somewhat limited actorness on fiscal policy issues is the quest for the ECB’s growing visibility in the EU’s institutional system, notably since the model of economic governance of the Eurozone empowered EU’s institutions (tight fiscal rules and the European semester). To this extent, it is interesting to find out whether party politics discussions in the EP follow similar divisive lines when domestic politics is used as a benchmark.
The Portuguese and the European Parliament: Turnout and Electoral Dynamics
Elections to the European Parliament are traditionally interpreted as “second-order election”. This means that these elections are characterized by lower levels of participation compared to legislative elections, a better performance of small parties and, at the same time, electoral losses for government parties. Although the European Parliament is the institution that has acquired most powers within the institutional structure of the European Union over time, the trends of the last elections confirm the hypothesis of second-order elections. Despite these trends, the Portuguese case has the particularity of combining a strong decline in participation with the inability of small and new parties to use these elections to change the dynamics of governance at the national level. In this paper, we intend to examine longitudinally the turnout and results in the European elections in Portugal, including a focus on the May 2019 elections and their impact on parties and party system. In particular, our analysis will focus on the performance of small parties and abstentionists to demonstrate the extent to which the European elections have contributed to strengthening the predominance of government parties.
Dissenting voices and Eurosceptic parties: What influence in the European Parliament after the 2019 European Elections?
University of Bath, United Kingdom
The 2019 European elections are undoubtedly the most eagerly anticipated, by both scholars of the European Union (EU) and by the European media, in the 40-year history of the directly elected European Parliament (EP). Set against the backdrop of the Brexit negotiations; the ongoing migration and humanitarian crisis; continued economic uncertainty on the back of the 2008 economic crisis; political unrest and upheaval in various countries and a rise in the influence of dissenting political voices across Europe, the percentage of elected Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) contesting the status quo of the EU is set to rise. Drawing on both qualitative and quantitative data, the paper analyses the likely significance of this development in terms of its potential impact over the new five-year mandate of the EU and its influence over the future of the European project. It begins by analyzing the make-up of the new EP in terms of the distribution of parties in comparison with previous parliaments, before looking at the resultant transnational group formations emerging after the elections. The paper then analyses the extent to which Eurosceptic transnational parties are likely to block, frustrate and ultimately influence the future direction of the EU in this ninth term of the European Parliament (2019-24).