THE BLOG

The European Parliamentary Elections Provide Stability and Warnings

05/26/2014 11:05 am ET | Updated Jul 26, 2014

There are two ways to look at the European Parliamentary elections that concluded today.

1. Political stability

Contrary to what many media will display this Monday, the results of the elections show a remarkable stability. The three major political families of Europe (Conservative, Socialists and Liberals) will likely reach at least 60 percent of the 751 seats of the Assembly. While that majority narrowed from 70 percent, this vote ensures the continuity of Europe and its institutions, a commitment to market economy and a critical support to the Eurozone.

It is remarkable that such a diverse continent with 29 Member States could provide stability and, even more unlikely, coherence between three political families that have been dominating the European nations since World War II. Europeans like Europe.

It should dispel the image carried often enough by U.S. politicians or media of a politically unreliable partner for the United States. Europeans are closely united around values such as social justice, peace and progress. They also believe in privacy ahead of security, history ahead of experimentation.

Having such a powerful 500 million people political and economic partner should be a source of admiration rather than denigration by the American people.

Yet countries who have centuries of conflicts against each other, speak as many languages as they have countries, and sometimes several per country, substantial national and regional characteristics will never be a unified counterparty. Complexity and diversity, however, do not translate into inconsistency and, for historic and modern reasons, many of the European and U.S values are rooted into common religious and social beliefs.

2. Loud and serious warnings

Not everything is good, however, in this election. The emergence of anti-European feelings in some countries resulted in an increase of the share of the Eurosceptics in the European Parliament from 5 to 10 percent. It would be wrong, however, to consider this emergence as a single movement. The themes are radically different in various countries, and will not provide a platform that will act with any form of common voice.

Anti immigration was core to the emergence of the UKIP as the leading UK party in this election as well as in the more moderate Danish extreme right leading position.

Anti austerity dominates the rhetoric in over-indebted Italy but without the emergence of an extreme right party. Greece sees a movement towards a now leading extreme left, not the extreme right.

France is a domestic situation dominated by the appalling records of the Socialists and the Conservatives who have consistently taken credit for European achievements and blamed them for their problems. The appalling leadership of Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande makes both leading parties co-responsible for this debacle that, worryingly, includes elements of racism.

This is not the Tea Party, united in racism and militarism, pseudo-inspired by the Evangelism. However, it could create the same trend towards conservative radicalization.

3. Redefining Europe's objectives: growth and employment

The lack of good opinions in the modus operandi of the European institutions is, however, an underlying theme of these elections, and most importantly, in the massive abstentions of voters (56 percent). In turn, it increased the relative weight of the extremes.
Europeans are fundamentally pro-European in their huge majority. However, the "deficit of democracy" is there. The European Parliament has no right of initiative. Only the European Commission, solidly locked by the Member States, enjoys that privilege.

As Angela Merkel -- whose country strongly backed the leading parties -- declared during the campaign, Europe has to be an engine of growth and employment. Not with money, but with the right policies. That should now be the key objectives of European countries, building a competitiveness with Asia and America.

For this reason, I hope that Martin Schultz, the German leader of the Socialist fraction, will become the new President of the Commission. The former President of the European Parliament has the right leadership and will work out the institutional paralysis of Europe that makes it hostage of unanimity. For all his personal qualities, Jean-Claude Juncker, albeit the candidate of the leading European party, the PPE, has too much baggage and bears a huge responsibility for the mismanagement of the European sovereign crisis.