Postcard from Strasbourg - 25 October 2019

This was the week we were supposed to wave farewell to Juncker and Tusk and see the new von der Leyen Commission triumphantly sworn into office. MEPs had already scuppered that by rejecting three Commission candidates and both Juncker and Tusk have still some work to do before putting their feet up. Plenary is now due to vote in the new Commission on 27 November, but the narrow majority for von der Leyen and the size of the revolt against Sylvie Goulard indicate that this should not be taken for granted, while party discipline among the big three groups remains shaky. There is still no timetable for the next set of confirmation hearings, with Romania still desperately searching for a candidate who can navigate their way through the parliamentary minefield. The corridors however were abuzz with the news from Paris of Thierry Breton’s nomination and the arrival of a real industry leader at the heart of the Commission. Ironically it is his long business career that may prove his greatest risk in the hearings, with mutterings from the Left already about conflicts of interest and barely disguised suspicion of anyone making lots of money. For a man used to leading global champions he may also need to find the necessary level of humility to placate petulant MEPs. His relationship with Competition chief, Margarethe Vestager, will no doubt be a source of many questions, not least from his own Renew Europe family. He will also no doubt enjoy being re-united with his former colleague from those Chirac days, the new President of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde.

The delay in the new Commission taking office meant that the plenary debate on Jean-Claude Juncker’s legacy wasn’t quite the swansong that he had hoped for. He called it a love story but it read more like an end of term report - €440 bn mobilised in the Juncker investment plan, 83% less legislation, 15 trade agreements signed. On a more personal level, saving Greece from leaving the Euro was a high point while Brexit had basically been a waste of time and energy. Surely after sitting through 147 European Council meetings the man will finally retire? Not so for the other departing president, Donald Tusk, who looks set to take over the leadership of the wider EPP family from Joseph Daul. For a man who allegedly could hardly string a sentence together in English when taking up office, Tusk has been the most eloquent and effective communicator among the EU leadership. His twitter feed is essential reading and rather more to the point than that of the other Donald.

Someone not going anywhere is Michel Barnier, who seems to be the only person alive who can’t get enough of Brexit and has agreed to lead the new UK Task Force. There is still the small matter of adopting the Boris deal and Parliament was very keen to emphasise that they will have the last word and only vote once it finally passes through the House of Commons. They agreed in principle to a flexible extension until the end of January but are ready to do their duty should a deal be adopted beforehand. While the main groups are likely to fall into place behind the deal painfully negotiated by their leaders, the Parliament has proved itself an unpredictable beast of late and expecting British Labour, Liberal and Green MEPs to back it is a bit like asking turkeys to vote for Christmas. Spare a thought though for those 27 “phantom” MEPs, elected back in May to replace the Brits when they leave, who are having to postpone the removal lorries for a few more months. The EPP are set to be the biggest net beneficiaries of the smaller post-Brexit parliament, with the three other leading groups all losing more members than they gain.

8 take-aways from the new Commission

Click on the picture to read the full article

Weekly Update - 28 June

EP to elect President on Wednesday 3 July

  • The new EP will have its inaugural session next week but has put back by one day the election of its own President to 3 July in order to allow EU leaders more time to agree on a candidate for Commission President.
  • So far there are only two official candidates for EP President – the Czech ECR(conservative) MEP Jan Zahradil and Spanish GUE (far left) Sira Abed Rego. The main political groups have until 19.00 on Tuesday 2 July to submit their nominations, with their decision dependant on the outcome of the weekend discussions on sharing out the EU top jobs.

Formation of new parliamentary committees

  • The membership of parliamentary committees will be announced in the evening of Wednesday 3 July, after a vote on their respective size. The attached table indicates the proposed size of each committee (ENVI back to being the largest with 76 MEPs) and how many MEPs from each political group will be in each committee).
  • A tentative agreement has been reached between the political groups to share out the committee chairmanships, which foresees:
  1. EPP (7) : Foreign (AFET); Industry (ITRE); Constitutional (AFCO); Culture (CULT); Budgetary Control (CONT); Development (DEVE);  Petitions (PETI)
  2. S&D (5) : Economics (ECON); Trade (INTA); Civil Liberties (LIBE); Women’s Rights(FEMM); Human Rights (DROI)
  3. Renew Europe (3) : Environment (ENVI); Fisheries (PECH) ; Security & Defence (SEDE)
  4. Greens (2): Internal Market (IMCO); Transport (TRAN)
  5. ID (far-right 2): Agriculture (AGRI); Legal Affairs (JURI)
  6. ECR (2): Budgets (BUDG); Employment (EMPL)
  7. GUE (1): Regional (REGI)
  • The decision on committees is agreed between the political groups based on a “gentleman’s agreement” and it remains to be seen if the 2 ID Chairman from the far-right (AGRI & JURI) will be challenged. The Chairmen are formally elected in the first committee meetings the week of 8 July. We will be sending out an infographic listing the committee chairmen by Friday 12 July.

EU leaders will try again to agree on a candidate for Commission President

  • EU leaders will try again to agree on a candidate for Commission President at an extraordinary summit meeting on Sunday 30 June. President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, will meet EP group leaders on Sunday before the summit. So far, the 3 main political groups are sticking to their lead candidates – Manfred Weber (EPP); Frans Timmermans (S&D) and Margrethe Vestager (RE).
  • The European Parliament is due to vote on the nominated candidate on Wednesday 17 July.

Developments in Political Groups

  • The EFDD group that brought together Italian 5 Star and UK Brexit party has not re-formed and so MEPs from both big parties will sit as Independents (non-inscrits) and have less speaking time and budget
  • Attempts by the 5 Star to join the far-left GUE group have been turned down due to their association with Italy’s immigration policy.
  • The GUE have still to formally elect their new leadership team and the interim leader is Martin Schirdewan (DE) supported by Marisa Matias (PT), Nikolaj Villumsen (DK) and Joao Ferreira (PT). Their candidate for EP Vice-President will again be Dimitris Papadimoulis (GK)
  • A big Catalan demonstration will take place next Tuesday in Strasbourg to protest at the refusal of the Spanish authorities to allow Oriol Junqueras to take his seat in the Green group.

Weekly Update - 20 June

European Parliament still to publish name of elected MEPs

The European Parliament will not issue a provisional list of MEPs and will only publish the official list once it has received all names from all national authorities, which can submit names right up to 1 July. Nothing Is expected before the first EP plenary session on 2 July.


Decision on Commission President postponed to 30 June

EU leaders will reconvene on 30 June to try and reach agreement on a nominee for Commission President and other top jobs. The future of the Spitzenkandidat process remains in doubt with the likelihood that the price for eliminating Manfred Weber (EPP) from the Commission job could also lead to Frans Timmermans (S&D) and Margrethe Vestager (Renew Europe) dropping out. Many of the key leaders will be at the G20 in Japan and talks are likely to continue there. There is pressure to find some agreement on the package of top jobs by the start of July as the Parliament is due to elect its President , which is part of the package, on 2 July.


European Council adopts Strategic Agenda 2019-2024


While EU leaders could not agree on who will lead the EU, they did adopt the new priorities that provide the overall framework and direction to guide the work of the EU institutions over the next 5 years.

It focuses on four main priorities and how to deliver them:

  • protecting citizens and freedoms
  • developing a strong and vibrant economic base
  • building a climate-neutral, green, fair and social Europe
  • promoting European interests and values on the global stage.


Political groups elect leaders

All the main political groups have now elected their leadership team.


EPP (182 MEPs):

  • Manfred Weber (DE) was re-elected unopposed and continues to have the support of the EPP group and EPP leaders to be Commission president.
  • 10 Vice-Chairmen in order of preferential votes Dubravka Šuica (HR), Esteban González Pons (ES), Ewa Kopacz (PL), Siegfried Mureşan (RO), Mairead Mcguinness (IE), Esther De Lange (NL), Arnaud Danjean (FR), Andrey Kovatchev BG), Evangelos Meimarakis (EL), Paulo Rangel(PT).


Socialists S&D (153 MEPs)

  • Iratxe Garcia (ES) was elected leader unopposed following the withdrawal of current President Udo Bullmann  (DE), signalling the leading role of the Spanish delegation in the S&D. Former Chair of the Women’s Rights Committee, she put gender equality, social justice and the environment at the heart of her campaign.
  • VPs: Eric Andrieu (FR), Biljana Borzan (HR), Miriam Dalli (MT), Heléne Fritzon (SE), Roberto Gualtieri (IT), Bernd Lange (DE), Claude Moraes (UK), Kati Piri (NL) Rovana Plumb (RO), Eero Heinäluoma (FI)-Treasurer.


Renew Europe (108 MEPs):

  • Dacian Ciolos (RO) elected leader, beating Sophie In t’Veld (NL) by 65 votes to 41. He is a former Romanian PM, Agriculture Commissioner and his new Plus party fought on a pro-European, anti-corruption ticket. Renew Europe replaces the former ALDE (Liberal) group.
  • VPs: Malik Azmani 1st VP (NL); Iskra Mihaylova (BG), Katalin Cesh (HU), Frédérique Ries (BE), Morten Lokkegaard (DK), Luis Garicano (ES), Dominique Riquet (FR) and Martin Horwood (UK)


Greens (75 MEPs):

  •  Ska Keller (DE) and Philippe Lamberts (BE) were re-elected as co-presidents.
  • VPs: Alyn Smith (GB): 1st VP and President European Free Alliance (EFA), Bas Eickhout (NL) VP and Treasurer, Terry Reintke (DE), Ernest Urtasun (ES), Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield (FR), Molly Scott Cato (GB), Alice Bah Kuhnke (SE)


Identity & Democracy (73 MEPs):

  • Marco Zanni (IT) from the Lega was elected Chairman, with Nicolas Bay (FR) from Rassemblement National as deputy. ID replaces the former far-right ENF group.
  • They have MEPs from 9 Member States – the Italian Lega (28) and French RN (22) dominate, with the addition of 11 German AfD from the EFDD group, 1 Dane and 2 Finns from the ECR and the far-right Estonian EKRE.


ECR (63 MEPs)

  • Ryszard Legutko (PL) and Raffaele Fitto (IT) elected as co-leaders.
  • Jan Zahradil (CZ), who ran as their Spitzenkandidat for Commission President, will be their candidate for President of the European Parliament.
  • The Group announced that it now had 63 MEPs from 15 member states, with the 3 Spanish VOX MEPs as the latest recruits. The Flemish NV-A decided this week to remain within the ECR group.
  • VPs: Derk Jan Eppink (NL) Daniel Hannan  (UK) Assita Kanko (BE) Peter Lundgren (SE) Hermann Tertsch Del Valle-Lersundi (ES) Roberts Zile (LV). Co-Treasurers -Angel Dzhambazki  (BG) Kosma Zlotowski  (PL)

Latest developments in the Political Groups - 14 June

Latest developments in the Political Groups


(EP website 14/6/2019 – still no official list of elected MEPs)

EPP ( 179:  23.8%):

  • Manfred Weber was re-elected Group leader along with 10 Vice-Chairmen in order of preferential votes Dubravka Šuica (Hr), Esteban González Pons (Es), Ewa Kopacz (Pl), Siegfried Mureşan (Ro), Mairead Mcguinness (Ie), Esther De Lange (Nl), Arnaud Danjean (Fr), Andrey Kovatchev Bg), Evangelos Meimarakis (El), Paulo Rangel(Pt).

S&D (153 : 20.4%)

  • The Group will elect its leader on 18 June, with a contest between current leader Udo Bullmann (DE) and Iratxe Garcia Perez (ES). The new leader will set out their priorities in a press conference on Wednesday 19 June.

Renew Europe (106: 14.1%)

  • Former ALDE group re-named Renew Europe – dropping the name “liberal” from the title to please the new French members.
  • New leader will be elected on 19 June with Sophie in ‘t Veld (NL) and Fredrick Federley (SE) as declared candidates (both to the left of the Group) and Daclan Cioloş (RO) and Nicola Beer (DE) as possible runners. Nathalie Loiseau, head of Macron’s Renaissance list, has decided not to run following controversy over alleged derogatory remarks about the group. One consequence of this, according to new British Liberal MEP Chris Davies, is that it reduces his chances of being Chairman of ENVI, which he hints is more likely to go to En Marche.

Greens (75: 10%)

  •  Ska Keller (DE) and Philippe Lamberts (BE) were re-elected as co-presidents.
  • The Group currently has 75 members (full list here) and elected the following Vice-Presidents to sit on their Bureau: Alyn Smith (GB): 1st VP and President European Free Alliance (EFA), Bas Eickhout (NL) VP and Treasurer, Terry Reintke (DE), Ernest Urtasun (ES), Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield (FR), Molly Scott Cato (GB), Alice Bah Kuhnke (SE)
  • New members include 3 Czech pirates, German Volt and German Die Partei

Identity & Democracy (73: 9.7%)

  • The old Le Pen /Salvini group, Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) has been re-named Identity and Democracy (ID)
  • Marco Zanni (IT) from the Lega was elected Chairman, with Nicolas Bay (FR) from Rassemblement National as deputy
  • They have MEPs from 9 Member States – the Italian Lega (28) and French RN (22) dominate, with the addition of 11 German AfD from the EFDD group, 1 Dane and 2 Finns from the ECR and the far-right Estonian EKRE.

ECR (61: 8.1%)

  • The Group will elect its new leader on 19 June
  • They have new members from Dutch FvD (3), German Family party and Greek solution

EFDD (43: 5.7%)

  • The Group’s future is in doubt as 5 Star have indicated they don’t want to sit with Farage’s Brexit party but have so far no other group to join
  • In February 5 Star tried to form a new movement but only the new Croatian and Polish parties won seats.. They are currently trying to get the support of a number of non-affiliated independent MEPs in order to meet the threshold of 25 MEPs from 7 countries to form a group
  • The EFDD have already lost the German AfD who have joined Salvini’s ID group and former members from Czech Svobodní, the French Les Patriotes, Lithuanian Order and Justice and the Polish KORWiN all failed to be re-elected.
  • Farage has said his Brexit party will not sit with Salvini and Le Pen

GUE (38: 5%)

  • Have added 2 new Members from Belgian PTB and Danish Red-Green Alliance

Others (23)

  • 9 MEPs in the Non-Inscrits and 14 still to be placed including Vox (ECR or ID?) and the 2 Catalan independents (Greens?)


Negotiations on a future work programme

The 4 main political groups who are likely to determine the pro-EU future agenda (EPP, S&D, ALDE, V) started work on 13 June to try and find common ground on priorities in a future work programme. They only have one week to find some form of agreement, with the aim of presenting their work (one page per group) to EU leaders who are meeting on 20/21 June to adopt the Strategic Agenda 2019-2024. Greenpeace have already leaked the latest version of the Strategic Agenda, criticising it for not being ambitious enough on the climate (objective of climate neutrality but no date) and no mention of the CAP or transport.

The names of the group negotiators gives some early indication of who the key players will be in each of the 5 subject areas. While the EPP, Socialists and Greens have gone for well known, experienced MEPs, the Liberal choice indicates the upheaval in the old ALDE group as they seek new direction. The Liberal list includes first time MEPs who are heads of national lists like Luis Garicano (ALDE/ES), Nicola Beer (ALDE/DE) and Malik Azmani (NL) and the return of MEPs like Chris Davies (GB).

  1. Environment and biodiversity, sustainable mobility, fighting climate change and zero waste, food, health.
  • EPP: Siegfried Muresan (RO) Peter Liese (DE)
  • S&D : Kathleen Van Brempt (BE) Éric Andrieu (FR)
  • ALDE: Pascal Canfin (FR) Chris Davies (GB-new)
  • V : Yannick Jadot (FR)  Bas Eickhout (NL)
  1. Economic and social policy, jobs, trade, competition policy and industrial policy, taxation, EMU [Economic and Monetary Union] reform.
  • EPP: Esther de Lange (NL) José Manuel Fernandes (PT)
  • S&D : Roberto Gualtieri (IT)  Nicolas Schmit (LUX-new)
  • ALDE : Nils Torvalds (FI)  Luis Garicano (ES-new)
  • V: Molly Scott Cato (GB)  Sven Giegold  (DE)
  1. Innovation, digitalization, AI, single market, consumer protection.
  • EPP: Mairead McGuinness (IE)  Jan Olbrycht (PL)
  • S&D: Miapetra Kumpula-Natri (FI)  Agnes Jongerius (NL)
  • ALDE : Dita Charanzova (CZ)  Nicola Beer (DE -new)
  • V : Tilly Metz (LUX) Michèle Rivasi (FR)
  1. Rule of law and fundamental rights, security, fight against terrorism, border and migration.
  • EPP:  Esteban Gonzalez Pons (ES)  Roberto Metsola (MT)
  • S&D : Claude Moraes (GB)  Sylvie Guillaume (FR)
  • ALDE : Malik Azmani (NL – new) Dragus Tudorache (RO – new))
  • V : Terry Reintke (DE)  Ernest Urtasun (ES)
  1. Europe in the world, development, defence, multilateralism, EU Africa relations, enlargement.”
  • EPP: Arnaud Danjean (FR) David McAllister (DE)
  • S&D : Javi Lopez (ES)  Jeppe Kofod (DK), Bernd Lange (DE)
  • ALDE : Urmas Paet (EE) Hilde Vautmans (BE)
  • V : Heidi Hautala (FI)  Reinhard Bütikofer (DE)

Ten take-aways from European Parliament elections

1.Good turnout adds democratic legitimacy:
turnout passed the symbolic 50% mark, an 8% increase on 2014. Calls to get out the vote, echoed by many business leaders, clearly worked and young voters in particular responded.

2.Only a Rainbow Coalition will be able to command a comfortable majority:
the “Green wave” might not have materialised across the whole of Europe, but they now look part of any pro-EU centre deal that will require the weakened EPP and Socialists to work with the rejuvenated Liberals and Greens. Together they should command two-thirds of the House and deliver the stable majority needed to thwart the influence of the extremes. Without the Greens, EPP/SD/ALDE can only command 58% which probably won’t be enough to secure a comfortable majority.

3.Green wave surprise of the night and with a coherent and focused programme they are likely to make their mark in the next legislative term:
Green gains in Germany and France saw the Group reach the top end of its ambitions with 70 seats and they will look to influence the EU’s future priorities and demand positions of influence. Green MEPs have consistently punched above their weight thanks to hard-working, diligent members who know how to work the system. Compared to other groups, they are looking coherent and focused.

4.The centre-right (EPP) and centre-left (S&D) are no longer in the driving seat and will have to adapt to a new reality of compromise with other parties:
the two traditional groups didn’t just fall below 50% for the first time, as expected, but ended up with a combined total of only 44%. Their days of sharing out top jobs between them are over and they’ll need to adapt to the new reality of compromising with the Liberals and Greens to win majorities. The Socialists dramatic fall in Germany was offset by good showings in Spain and Italy and the gap with the EPP is smaller than expected. More reason for the EPP to want to keep Orban on board.

5.ALDE +++ in search of a name and cohesion:
the Greens’ relative cohesion contrasts markedly with the new centre Liberal Group whose working name of ALDE+Renaissance+USR Plus indicates how much this is an untested coalition of newcomers, including former Romanian Commissioner Dacian Ciolos’ new USR party. There will be tough internal talks ahead to ensure their new strength – passing the symbolic 100 seat mark- is not diluted by internal wrangling. However, they will no longer accept being treated as the junior partner and will expect jobs and influence to match their increased numbers.

6.Policy priorities will reflect Liberal/Green gains:
the candidate for  Commission President will need to do their homework on the respective Green and Liberal/Renaissance manifestos. Expect climate action, fair taxation, a more assertive trade policy (ie sign up to Paris) and the spotlight to fall on transparency and lobbying. French Greens have already called for citizens committees to hold Brussels to account.

7.Populists do well but no breakthrough:
As expected the far-right saw impressive results in France and Italy, with Le Pen recording a symbolic victory over Macron (even though she actually lost a seat) and Salvini romping home in Italy. Poor results in Germany, Denmark, Netherlands and Spain will have dampened any thoughts of a major breakthrough or dreams of a far-right super group. Despite the headlines, their influence on the day-to-day operation of the parliament and its committees will remain limited.

8.Weber’s presidency hopes in trouble:
Although the EPP emerged as the largest group yet again, they are weakened by the loss of 40 seats and will need to do some hard bargaining if they are to find a majority for Weber in the European Council as well as the Parliament. EP Group leaders will meet on Tuesday to demand negotiations with Donald Tusk to ensure EU leaders don’t run ahead with the Commission nomination process without consulting them. The European Council is hoping to agree a nomination by its next meeting on 20-21 June – don’t hold your breath!

9.Brexit just became even more complicated:
the combination of 29 mini-Farage’s (plus the man himself) and a more hard line Tory Prime Minister, will concentrate the minds of EU leaders on how they can possibly avoid, in President Macron’s words, the UK situation “polluting” the EU’s future agenda. Brexit MEPs will make a nuisance of themselves but have little impact. If the UK does leave at the end of October and the EP reverts to its revised size of 705 MEPs, the big winners are France and Spain with 5 seats each – so more seats for Le Pen and Spanish Socialists.
10.Casualties in Greece and Italy on election night:
Greece was the first country to signal that the election results would lead to a snap general election, probably at the end of June, that could see the centre-right New Democracy replace Syriza – and get to nominate the Greek Commissioner. Italy may also follow suit as the 5 Star Movement on 17% slip further behind their coalition partners, the League on 34%. Can Salvini resist the chance to rule alone?

The European Parliament - keeping it in the family Copy


The European Parliament elections are becoming a family affair with a number of candidates gaining attention due to more famous family members. The British lists, assembled in haste, contain two candidates better known for their famous brothers. In the new ChangeUK party, campaigning for a 2nd referendum and to stay inside the EU, is Rachel Johnson, the sister of PM-in- waiting, Boris Johnson. Dad Stanley, a Tory MEP and Commission official in young Boris’ childhood, was also keen to stand but didn’t make it high enough up the list. The other new party making headlines in the UK is Nigel Farage’s Brexit party, which has arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister, Annunziata, in a leading position.

Italy has a 2nd member of the infamous Mussolini clan standing. Caio Giulio Cesare Mussolini, is the great-grandson of the fascist dictator and is running as a candidate for the far-right Brothers of Italy party, which will sit with the ECR group. His cousin, Alessandra Mussolini, is already an MEP with Forza Italia and expected to be re-elected. No other known descendants of Julius Caesar are in the running.

The far right in France has always been a Le Pen dynasty and Marine Le Pen’s list for the Rassemblement National now includes her brother-in-law, Philippe Olivier. Her partner, Louis Aliot, however has been dropped from the list apparently to avoid claims of nepotism and her ambitious niece, Marion Maréchal, is still being kept at a distance.

GREENS 13 MEPs - up 7


  • Europe Ecologie-Les Verts (Green Party)  wins 13 seats :
    1. Yannick Jadot
    2. Michèle Rivasi
    3. Damien Carême
    4. Marie Toussaint
    5. David Cormand
    6. Karima Delli
    7. Mounir Satouri
    8. Caroline Roose
    9. François Alfonsi
    10. Salima Yenbou
    11. Benoit Biteau
    12. Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield
    13. Pending Brexit: Claude Gruffat

Not standing: José Bové, Pascal Durand, Eva Joly