June 21. 2024. 5:05

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The 75+ wild cards that will shake EU Parliament’s balance of power

In today’s edition

  • A guide to the 75+ undecided seats which could shift the balance of powers in the right and left sides of the hemicycle.
  • Bits of the week: Next Commissioners tracker; group presidency votes calendar; the liberals’ defeating silence on VVD; must-watch debates.

Two weeks before the EU elections, there are around 75 seats up for grabs that will shape the new balance of power on the left and right of the hemicycle, available for the European Parliament’s political families to cement electoral gains – or mitigate losses.

National parties sit in the European Parliament alongside like-minded colleagues within parliamentary groups. And with the election comes a new chance for a reshuffle during every group’s recomposition, right after the vote in June or in July, before the first plenary session.

Meanwhile, other parties are complete newcomers, as they were only formed in the last five years and now need to carefully pick which family to join.

While the traditional centrist majority of the centre-right EPP, the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), and the liberal Renew is set to remain, the 75+ wild cards will determine to what extent the other groups can impact the direction of the Parliament’s policymaking, and how many top jobs they can claim, such as committee chairmanships and vice-presidencies.

On the right side

On the extreme right side of the hemicycle, both far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) and hard-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) are expected to surge with 83 projected seats each, both battling against liberal Renew Europe, at 85, to be the Parliament’s third biggest political force.

But it is very unclear whether these groups will continue as they are.

This week’s announcement by Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National that they will no longer sit with Germany’s AfD in the far-right Identity and Democracy (ID) group has fueled speculation about the future of RN’s projected 29 seats, which could perhaps join ECR or join other far-right forces in a new parliamentary group.

Morawiecki has signalled he wants to welcome Fidesz within ECR but also “attract other parties” to make the group “significantly bigger.”

Another key far-right wild card is Romania’s AUR party, projected to win its first seven seats. While they would prefer to sit within a group unifying all far-right forces, they are talking to both ID and ECR, the party’s vice-president Adrian Axinia told Euractiv.

At the same time, the party’s president, George Simion, deeply admires Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and his personal preference would be to sit with the ECR.

All in all, it seems ID is bound to weaken in favour of ECR, which is now widely regarded as the future leading group on the right of the hemicycle, capable of surpassing the traditional cordon sanitaire against the far-right by cooperating with the EPP on a case-by-case basis.

On the left side

On the extreme left of the hemicycle, Greece’s Syriza and its projected four seats could leave The Left group, as the new leader Stephanos Kasselakis has expressed that “new Syriza” represents a “modern Left” which “comfortably” covers the entire space from the centre-left, the left, and the Greens.

It remains unclear whether the group will be formed. Wagenknecht first hinted at the Nordic Left and La France Insoumise as potential allies, but both have denied any involvement.

Sharing social-conservative views with BSW, potential members could be Slovakia’s Smer and Hlas, projected to score three seats each, who were suspended from the European Socialists in October 2023 over their pro-Russia views and allying with the far-right.

But one of the surprise winners from the reshuffling could be the Greens/EFA group.

After big losses in last month’s projections, which relegated them to a battle for sixth place with The Left, they could get a big boost with new Italian colleagues from the populist Five Star Movement (M5S).

Projected to score 14 seats, M5S is ready to join the group but negotiations are on standby due to disagreements over military support to Ukraine, which the party opposes.

Finally, four unexpected last-minute wild cards come from the Dutch liberal party VVD, which may be kicked out from Renew Europe in June, after joining a governing coalition pact with the far-right in the Netherlands.

Bits of the week

Next Commissioners tracker. With the EU elections approaching fast, member states have started to game out who they will send as their national commissioner to Brussels. Euractiv took a closer look at the rumour mill around the candidates, and the portfolio wishes across Europe, with contributions from Euractiv’s Newsroom curated by Aurélie Pugnet and Alexandra Brzozowski. Check it out.

Mark your calendars for the group presidency votes. On the first day after the elections, the newly elected MEPs will start a frenzy of calls, hallway chats, and meetings to recompose the parliamentary groups and plot the (re)election of their chairs, in constitutive meetings in June and July. In order: EPP 18 June; Greens/EFA 19 June; S&D and The Left 25 June; Renew 26 June; ID 3 July; ECR 10 July.

The liberals’ dividing silence on Dutch VVD. Renew Europe chief Valérie Hayer, a member of France’s Renaissance, has confirmed she will call a meeting after June’s elections to discuss whether to kick out the VVD party following their coalition agreement with far-right PVV in the Netherlands. However, so far, almost none of their colleagues within ALDE, one of the European parties within Renew and home to VVD, has come out to defend them. Only the Danish delegation has stepped up in defence of the Dutch, inviting the French to leave Renew if they are unhappy with the deal.

While ALDE’s official position is to await further developments, one of its members, the Swedish Centre Party, led by Abir Al-Sahlani, told Euractiv that VVD’s move is against liberal values and that “we need a new discussion in our political group about reinforcing our red lines against cooperating with nationalists and the far right.” The Centre Party is also pushing to exclude the Swedish Liberalerna party from Renew over another far-right deal.

“Many are upset with this coalition, including many within ALDE,” a well-informed source within Renew told Euractiv.

The debates you cannot miss. The Eurovision Debate is happening today (23 May) at 15:00 in the European Parliament, where the lead candidates of the European Socialists, centre-right EPP, Greens, and the Left will face off one last time before the elections, touching on all key topics: climate, tech, defence, democracy and economy. Follow the live blog by Euractiv’s newsroom here.

…in France, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal will face far-right Rassemblement National lead candidate Jordan Bardella during a televised debate on TV channel France 2 at 20:00, in what will be a key moment shaping national politics in view of the 2027 presidential election. But should a prime minister, who is not even running, really get into the boxing ring with a member of the European Parliament, one candidate among many others, whose institutional position is way below that of Attal? Read Euractiv France Editor Laurent Geslin’s take here.

The debates you may have missed. During an electoral debate focusing on economic policy on Monday, squabbles between liberal Sandro Gozi and far-right Anders Vistesen dominated the discussion, while European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and socialist lead candidate Nicolas Schmit brought few surprises to the table. The Greens, Left, and ECR were not represented. Read more from our Economy team in this piece.

…in Spain. the likely new Commissioner Teresa Ribera, currently one of the vice-presidents of the Spanish Socialist government (PSOE/S&D), in charge of energy and environment policy, faced off with Spain’s centre-right (PP/EPP) lead candidate Dolors Montserrat. The debate was dominated by national topics, such as the PP’s rapprochement with far-right Vox, and the Socialists’ government deals with nationalist Catalan parties.

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