ERR in Brussels: Next European Parliament likely to be most fragmented yet

The main European Parliament building in Strasbourg.
The main European Parliament building in Strasbourg. Source: EPA/Scanpix

Two major political groupings in the European Parliament, comprising Europe's christian democrat and social democratic parties, are expected to lose seats on Sunday, writes ERR's Brussels correspondent Epp Ehand. Conversely, smaller groups, including those from Eurosceptic parties, are expected to make gains. If this comes to pass, the resulting fragmentation could make voting through decisions more complicated.

While European parliamentary candidates run under the banner of their domestic political party, these are not represented at Brussels. Instead, MEPs must sit with one of several political groupings. There are three of these which are "in office", in the sense that they constitute the Juncker Commission – the European People's Party (EPP), the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), with half a dozen other groupings in opposition. There is in fact one grouping for those not committed to one of the official alliances, called Inscrits, though no Estonian MEP sits with these.

The arrangement is such that sometimes Estonian MEPs from different parties at home sit in the same European grouping. This has been the case with Yana Toom (Centre) and Urmas Paet (Reform), who both sat with ALDE over the last parliament's term, yet come from polarized parties in Estonia.

Indepdents must also sit with a group – Indrek Tarand, who has been an independent for two terms, sat with the Greens during that time. Tarand ran for the Social Democratic Party (SDE) at the current European elections; SDE MEPs would generally sit with the S&D grouping in Europe.

The christian democrat analog in Estonia is Isamaa, who had one MEP at the last parliamentary composition, Tunne Kelam. Isamaa MEPs would generally sit with the EPP.

Additionally, representatives from various far right and national conservative parties across Europe have met several times, including in Tallinn, to discuss setting up a new grouping to reflect their views. Members of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), which has not won a Euro seat to date, have been active in this drive.

Back in Brussels, polling stations were set up in the city center, Epp Ehand reports, not only for the European elections, but also for national and regional elections, which were occurring concurrently, she explained on ETV current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera".

One Belgian citizen Epp spoke to said that the European elections took a higher precedence for him than the local elections.

As for issues, in Europe as a whole, the economy, youth unemployment, immigration and climate change have been promiment, with the last of these growing in significance, amid calls for further work in the area.

As noted, the EPP-christian democrat groupings, and the S&D-social democratic groupings, are likely to see support fall, perhaps below 50 percent, Philipp Schulmeister, Head of European Parliament's Public Observation Unit told Epp. The winners from this are likely to be variously, green and liberal parties, a strengthening of the pro-European center and, conversely, populist parties, he said.

The European Parliament's principal building is in Strasbourg, France, with the secondary building in Brussels.

The original broadcast (in Estonian) is here.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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