these crucial battles which will begin behind the scenes in Brussels – L’Express

these crucial battles which will begin behind the scenes in

The 720 deputies who will make up the European Parliament are now known. However, this election alone is far from enough to understand the strategic directions that will be taken by the European Union for the next five years.

Several developments are now on the agenda of the various EU institutions, from the formation of groups in the European Parliament to the election of the President of the European Commission. Close-up on these future battles which will animate the heart of the European Union between now and the end of 2024.

From June 10: the formation of groups in the European Parliament

The composition of the deputies elected to the European Parliament is now known, and an equally crucial stage will now take place behind the scenes in Brussels: the constitution of the different political groups. Officially, the various elected political parties have until July 15 to form their groups, the date of the first plenary session of the new legislature. A political group in the European Parliament must be made up of at least 23 deputies, elected in at least seven different member states.

At the end of the last legislature, MEPs were divided into seven groups: the European People’s Party (176 elected), classified on the right; the social democrats (139 elected), on the center left; the Renew group (102 elected officials), liberals close to Emmanuel Macron; environmentalists and regionalists (72 elected officials); the European Conservatives and Reformists (69 elected), the nationalists behind the line of Georgia Meloni; the Identity and Democracy group (49 elected officials), on the far right and notably built around the MEPs of the National Rally. Without forgetting 61 non-registered MEPs.

If these political groups should remain largely identical for the coming legislature, it is their new political weight which could completely transform the balance. The results of this Sunday’s vote confirmed the expected trends, with a large breakthrough of the various far-right political parties across Europe, a clear decline of the liberal parties, but also of the environmentalists.

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However, a big uncertainty remains: that concerning alliances with the European extreme right. This was until now split into two groups, one dominated by the National Rally, the other by Georgia Meloni’s party “Fratelli d’Italia”. Marine le Pen has increased her appeals to the Italian Prime Minister in recent weeks in the hope of creating a sovereignist and nationalist supergroup in the European Parliament. If it were to see the light of day, and depending on the extent of its composition, it could even become the second political force in Brussels and Strasbourg, ahead of the socialists. But Georgia Meloni is also courted by part of the right, including the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen herself. This great alliance with the extreme right (or not) should in any case help to see things much more clearly over the next five years.

From July 16 to 19: the election of the President of the European Parliament

Once the parliamentary groups have been formed, the first plenary session of the new European Parliament will be held from July 16 to 19, in Strasbourg. The first task of the deputies will be to elect their president. A role far from being solely symbolic: in addition to coordinating all of Parliament’s work, the president also plays a representative role with the other EU institutions, but also internationally.

Elected for two and a half years, this position has been held since January 2022 by the Maltese Roberta Metsola, from the ranks of the right. If the obstacles of Brussels can always be the source of last minute reversals, the latter is for the moment holding the rope to run again for a second mandate. And this is due to an informal agreement between the right and the socialists, traditionally the two largest groups, who share this position in turns.

Beyond the election of the presidency of the Parliament, this July session will also be an opportunity to elect the 14 vice-presidents, as well as the distribution in the different parliamentary committees in Brussels and Strasbourg.

From September: the election of the presidency of the European Commission

Once the new legislature of the European Parliament is officially launched, a new particularly sensitive issue will be on the agenda: the election of the presidency of the European Commission. If tradition dictates that this position is reserved for the candidate chosen by the most important political group in the European Parliament – once again the right – surprises cannot be ruled out.

European parliamentarians do not have the power of initiative on this choice. This prerogative is that of the European Council, in other words the 27 heads of state of the EU. In 2019, it was notably Emmanuel Macron who pushed for the name of Ursula von der Leyen even though she was not the candidate designated by his own camp, the EPP. This time, it is perhaps the opposite that could happen for the former German minister: designated by the EPP as a candidate for her own succession, she is nevertheless contested even within her own camp, and could see replaced in the home stretch for a more conciliatory candidate.

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Because MEPs still have significant power in this process: they must vote to confirm and endorse the person chosen by the European Council. In other words, the real power of MEPs lies in their possible rejection of the candidate nominated by the EU heads of state. The latter must therefore ensure that the person they appoint will indeed obtain a majority in the European Parliament, and is therefore sufficiently accommodating to be supported by even opposing political groups. In 2019, Ursula von der Leyen was only confirmed by MEPs by just nine votes.

When will this vote take place? Nothing official yet. But the European Parliament website itself is banking on the first plenary session after the summer break, from September 16 to 19. The summer will therefore be busy with negotiations for the heads of state of the EU in order to find a candidate who can achieve the broadest consensus.

October-November: the election of European commissioners

New weighty subject which will occupy MEPs and European heads of state at the end of 2024: the appointment of the twenty-seven European commissioners. That is to say the portfolios allocated within the Commission, the executive body of the EU, for the main themes covered in Brussels: the environment, the internal market, energy, employment, ‘agriculture…

The process here is once again far from linear. It is first the European Council and the new President of the Commission who must agree on the list of twenty-seven commissioners. Once a consensus has been found – at the cost of long negotiations which must also respect partisan balances – it is the turn of the European Parliament to hear at length each of the designated commissioners, in order to approve (or not) their appointment. Then MEPs must vote again, probably at the very end of the year, to approve the full composition of the Commission.

Certain positions are particularly coveted by member states. We can notably cite the high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs, the head of European diplomacy, currently detained by the Spaniard Josep Borrell. Or even other particularly influential positions, such as the European Commissioner for Trade or the Internal Market. A new position could also emerge in the new Commission: the Defense Commissioner, an issue that the EU has increasingly wanted to take up since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

December 1: election of the President of the European Council

Last European “top job” to be renewed for this year 2024: the president of the European Council, the institution which brings together the twenty-seven heads of state. This must in particular work to find compromises between the different executives of each member country on key decisions, and also plays a role in representing the European Union internationally.

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The President of the European Council is appointed by the heads of state of the EU, and must be renewed every two and a half years. Since 2019, Charles Michel has held this position. However, this time the former Belgian Prime Minister will not be able to claim his own succession, having reached his term limit. The games are therefore open for his succession.

Once this designation has been made, the European Commission has definitively approved it, all European institutions will now (finally) be ready to work.