Mark’s EU Week for Transport
Last week’s pivotal European election saw the highest turnout in 20 years with renewed commitment of EU citizens towards pro-EU parties.
Despite the pre-election narrative of a second anti-EU surge (the first being in 2014), the outcome of the elections a week ago, while appearing complicated, could not be more clear in its conclusions. Faced with the new prospect of the two biggest groups (the EPP and the S&D) no longer being able to form a majority, due to a combined loss of 72 seats, the European Parliament was supposed to look more anti-EU than ever before. However, voters turned to centrist and green parties, who gained 40 and 21 seats respectively, who are both pro-EU. As I argue in my newest blog, the clear winner from these elections is the European Union.
The pro-EU parties remain firmly in control. The immediate focus now will inevitably be the horse-trading over the top jobs, like Commission President. But the real focus should be on what this means in terms of policy. We’ll focus on this next week, but it does mean for certain even greater focus on tackling emissions from transport, particularly shipping and aviation.
One of the biggest surprises of these elections came from the UK, with the Liberal Democrats coming second place to the Brexit Party. With Brexit being such a divisive issue and playing a huge role in the UK’s European election, it is no surprise that parties with clear pro and anti Brexit stances won out over parties with more nuanced stances like the Conservative Party and Labour.
I have purposefully left the biggest recent impact of the last two weeks until the end: the long anticipated departure of Theresa May. While this will undoubtedly impact the UK in the weeks and months to come, I believe we should not ignore the work that our new MEPs will be undertaking in Brussels ahead of the UK’s planned departure of October 31st.
I would like to welcome the UK’s new MEPs, congratulate those who were reelected, and commiserate those that lost, and thanks to those that had worked with us over the years, but stood down this time. In particular thanks to Jacqueline Foster, Dan Dalton and Lucy Anderson.
UKTiE will be seeking to engage with the new UK MEPs, and non-UK MEPs, in the weeks and months ahead as we continue our ongoing work representing the UK transport sector’s interests before the new European Parliament.
This week’s song of the week, is Let Her Go by Passenger.
1. Spitzenkandidat watch – European Parliament vs. European Council
In possibly a sign of things to come over the next five years, the first post-European election debate is one surrounding the future candidate to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as President of the European Commission. This debate represents a continuation of an historic inter-institutional fight between the EU’s two co-legislators, the European Parliament and the European Council. The topic of this most recent fight is over whether the European Council will, as they did five years ago, accept the Spitzenkandidaten system which would presume that the Spitzenkandidat (the lead candidate) of the biggest European Parliament group be selected as European Commission President. Things are, however, not as simple as they seem with the centrist ALDE, the socialist S&D and the Green groups in the European Parliament also objecting to the center right EPP’s Spitzenkandidat, Manfred Weber. While the media has described this as a Macron (ALDE) vs. Merkel (EPP) debate, this fight will set an early trend over which institution will dominate over the next European mandate.
2. European Elections results
As shown in the above figure, the big winners from the European elections are the liberal ALDE group and the Greens. The success of both groups with the demise of the ‘Grand Coalition’ of the EPP and the S&D now means that we should expect ALDE and the Greens to be included in a working coalition over the next five years. What this means in practice is that we will see a more pro-EU majority that will build on what has already been a rather busy and proactive last five years for EU legislation and regulation. Transport policy is bound to be at the heart of renewed EU level focus on climate action as well as a continuation of the mobility packages and files such as the bus and coach regulation.The conclusion that can be drawn is that, far from expecting a decrease in action at the EU level, that we should be ready for a busy next five years.
3. European elections aftermath: next steps?
Despite the majority of discussion in the aftermath of the European elections being around the Spitzenkandidat debate, the next month or so will bring no shortage of crucial dates following the European elections. For starters, the European groups will be formed (or reformed) from as early as mid-June until the end of June. The big questions here will be on what a rebranded ALDE will look like and whether the anti-EU parties will be able to coalesce around the new so-called ‘Salvini alliance’.
Following this, there will be a pivotal European Council summit on June 21-22 where the heads of state will most likely reaffirm their Spitzenkandidat stance ahead of a possible European Parliament vote on the President of the European Commission candidate expected around 15-18 July. All things going smoothly, we should be expecting the constitution of European Parliament committees and the beginning of the nomination process of European Commissioners by mid to end of July.
4. Why the European Union was the biggest winner of the European elections
In his most recent blog, Mark writes that looking at all the results and the key questions from before the election, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that the European Union was the big winner of the European elections with the European Parliament primed to continue constructing the European project for the next five years at least.
5. UKTiE has also put together the latest timetable for Brexit. We will keep this up to date as the process develops:
- 29 March 2017 – A50 triggered.
- 5 April 2017 – European Parliament adopted Brexit guidelines.
- 22 May 2017 – Brexit negotiating directives approved by Council.
- 19 June 2017 – Negotiations formally began.
- 23 March 2018– European Council agreed guidelines on the future trading relationship.
- 30 September 2018 – Date by which EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, wanted to conclude the terms of Britain’s exit from the Union.
- 23-26 May 2019 – European Parliament election.
- 2 July – First meeting of the European Parliament.
- 8 July – First meeting of the TRAN Committee.
- 31 October 2019 – The UK will formally leave the EU. (tbc)
- 01 November 2019 – Start of new European Commission mandate. (tbc)
- 31 December 2020 – End of Transition Period (tbc).
UK transport in Europe (UKTiE)