It’s ugly. It’s worrisome. It’s dangerous. The election results with extreme right wing parties arriving in first place in many European countries is proof of the bankruptcy of the European Union as we have known it. If Europe continues with its intergovernmentalism, which satisfies no one and prevents political change, the European Union will be dissolved and liquidated within 10 years.
These election results have shown that the citizens of Europe do not want to be ruled by unaccountable bureaucrats or by Mrs. Merkel and her obedient poodles. The people have screamed: listen to us in our despair! We want change! The question is now who will bring the change?
The strength of this European election was, no doubt, that for the first time electing a Parliament really seemed to matter. Political parties have presented their candidates for the next president of the European Commission which is after all the closest we have to a European executive. This may explain why participation was higher this time than 5 years ago. Nothing would now be a greater betrayal than going back on the promise that the candidate with the largest majority will become the new president.
Merkel and Cameron have repeatedly put in question that the European Parliament has the right to decide. And yet, the Treaty is clear. Article 17 says:
Taking into account the elections to the European Parliament and after having held the appropriate consultations, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall propose to the European Parliament a candidate for President of the Commission. This candidate shall be elected by the European Parliament by a majority of its component members. If he does not obtain the required majority, the European Council, acting by a qualified majority, shall within one month propose a new candidate who shall be elected by the European Parliament following the same procedure.
Hence, it is the Parliament that elects the Commission President, not the Council of Heads of State and Governments. Like the Queen in the United Kingdom proposes to the House of Commons whom they ought to elect as Prime Minister, so the European Council is to propose to the Parliament who should become the next Commission President.
But who should be the man (the Greens have a female candidate, but only 59 seats of 751 i.e. 7.9%)? The answer is clear. The European People’s Party (EPP) is the strongest group with 211 seats (28.1%) and their candidate is Jean-Claude Juncker. The European Socialists with Martin Schulz come second with 193 seats. Hence, they have lost.
One could argue that if the Socialists were to form a coalition with other parties, they could claim the top job in accordance with the Treaty. But this does not work. The absolute majority is 376 seats. A red-green coalition would only control 267 seats and if they took the extreme left on board, it would still be only 314 seats. The same impossibility to form a majority exists on the democratic right. A coalition of PPE and Liberals is 91 seats short of a majority, and even if they were joined by the Greens, they would need another 32 votes. Hence, because the anti-European extreme right occupies 167 seats (22.2%), left or right wing majorities are impossible in this Parliament.
Democrats must respect the verdict of the people. There is only one possibility how the will of citizens can be respected. The European Socialists must declare immediately that they will support Jean-Claude Juncker as the next President of the Commission. Together these two parties have an absolute majority, but Liberals and Greens are likely to vote for the candidate of the majority as well. They must do this, for otherwise national governments will seize the opportunity and nip the tender beginnings of European democracy in the bud.
It is not beautiful. Jean-Claude Juncker is a man of the establishment who has not campaigned for a great reform of the European Union, but his political group got the most votes and democrats ought to respect that. On the other hand, I do not recommend that this support will become a Grosse Koalition, a formal alliance between the two biggest parties. European politics and policies must change. European Socialists must present an alternative to the conservative mainstream which has ruled us for decades. For this reason it is paramount that the center-left parties maintain strong pressures for a different Europe, for social equality, for effective welfare, for democracy. After fending off the partial interests of nations, parties in the European Parliament must become the defender of the common good that all European citizens share.
What Europe now needs is not more of national governments messing up Europe. Enough of Merkel, Sarkozy, Hollande, Berlusconi, Samaras, Cameron and Orban. Let Europeans govern Europeans. That is democracy, that is liberty and equality. That is the way forward for Europe.