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May 28, 2019

Greens in EP boosted by numbers and national politics

An unprecedented alignment of political circumstances at the federal and national level of European politics has propelled the Greens, a mid-sized group in the new European Parliament, into a political arbitrage position of potentially serious influence. This is despite the fact that Greens will rank after the EPP, the S&D, and the new Alde/Macron group. With a few exceptions, Green parties have so far lacked any substantial political presence in the south and east of the EU, a political reality that even the latest wave of stunning European electoral success has not changed.

But last week’s elections still gave them unprecedented leverage. The most important factor here is the demise of the EPP-S&D duopoly, forcing both to seek allies. This will hand a potentially pivotal role both to the centrist-liberal group and the Greens. This political quartet will co-shape European political outcomes in the five years to come.

Like the Greens, the centrist-liberals have already staked a claim to a seat at the high table of European parliamentary politics. Numerically, once the French Macronista MEPs have joined the Alde liberals, they will be the stronger political force. But we expect the Greens, an established political group with a comparatively strong degree of cohesion that has learned to manage its internal differences, to be potentially more quickly effective as a political fighting force in the crucial coming weeks and months of negotiation over support for the nominee to the succession of Jean-Claude Juncker.

The future leadership of the Greens in the EP will be constituted of MEPs who know each other well. The dominance of German and French MEPs is something the EP greens are well used to. One of the two lead candidates in the EP elections, Ska Keller, has mentioned a higher taxation on airline fuel, an investment programme into a network of European overnight trains, and higher costs for the emission of CO2 as possible Green asks in exchange for support for the next European Commission and its president. It remains to be seen how quickly the new liberal-centrist group can agree and articulate a list of concrete policy proposals beyond a first long wish-list published yesterday.

But it is not just the federal policy level that favours an unprecedented Green power bid in the wake of last week’s elections. We note that Macron has announced he would strengthen the green policy components of his government’s domestic policy, and the unexpectedly strong showing of the French green list will be part of Macron’s re-election calculus in 2022. In Germany, the Green party is emerging as the second political force after the CDU, with the Christian Democrats politically as plausible a coalition partner as the increasingly embattled SPD. The governments of the EU’s two most powerful member states have every electoral and political interest in demonstrating support for a Green agenda, a fact that we expect will further strengthen the potential impact of the Green group in the next EP. 

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