EU Friday – 3 May

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EU Friday

Welcome to Better Europe’s weekly update on EU Affairs.


Six weeks before the elections, EPP lead candidate and current Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was already forced to show her colours on potential cooperation with hard right conservative groups such as the ECR. At a first debate amongst eight “Spitzenkandidaten” in Maastricht on 30 April, she defended her legacy and launched her Ursula 2024 campaign. Pushed about the likeliness of her tying up with the ECR, she indicated being open to a deal with the group, depending “on how the competition of the Parliament is and who is in what group”. The ECR group is composed of Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia, Andrzej Duda’s Law and Justice and Eric Zemmour’s Reconquête, among others. President von der Leyen seems to have excluded working with far-right Identity and Democracy group, which includes the German AfD and the French Rassemblement National. An alliance between the EPP with ECR would likely mean a big shift to the right for EU policymaking, especially on climate, social rights and migration. However, the cooperation is clearly still to materialise, as lead candidate for the socialists Commissioner Nicolas Schmit, whose support is required for von der Leyen to receive a comfortable majority in the Parliament, excluded supporting a programme negotiated with the ECR.


The main question remains whether a deal between the EPP and ECR is actually needed to form a stable majority in the European Parliament. Since 1999, the EPP has been the largest group in the European Parliament, but even before it was the tandem of S&D and EPP, and their respective predecessors, who have been the basis for majorities in European decision-making. And ever since, every election has seen predictions of a massive shift to the right, which is happening this year again but again not to the level where the hard right becomes “incontournable”. At the same time, some ECR politicians are trying hard to become part of the establishment, with Dutch ECR MEP Michiel Hoogeveen saying he was always ready to work with other groups and engage in a constructive decision-making process, unlike the other group to the right of the EPP, the ID group. He made his statements at a CEPS event which appropriately questioned whether the “right-wing surge” is making commentators cry wolf (a false alarm), as the eloquent English expression goes. Or, as a recent CER analysis suggests, the impact of further shifts to the right “is unlikely to be immediately evident”, but it will be felt later as mainstream parties change their stance topics such as climate. The impact of the hard right is not happening on election day, or at the negotiations for supporting the new Commission immediately after – it has already happened.


The Civic Platform (EPP) and the Polish Left (S&D, the Left) have officially presented their lists for the European elections, which in Poland take place on 9 June. Law and Justice (ECR) is still to confirm its list. Among the Law and Justice candidates, there is one pardoned politician, Mariusz Kamiński, and a former director of the biggest Polish oil company, Orlen, Daniel Obajtek. Back in 2007, the Polish Bureau of Internal Affairs conducted an operation aiming at uncovering a corruption in the Land Ministry, for which multiple different documents were produced. This year, a Polish Regional Court has declared production of these documents illegal. Mariusz Kamiński, who was one of the two Internal Affairs Bureau’s Director back then, heard a legally binding jail sentence for his engagement in the scandal, yet he was pardoned by President Duda. Daniel Obajtek, a former Director of Orlen, is also a number one on the list in another region of Poland. But just this week, news emerged about an alleged 1,5 billion PLN oil deal with a potential Hezbollah representative – oil which never arrived in Poland.