For the first time in decades, neither the centrist Christian Democrats nor the left-leaning Social Democrats will have total control of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. When the new parliament convenes in early July, the old alliances that assured the continuity of the European project will be replaced by a new fractured membership, one that sees the nationalist and populist parties from across the 28-member bloc competing with the Greens, the socialists and the centrists to forge a new path.
Since the first six nations of the Common Market came together, grew to 10, then gradually enlarged and expanded the scope of political powers and developed step-by-step into the European Union, there was a commonality in the voices of those with a vision for Europe. The politics of consensus reigned, one where moderation and common sense were the watchwords.
The results from the 28 nations of the EU are in, and the new fractured parliament in Strasbourg will mean that consensus will be harder to find now. While more than 400 million Europeans were entitled to vote, only half chose to do so. Yes, there are now voices within that parliament who seek an end to the EU itself. Should that day ever come about, then the continent itself will have taken a giant step back towards old divisions and rivalries.
There are now strident nationalist voices and forces at play within the Strasbourg chamber. Yes, they have a right to be heard, but the primacy of the EU project must be ensuring that the member nations maintain free movement of goods, services and people, building on the prosperity provided by the world’s third-largest trading bloc.
Yes, it is easy to look at the extremists and populists who won seats. But that is only half of the story of these pan-European polls. Across Europe too, voters have looked at the future and embraced candidates and parties determined to make the future brighter, cleaner and greener.
Voters have said that they want to see urgent action on climate change, on greener policies, on making sure that the children enjoy clean air in an economy and society powered by renewable energy.
In the coming weeks, the MEPs will put together nominations for 28 new commissioners to head the day-to-day running of the EU administration. While that previously have been the domain of the centrists and socialists, they still have enough influence to work with the Greens to ensure the EU project won’t be derailed by populists.