May 25, 2014
European Parliament Elections Strengthen Far-Right Parties and Russia
Despite the Headlines, the Center Holds in the EU Legislature
Like most Europeans, most Americans do not appreciate the significance of the European Parliament elections. But as Brussels, and the Parliament in particular, assume greater power, these elections more directly impact US interests.
First, they directly impact who will be elected as the new president of the European Commission, a critical partner to a transatlantic agenda. The results put wind in the sails of Jean-Claude Juncker, the former prime minister of Luxembourg, who is the European People’s Party candidate and works well with the United States.
Second, this vote will affect two issues of particular interest to the United States:
- A NEW TRADE DEAL. The ambitious project to further open economic relations between North America and Europe – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP, will need the support of the European Parliament. Most of the far-right parties that just gained strength in this election oppose this trade deal. So the odds for concluding a deal have gone down, although centrist votes could still deliver majority support.
- RUSSIA. This election result increases the ranks in parliament of those willing to advance Russian interests. Far-right parties combined with far-left parties in an unholy alliance could serve as Moscow’s Trojan Horse in the European Parliament, complicating a range of issues on which the US government seeks Europe’s cooperation in dealing with Russia. These include economic sanctions over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine, the TTIP deal, energy policies to resist monopolistic behavior by Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas provider to much of Europe. The credibility of the European Parliament will rest on whether it resists Russian interests, which have already perverted proceedings in another European institution, the Council of Europe.
Damon Wilson is executive vice president of the Atlantic Council.