This weekend, Europe’s voters headed to the polls and elected a new European Parliament which will take office later this summer. At first glance, the partisan makeup of the new Parliament—which will remain in office until 2014—is broadly in line with the previous one. However, there are notable differences as Eurosceptic parties as well as dedicated European Union reformers have won many seats across the continent.
Of particular note are the successes of the right-wing UK Independence Party, which advocates for Britain’s departure from the EU, and France’s anti-immigration and anti-European Front National. Both of these parties placed first in Europe’s 2nd and 3rd largest economies.
This election should serve as a wake-up call for Europe’s leaders, who are meeting this evening in Brussels to discuss the electoral outcomes and the nature of the new European Commission.
While a broad pro-Europe majority consisting of the conservative European People’s Party and the Socialists & Democrats will continue to call the shots in the next Parliament, a range of anti-European and anti-globalization parties will have considerably louder voices than before.
This election has important implications for transatlantic relations and for TTIP in particular. To date there has been a broad consensus across the center-right and center-left in Brussels backing the Commission’s trade agenda. As TTIP moves forward, this centrist coalition will have to strengthen in order for the transatlantic agreement to ultimately win approval from a Parliament which is divided on its purpose, legislative priorities, and even its right to exist.
The electoral results will likely spur a necessary debate on subsidiarity in Europe, as well as the proper role of Brussels. It is beyond debate, however, that Europe is strengthened by centralizing its international trade policy for all 28 member-states. Quite simply, the European Union, and its single market which is the largest economy in the world, brings considerable influence to bear across the negotiating table from anyone—including the United States.
With that in mind, TTIP offers a path toward sustainable economic growth and job creation—arguably the two things Europe needs most in order to stem its ongoing populist tide. Here’s hoping the leaders of the new European Parliament and Commission recognize that and seize the opportunity.
Of note, my colleague Annette Heuser from the Bertelsmann Foundation offers her take on how Washington may have lost the European Elections. Please check out her analysis.