Whoa! European Greens Get a Thumping! By James Reed

Our London correspondent Richard Miller predicted that the European Greens would get taught a lesson in the European elections, and he was spot on. As was previously argued, the Greens had power beyond their representation, punching above their weight. This enabled them to roll in the Green Deal, and all matter of climate change monstrosities. But, come the election, the Greens ended up winning 18 fewer seats than in the 2019 election. The Greens and European Free Alliance (EFA) group did worst in countries where they had performed best in 2019. In Germany the EFA lost six of the nine seats it had won in the 2019 election, and in France the EFA lost seven of the 12 seats it had won in 2019.

It has been argued that this result is not an outright rejection of the Green agenda, since centralist parties still are committed to the climate change agenda, which is true. Nevertheless, it does show a definite movement away from the radical Left Green position. The National Rally Party of Marine Le Pen, according to provisional results, increased its seats from 18 to 30. This led to President Macron freaking out and calling a snap general (parliamentary) election, which we hope he loses. It could not happen to a "nicer" globalist!


"The European election results are in. Last night saw the EU Parliament continue its slow Rightward and populist trajectory. But despite some drama, this was largely confined to a few countries' ballots, not the continent-wide rejection of the 'globalist' mainstream that some had predicted. The clues from this election about the future direction of European climate politics are similarly mixed, with the hard green vote falling sharply but centrist parties committed to the green agenda gaining ground.

The big dramas of the night were caused at the national, not European, level. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo resigned following the country's coincident federal election which saw large gains for conservative and anti-immigration parties. Similarly, following a huge gain by the National Rally party of Marine Le Pen, which, according to provisional results, increased its seats from 18 to 30, President Macron called a snap general (parliamentary) election in an attempt to restore his weakening authority. In Germany, the ascendent Alternative für Deutschland saw a modest gain from nine to 15 seats. The much-feared rise of the radical Right, in the form of the Identity and Democracy (ID) group, was somewhat muted. The group gained nine seats, increasing its total to 58. The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group gained four seats.

Both of these continent-wide political groups are circumspect about green policies, arguing for 'affordable' solutions to environmental problems rather than the radical targets-based ideological policies that seek bans before economic alternatives can be found. "Ambition has turned into wishful thinking and pragmatism has been replaced by an ideology that has produced unattainable rules and goals," explains the ID group's website.

Without doubt, however, the election has been terrible for the parties of the Greens and European Free Alliance (EFA) group in the European Parliament. According to preliminary results, it was the worst election for the EFA group since 1994, with the group's vote share halving in some member states. Overall, the greens won 18 fewer seats than in the 2019 election.

The EFA fared worst in the countries that had seen the biggest boost for the radical greens in the 2019 election. Whereas in the 2019 election the German Greens had gained nine seats, six of these were lost in this year's vote, leaving them with 16, signalling trouble for the German governing coalition, of which the Greens are a minority member. In France, the EFA doubled its seats in 2019, but of those 12, seven were lost this year, leaving it with just five.

These losses were slightly ameliorated by modest gains in Italy (three seats), Slovenia (one), Croatia (one) and Czechia (one), in each case up from zero in the last Parliamentary term. Single seats were also gained in Spain (bringing the total to four), the Netherlands (four), Denmark (three) and Sweden (three).

The 2019 elections were (falsely) hailed by many as a 'green wave'. But as I pointed out at the time, these gains were confined to Europe's wealthiest parts – the north and northwest – not signifying a continent-wide appetite for radical environmentalism. It seems that the last five years, which have seen lockdowns, the consequences of war in Europe and economic hardship, have shown that deep green politics is a luxury belief predicated on a surfeit of First World levels of abundance. Overall, the EFA's results this year show a more diffuse and weaker level of support across the EU members.

Despite green parties now having been around for half a century, the group's vote has historically only hovered around the level required to keep deposits, with the occasional instances of support above or below this level being akin to statistical noise. This speaks to one of the most enduring mysteries of European politics: with so little evidence of public support for radical environmentalism, why does the climate agenda dominate political decision-making both at the EU and national level? Now, with the EFA polling so poorly, will the political centre of gravity shift in Brussels, or will EU elites cling on to the Green Deal championed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen over the last few years?

The European People's Party (EPP) is the centre-Right group which has long dominated in the European Parliament. In this election, the EPP increased its seats from 176 to 186. This is not a majority of the 705 seats, so in previous sessions the EPP has formed a Grand Coalition with the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) group. After the 2019 election, the EPP joined instead with broadly liberal and centrist Renew Europe to give EPP's nominee von der Leyen the majority she required to become President. However, Renew has lost 22 of its 80 seats.

According to the Telegraph in an article published before the election results, the EPP has already been attempting to soften its environmentalism to face off the emerging threat from the growing nationalist and more conservative parties. This includes vowing to "reverse the EU ban on combustion-engine cars as soon as possible". But this politicking should not be seen as signifying intent. Much like Rishi Sunak's minimal adjustment to U.K. Net Zero policies – the delay on the ban on gas boilers and combustion-engine car sales – the softening of policies doesn't amount to a U-turn and is better seen as an attempt to save Net Zero. We've a long way to go before these managerialist technocrats realise the green policy agenda is ill-conceived and doomed.

But how the new presidency – which von der Leyen is hoping to retain – will build a majority coalition remains to be seen. It may be that Net Zero and the bloc's Green Deal can be saved by von der Leyen seeking a broad or grand coalition, the members of which require a continuation of Europe's green suicide pact. This may be a better option for the green champion, who would have to perform something of a U-turn if she is to rely on those to her and the EPP's Right.

The former option would of course risk supplying more grist to the Right's mill. Will the centrists risk keeping the Right on the margins, with the danger of greater blowback as public anger about mass immigration and the cost of aggressive environmental policies boils over? Or will they try to neutralise Right-wing parties by acceding to the minimum of their demands and bringing them in closer?

Whichever way von der Leyen and her cronies (or her successor and theirs) jumps, one thing is certain. This election was not exactly the earthquake some had predicted, but it does signal that there is nothing ahead but crises for the EPP and wider European political class. Either the corrupt, anti-democratic EU political elites continue to ignore the material interests of half a billion people, or they take steps towards shattering the consensus that has brought them to this point. With public discontent growing, threatening their cosy politics, neither option will be comfortable. Don't expect an end to Net Zero just yet. 



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Wednesday, 24 July 2024

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