After lengthy negotiations, the puzzle of the new leadership of the European Union is almost tidy. However, despite efforts to balance geographically and politically since the European Parliament elections in May, there are some clear winners and losers in the distribution of key leadership positions.
The winners were able to place their allies in strategic places allowing them to influence the outcome of the policy-making process over the next five years. Losers will not have such influence and will have to make more efforts to push through their proposals.
An analysis of VoteWatch shows which national groups of MEPs and national parties have received the most important posts in the legislature and compare the strength of key national parties in the European Parliament with their power/representation in other institutions (European Commission, Council of the European Union).
The Germans – the best represented, the Czechs – the most successful in proportion
Overall, the German national group receives the best result in terms of leadership in the European Parliament, which is not surprising, given that it is the largest national group in the institution with 96 members.
Germany has received three Vice-Presidency posts in the European Parliament. Manfred Weber heads the Group of the European People’s Party. The co-chairs of the Greens and European United Left / Nordic United Left groups and the Vice-Chair of the Socialist and Democrat Group are Germans.
In addition, the German MEPs (mainly from the bloc Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union) are headed by five committees – International Trade, Agriculture and Rural Development, Budgetary Control, Foreign Affairs, and Culture and Education.
But considering the size of the national delegations, the Germans are slightly less successful than the other three groups – the Czechs, the Portuguese, and the Romanians.
Czech MEPs (their delegation consists of a total of 21 people) are two of the Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament, deputy heads of several key economic committees (on economic and monetary affairs, international trade, employment, and social affairs and budgetary control), and coordinators in several different political groups. This is pretty much for a relatively small delegation like the Czech Republic, which puts it above average in the European Parliament. (What does a coordinator mean – political groups appoint coordinators on each committee, who act as key spokespersons for the group in the committee and, together with all other coordinators, prepare the committee’s decisions; they can mobilize group members during important votes.)
The Portuguese MEPs (21 in total) are slightly behind the Czechs. Their national group has one MEP and six committee chairs (on economic and monetary affairs, internal market and consumer protection, employment and social affairs, agriculture and rural development, budgets, fisheries). Portuguese as Deputy Leader of the Group of the European People’s Party, as well as two Vice-Chairmen of the European United Left / Nordic Green Left.
Romanians (32 in total) are the national group, which achieves the third-highest (in proportion) result for leadership in the European Parliament. Among the reasons for this is that Romanian MEPs are concentrated in the three most influential groups in the EP, which receive the most important positions in the institution – the EPP, Socialists and Democrats, and “Renew Europe” (its chairman is Dacian Cioloş). The EPP and Socialist and Democrat Vice-Presidents are Siegfried Mureşan (he was the EU Commissioner-designate) and Rovana Plumb (Romania’s first EU Commissioner-designate, but the European Parliament rejected it because of a conflict of interest).
Adina Yoana Valyan (now a Commissioner-designate) was elected to chair the influential Committee on Industry, Research, and Energy. She was one of only two heads of committees in Central and Eastern Europe.
The French gain influence, the Italians and the British lose
Like Germany, other large delegations in the European Parliament also have good results in absolute terms (because they have many MEPs). But unlike the Germans, the proportional results of other large national groups are not very high.
The French (74 people in total) are performing alongside the average for the European Parliament, which is an improvement over the previous term and is mainly due to the key role of their delegation in Renewable Europe. One explanation for the weak leadership influence in the previous term is that the French were not very large in any group except the right-wing nationalists. That has changed since the May elections with the creation of the liberal-centric “Renew Europe” group.
There are no French presidents in the new European Parliament, but four French chairs committees (on the environment, public health, and food safety, regional development, transport and tourism, security, and defense). French MEPs are in the leadership of all political groups except the European Conservatives and Reformists, the only group without the French. Mano Aubrey is co-chair of the European United Left / Nordic Green Left, and the French are Vice-President of the EPP, Socialists, and Democrats, Renew Europe, Greens / European Free Alliance, Identity and Democracy.
Although European Parliament Speaker David Sasolli is an Italian (as before – Antonio Tajani), the Italian national group of 73 MEPs, overall, has less weight in terms of leadership in the institution. There is a decline in her influence, with the explanation being that the largest Italian party, the far-right “League”, is a member of the “Identity and Democracy” group and was prevented from gaining leadership because of the “sanitary border” formed by the other political groups.
The second-largest Italian party, the Democratic Party, lost its hegemony in the Socialists and Democrats group, and the third-largest, the Five Star Movement, is not a member of any group.
However, some Italians still hold important positions, such as the Vice-President of the European Parliament Fabio Massimo Castaldo, the President of Identity and Democracy Marco Zani, the Co-President of the European Conservatives and Reformists Rafael Fito and the Vice-President of the Socialists and Democrats Simona Bonafe.
Two committee heads are from Italy (on economic and monetary matters – Irene Tinagli and constitutional issues – Antonio Tajani).
Such dynamics explain the very low average score (third in the back) and the British MEPs (73 in total). One explanation is that the largest British national party in the EP is independent (29 members of the Brexit Party) and therefore excluded from the distribution of leadership positions. Moreover, given Brexit, political groups have chosen to avoid raising too many Britons to senior positions, as they are expected to leave the EP before the next redeployment.
The main exception is the Liberal Democrats (the second-largest national group in Renewable Europe), who received two leadership positions in committees (on fisheries and legal issues).
Lithuanians (11 people in total), Slovenians (8), and Cypriots (6) have the lowest result if the British are excluded. It is interesting to note that most low-scoring delegations are from the Member States that acceded to the European Union in 2004 or after that. However, this seems to be a relatively new development. In the past, MEPs from Central and Eastern Europe have been well represented in the leadership of the European Parliament.
The analysis also looks at the performance of individual national parties in terms of senior positions in the European Parliament. This is where the most influential come from the largest Member States, as they can rely on more places and are usually the dominant national groups in their respective European political families.
However, positive links with other political groups are also important. In spite of a large number of seats, right-wing nationalist parties, such as the Italian League, were not given any role in the institution because of the “sanitary border” around them.
Unsurprisingly, the German CDU / CSU bloc remains the strongest formation in the European Parliament. Its MEPs have the highest combined result for leadership positions. The Germans managed to use their position as the largest national delegation in the largest group in the EP to make up a significant share of the leadership positions in the committees given to the ERA (agriculture and rural development, budgetary control, culture, and education, foreign affairs ).
In addition, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s MEPs coordinate the EPP Group in eight committees, some of which are among the most important in the European Parliament – Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, Industry, Research and Energy, Internal Market and Protection consumer, economic and monetary matters.
The CDU / CSU received the leadership of the EPP in the person of Manfred Weber and one of the Vice-Presidents in the institution – for Rainer Wiland.
The party’s strong influence in the EP also coincides with strong positions in the European Commission (future President Ursula von der Layen is a former German defense minister).
Despite the gradual weakening of the Union at a national level, the CDU / CSU remains the most influential national bloc at the EU level so far, which can be explained by the even more severe weakening of traditional parties from other countries.
The French MEPs of Emmanuel Macron, united in the Renaissance group, are the second most influential leaders in the EP, taken as a single group (they belong to different centrist parties). While still far removed from the influence of the CDU / CSU, they were able to use their dominant position in the Renewable Europe Group to gain strong representation at the committee level – heading the largest committee in the European Parliament (Environment, Public Health, and food safety) and the Security and Defense Committee.
Macron’s MEPs have been deputy chairpersons in essential committees such as those on international trade and economic and monetary affairs.
However, the French did not receive either a leadership post in Renewable Europe or within the EP Bureau (their representation there is limited to a Quaestor).
At the same time, a more stable majority at the national level, compared to the unstable coalition in Germany, gives Macron a stronger say in the Council of the European Union.
In the Socialist and Democratic group, there is not so clear dominance of a particular national party. Still leading are MEPs of Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, as the Spanish Socialist Workers Party is the largest Social Democratic formation in the new European Parliament and heads the group in the face of Iraqi Garcia Perez.
Her MEP is head of one of the most important committees – Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. Thanks to the good presentation of the European Parliament elections in May, the Spanish Socialists consolidated their position in both the European Parliament and the European Commission. The big challenge for them is to strengthen their position at the national level as well.
The Italian Democratic Party closely follows the Spaniards as the second most represented party in the Socialist and Democrats group in the leadership of the European Parliament. President Sasoli was the MEP of this party. The Italian Democrats will be very influential on economic issues because both the chairman of the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs in the European Parliament and the future commissioner of the economy are party members. This is a rather interesting development for the formation that was in opposition in Italy until a few months ago.
The success of the German Greens in the recent European elections
The success of the German Greens in the recent European elections has further strengthened their position as the largest green party in the European Parliament. The Germans are the main leader in the group, and one of them – Ska Keller – was re-elected as its co-chair.
The German Greens also received an additional Vice-President of the Greens / European Free Alliance and coordinators / co-coordinators in several committees, including on economic and monetary matters, budgets, civil liberties, justice, and home affairs. In this way, the party will be able to influence the direction of a European political family that has never had so much weight.
However, the leadership role of the German Greens in the institution is generally limited. However, they have received some Vice-Chair positions in committees such as those on employment and social affairs and legal affairs. They are not represented in any other European institutions because they do not participate in the government in Berlin.
By contrast, the Polish Law and Justice party have a strong presence in other institutions of the European Union. With the Commissioner for Agriculture and the renewed majority in the Polish Parliament, she will be among the leading conservative votes during the new legislative cycle. The Poles are the largest national group in the European Conservatives and Reformists. They hold the Group’s management and coordinating positions in 10 committees, including the Internal Market and Consumer Protection, Industry, Research and Energy, Budgets, Regional Development and Employment and Social Affairs.
This is not the position of the party in terms of leadership roles in the institution as a whole because of the “sanitary frontier” formed by “Renewable Europe” and left-wing groups, which has prevented Polish conservatives from heading the key committee on employment and social affairs. This also means that the party’s influence within the European Parliament will depend heavily on the strength of its party – European Conservatives and Reformists – the more cohesive it is, the more its Polish leadership will be able to exercise.