La elección del Parlamento Europeo, órgano de representación democrática directa de los europeos junto a los parlamentos nacionales y cada vez con mayor protagonismo en la arquitectura política de la Unión Europea, es un desafío en sí mismo. Del equilibrio y la diversidad que represente el futuro Parlamento, dependerá el sentido de muchas decisiones políticas en los próximos años. Pero, además, tras un largo periodo de recuperación económica y política, Europa debe ahora redefinir y reforzar su papel en el escenario global multipolar y, debe realizarlo haciendo más fuerte su proceso de integración, más ágil su contacto con la ciudadanía y más firme su compromiso con los valores democráticos y atlánticos.
Elections for the European Parliament, the direct democratic representation of Europeans, in addition to national parliaments, a body with increasing protagonism in the political architecture of the European Union, is a challenge in and of itself. The fate of many political decisions to be made over the course of the next few years depends on the balance and diversity represented in the future Parliament. However, after a long period of economic and political recovery, Europe must now redefine and reinforce its role on the global multipolar stage, and it must do so by making its integration process stronger, streamlining its contact with citizens, and reinforcing its commitment to democratic and Atlantic values.
The successful democratic Europe that we have built on the principle of shared, liberal, united, and humanistic sovereignty since its conception, the one that has endured the financial crisis and attacks from populism, spoke on May 26 to say through its votes that the European democratic project clearly and irrefutably prevailed over uncertainty and euroscepticism. The European People’s Party, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe maintained European Parliamentary leadership with a combined total of 436 members. These results bolster globalization in Europe, as well as the free market, social policies, and respect for diversity and environmental sustainability, also confirmed in these elections with the increase in Green party members, who now have 70 seats.
In a fractured campaign conditioned by intra-state tensions due to Brexit and populism, the victory of the proposals championed by the large families of the pro-European center right and Christian democrats; socialists and social democrats, liberals and greens entail the reactivation of the community’s future, and the consolidation of an idea of Europe based on the principles that made the union the political entity with the largest supranational democratic development in history. A Europe for Europeans and by Europeans, credible and realized in democratic institutions and, as it always has been, open to the incorporation of new states and citizens.
Nevertheless, the challenge of these elections goes beyond the legacy of the past and the medium-term outlook. Today, the European Union is considering its own essence and raison d’être, within the context of a world of large powers with sizable demographic and territorial dimensions and cooperation and global relations strategies, powers that are highly sophisticated, technologically competitive, and politically uncertain. In this historic period, the force of populism, the myopia of particularism, and the influence of international tensions have contributed to the blurring of the pro-European and transcendent significance of these elections and the European project itself. And within that project that has been blurred for years, different ways of understanding Europe have found their political space. In some cases they are led by parties and movements that promote and work toward weakening the union’s dynamism and propose a different Europe, a weak one.
They stand for the divisive and eurosceptic trends that, as in the case of Brexit, have prioritized particular national interests over continuing progress on the integration process. They include local minorities and pro-independence groups that seek to find in Europe what they cannot find in their constitutions and consider institutions a refuge or a political alternative to continue working on their own strategies to make demands and reconfigure the existing legal framework. They also include the new ultra-conservative forces that aim to take advantage of Brexit to intimidate the alleged bureaucrats in Brussels, but in the end they use the European Union for their own national interests. And, of course, they include far right groups that talk of building a “new Europe” because they do not feel comfortable in the one we live in today.
The success of Salvini in Italy, Farage in the United Kingdom, and Le Pen in France undoubtedly confirm that europhobic populism continues to fester like an open wound upon a very diverse European body. Although these political options do not constitute an alternative to the project, they continue to express themselves through disparate ideas and parties that are very separate despite the attempts of certain interests, and Salvini himself, to join forces. Eurosceptics and critics were already divided into different minority groups in the previous Parliament, which grouped more nationalistic conservatives on the one hand, and anti-European populists on the other – the British UKIP with Italy’s Five Star Movement – in an odd sort of anti-European Addams Family. This legislature, greater cohesion of these groups does not look at all easy to achieve.
The triumph of pro-European parties should be cause for reflection for the people who have financed and promoted the weakening of democracy through the weakening of the European Union in the last few years. They now have the opportunity to sit back and wait for better times, or to gather strength to fight against a historic current of success and peaceful coexistence represented by the European project.
But the European Union is not some far-off institution imposing savage policies to maintain its bureaucratic structure, directed by capital. Europe is a living, tangible economic reality that inspires confidence and security for its citizens and member states. The two economic and social challenges on the horizon are the development of the economic and monetary union through the banking union and the gradual tax harmonization and push from Social Europe to remedy the effects of the hard recovery. Pro-European countries will have to balance both challenges from an understanding that the generation of wealth allows for its redistribution, not the other way around. And that said wealth must be produced in euros and thanks to the strength of the euro, not outside the euro and due to its weakness, as left-wing populists claimed at the beginning of the financial crisis almost a decade ago. The drop below 40 seats of the European United Left, which includes these left-wing populists and other traditional extremists, seems to reflect that the Europe of endless protest has yielded to a centralized, strong European Union able to provide solutions. Nevertheless, the time to transfer the success of the results to the complexity of the negotiations on institutional burdens and balances is steadily approaching. After that will come the time to redefine the dimensions and direction of the Europe that we wish to project on that global environment, where western liberal order is being questioned. Nevertheless, as was made clear on May 26, democracy may be a key element to strengthening it.