If the European Council were to accept the proposal, adopted by the European Parliament last May, to hold the tenth European Parliament election on Thursday, 9 May 2024 – the day on which Christians celebrate Ascension – there would be 435 days to go until the end of the ninth European legislature.

Between now and 9 May 2024, there may be a shift in the national political balance of power in Poland, Finland, Luxembourg, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Slovakia, and Bulgaria, following the legislative elections due to take place in 2023. Early legislative elections are also a possibility in France, where Emmanuel Macron lost his absolute majority in the National Assembly last June.

After recent elections in Sweden and Italy the centre-right gained strenth in the European Council

According to current polls, the centre-right may gain strength in the European Council of the Heads of State and Government, as happened after the recent elections in Sweden and Italy. This would make a conservative alliance in the European elections more likely in May 2024.

European Council
The European Council and the European Commission form the government body of the EU. The Council is composed of all heads of government of the member states. With elections coming up in eight EU countries, a strong conservative alliance is possible.

This hypothesis emerged, moreover, in two meetings between the Bavarian head of the EPP group in the European Parliament, Manfred Weber, and the Italian leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists, Giorgia Meloni. Discussions concerned the possible accession of the Fratelli d’Italia to the EPP and Roberta Metsola’s possible selection as Spitzenkandidatin for presidency of the European Commission at the head of the European centre-right. Such developments would end the historic convergence of the “grand coalition” between EPP and S&D with the support of the Liberals.

According to current polls, the centre-right could hold the European Council, the European Parliament, and the European Commission

If we rely on current polls, therefore, the European Union could be governed by the centre-right by 2024. The centre-right could hold both the European Council, which has assumed a predominant role in the European system since entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon in 2009, the European Parliament, and the European Commission. The Commissioners are however appointed by the national governments in agreement with the President of the Commission. This hybrid system assigns to the European executive both political and technical tasks under the dual control of the European Parliament and national governments. It thus provides for the cohabitation of members of the European Commission who at national level belong to opposing majorities and minorities.

According to the Website europeelects.eu the centre-right parties will be a majority, if tomorrow (February 2023) were election day for the European Parliament. (source: Europe Elects 2023)

If the grand coalition between EPP and S&D, and supported by the Liberals, were to break up as a result of the possible victory of a conservative alliance in the Council and the European Parliament, this would have two negative consequences for the functioning of the European system:

  • the development or non-development of EU policies would be conditional upon the prevalence of a confederal approach, that is to say: a constant search for compromise between often conflicting national interests; a reductive interpretation of the principle of subsidiarity in the division of competences between the EU and the Member States; a recurrent challenge to the primacy of EU law and a nationalist vision of the rule of law which will render the concept of common values meaningless;
  • a conflict between the members of the European Commission, who would at the same time be called upon to respond to the demands of a new European parliamentary majority, as well as to the governments that appointed them, with majorities that sometimes differ from the one in the European Parliament.

If the conservative win over both Parliament and Council, a nationalist vision of the rule of law could render the concept of common values meaningless

The risks of a progressive disintegration of the European Union are particularly apparent in the latter case due to the increasing conflict both between and within the individual institutions. Moreover, this would happen precisely when the European Union will have to take joint decisions in order to proceed from emergency response (the pandemic, war in Ukraine, the fight against climate change, cybersecurity, external interference, and migratory flows…) to planning its future. Important topics will include the creation of internal policies necessary to guarantee European public goods financed by real own resources and European public debt; launching external policies necessary for its strategic autonomy and adopting the constitutional reforms that will be necessary given its expansion towards the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

Within the conservative European movements, much more than on the left, the idea of the confederal dimension of the European Union prevails. This centres on the defence of national interests, a defence linked to the concept of the nation as the territorial dimension of a non-existent space occupied by a single ethnic community.

A collaboration of the conservative’s and the extreme right in Europe is unthinkable in Poland, Belgium an Germany

European alliances are beginning to emerge with a view to the European elections in May 2024. The meetings held in Rome between Manfred Weber and Giorgia Meloni were only a taste of what is to come. Not everyone within the EPP is at peace with the idea of an alliance with the extreme right in Europe. Such a convergence is unthinkable not only in Poland, Belgium and the Netherlands, but also in Germany between the CDU and the CSU on the one hand and AFD on the other.

Weber (r.) and Meloni (l.) ow depiction copyrigth_shutterstock
Will they? Won't they? After the meeting of Manfred Weber, president of the European People's Party (EPP) and Giorgia Meloni, prime minister of Italy and head of Fratelli d'Italia (FdI), many people ask if a coalition of centre-right and extreme-right is likely.

It is uncertain, for example, what the European liberal family led by Emmanuel Macron will do. Macron’s allies, the Social Democrats and the Greens in Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg, are in government. Furthermore, the French President is committed to a sovereign Europe that opposes national sovereignties, and does not look favourably upon the Spitzenkandidat method, on which the conservative coalition in support of Roberta Metsola might rely.

This is a disruptive choice that will concern not only the liberals but, as mentioned above, part of the EPP. The party will be divided between the confederal conservatism of the Weber-Meloni pairing and the Christian populism of the universalist culture of Robert Schuman, Konrad Adenauer and Alcide De Gasperi. The social democrats will also be split between the labour sovereignism of Northern Europe and the internationalist solidarity of the Iberians, Germany and Austria, Benelux, Italy, and a part of Central Europe.

European parties should find a courageous and innovative response to the conservative confederal alliance and go on the path of European federalism, solidarity and democracy

Is it possible to imagine a courageous and innovative response to the conservative confederal alliance and their reactionary epiphora by constructing a – difficult but necessary – coalition of ideas and programmes? Such a coalition would have to go beyond the airtight enclosures of empty European parties and choose the pragmatic path of European federalism, solidarity and democracy. It would have to address civil society, the world of work and environmentally sustainable production and ask them to support a European government project supported by a majority in the European Parliament. A majority that will be elected in 2024 and will take on the challenge of the constitutional reform of the European Union.

In building such a project we should think of the Manifesto of the European Resistance written in Geneva in 1944 and inspired by the Ventotene Manifesto; and of the White Rose project and its members the Scholl siblings. We must channel the liberalism of Luigi Einaudi and later of Bronislaw Geremek, Vaclav Havel’s dream of a European constitution, Willy Brandt’s idea of a European Parliament as a permanent constituent body and Alex Langer’s Europe of peace and brotherhood. We will know that their vision was not a dream but the product of a political battle that was worth fighting and still is worth fighting.

Pier Virgilio Dastoli copyright: Dastoli Pier Virgilio Dastoli was born in Anzio (Rome) on May 12, 1929. He graduated in Law from the University in Rome and worked as a Parliamentary Assistant for Altiero Spinelli in the Italian Parliament (1976-1979) and in the European Parliament (1976-1986). From 2003 to 2009 Dastoli was head of the European Commission Representation in Rome, before he became president of the European Movement in Italy (Movimento Europeo Italia). The European Movement is a pan-european network that promotes peace, democracy and European integration. It is co-funded by the European Union.

Copyright Header Picture: shutterstock/Zuttmann Benoelken; picture of the European Council: copyright: shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis; Chart „How would the European Parliament look like if there was a vote tomorrow?, source: Europe Elects; Picture of Dastoli: copyright: Pier Virgilio Dastoli