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Spotlight: "Noisier" European Parliament likely to see "minority bloc" led by Salvini and Le Pen
Last Updated: 2019-05-27 23:38 | Xinhua
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The European Union (EU) is likely to see a "noisier" legislature after the elections strengthened the hands of Eurosceptics, particularly in France and Italy, where they would form a "minority bloc" to shape EU priorities, according to experts.

In France, the National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen, a long-time outspoken critic of the European bloc, currently leads the polls at 23.3 percent with a one-percentage edge over President Emmanuel Macron's En Marche movement.

In Italy, the eurosceptic League led by Interior Minister Matteo Salvini won one-third of the votes, marking a huge leap compared to 6.15 percent reached in the 2014 European Parliament elections.

"What is striking is that in two founding EU member states, Italy and France, the eurosceptics and populists are leading and in France this is particularly bad because French President Macron put Europe at the center of its electoral campaign. It is clear now that Le Pen and Salvini will be an attraction pole for any other nationalist political party in the EU Parliament," Gianni Bonvicini, scientific advisor with the Istituto Affari Internazionali, told Xinhua.

Steven Blockmans, Senior Research Fellow and Head of Foreign Policy and of Institutions Unit at the think tank Center for European Policy Studies, however noted Macron's En Marche movement, had gone from "nothing to second in the overall ranking."

"It's often portrayed as having lost the elections, because Macron made this a referendum about himself and his policies since grabbing the presidency and the (national) parliament as well, which is of course true. If you look at the relative success of Marine Le Pen's National Rally, then yes they are the biggest, but Macron's En Marche lost by 1 percentage point, which is not a lot," Blockmans told Xinhua.


Within the European Parliament, legislators under Salvini and Le Pen are in the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) group.

Prior to polls, there were fears that the ENF and their fellow eurosceptics could upend the political landscape in the European Parliament.

Now that the results are out, their forces will not be big enough, Bonvicini said, but "they will be a good 'minority bloc' group able to stop some parliamentary decisions."

Nigel Farage's new Brexit party also did well in the elections, basing Tories and Labour in the United Kingdom.

"If indeed the Brexit party joins the wider alliance that Le Pen and Salvini and others have in mind, then that becomes a force to be reckoned with, beyond the topics that unite them," Blockmans said.

They would be bound to mark their stamp on topics from immigration, asylum to the future of the Schengen zone, and thereby able to move the needle more towards the right on those type of debates, Blockmans said.

It remains to be seen how united the eurosceptics would be in the new legislature.

"If at least they unite to obtain 33 percent of the votes in the European Parliament, then they can really block the policy initiatives" from international trade negotiations to budget negotiations, Blockmans said.

"So, whilst they haven't been able to meet expectations as pollsters had suggested prior to the European Parliamentary elections -- their ultimate number of seats is perhaps lower in that respect -- they will still put their stamp on the next European Parliament," he added.


For four decades, the European Parliament saw a "grand coalition" of the center-right and the center-left, where the two groups control over half seats of the legislature.

This year, both of them -- the European People's Party (EPP) group and the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) -- lost seats, depriving them of a majority for the first time.

Specifically, the EPP are now projected to win 180 seats and S&D 145 seats. Together they make up less than half of the 751-member legislature.

Centrist group ALDE&R and the Greens came in third and fourth, with 109 and 69 seats projected respectively.

"The EU decision making process will be slower because the EU parliament is now very fragmented and a new majority will have to be found among the different groups," Bonvicini said.

"It will certainly be a noisier European Parliament, which is, conversely, perhaps a more proper reflection of voters' attitudes around Europe than the composition of the previous parliament," Blockmans said.

"The further fragmentation of political parties indicates that Europe will have difficulties in building consensus among public opinions, as well as in identifying a new generation of EU leaders," Gu Xuewu, Director of the Center for Global Studies at Bonn University, told Xinhua.


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Spotlight: "Noisier" European Parliament likely to see "minority bloc" led by Salvini and Le Pen
Source:Xinhua | 2019-05-27 23:38
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