European citizens voted on May 23–26 to elect the members of the European Parliament (MEPs) for the 2019–2024 term.
the election is over, there is still much to be determined. First, results are
not final at this stage (results, abstentions, and reshuffling and allocation
of seats may still change. In addition, the repartition per political group—a political
group consists of at least 25 members elected in at least seven member states—is
provisional (based on the 2014–2019 structure) since each national party has
until June 24 to decide in which political group they will sit.
General Overview: A Divided and Renewed Parliament with No Clear Majority
- A historic turnout: More than half (50.94%) of EU citizens cast ballots. The turnout marks the highest in 20 years, and reverses the steady decline in voter participation since the first EU elections were held in 1979.
- Important reshuffle: New members of the EU Parliament account for more than 50 percent of those elected (the exact number is not yet known).
- A vote throughout 28 EU Member States (including the UK) that put forward three main trends: a strong opposition between pro- and anti-EU sentiments; a strong call in favor of putting the environment as a top priority; and increased mobilization of youth.
- A more divided Parliament with no clear majority.
- What it means:
- Any majority in the new Parliament will have to go beyond the traditional left-right divide (which was already the case under the last term with the coalition between the European People’s Party, and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats), and will need to include at least three groups, making it necessary to compromise and therefore harder to define a clear and strong political line.
- The anti-EU (Europe of Nations and Freedom, and Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy) and Eurosceptic parties (European Conservatives and Reformists, Non-Inscrits) account for 175 seats, an increasing number though still far from a majority. Nonetheless, their solid representation offers them a strong voice and makes them a force to consider on any political and legislative issue.
- What to expect:
- A more polarized Parliament, given the lack of clear majority, which will be structured along three main lines: 1) political (the traditional divide right, left, far left, far right); 2) national (division per member state); and 3) pro-/anti-EU (the latter being new—and probably the prominent one for this term with the surge of anti-EU and Eurosceptic parties).
- A more “political” Parliament: The surge of anti-EU and Eurosceptic parties, though not with a majority, is expected. This will translate into a polarization of Parliament between pro- and anti-EU lines to the detriment of the policy and technical sides of issues.
- A “beginners” Parliament: The important reshuffle implies that more than half of the MEPs are newcomers with little to no expertise in Parliament.
- An expected mobilization and exposure on big policy issues, such as the future of the EU, budget, migration, and climate change, to the detriment of technical ones, including intellectual property (IP).
Changing EU Political Landscape Infiltrated by Eurosceptics?
The election of the new European Parliament—whose President will be elected on July 2–5—is only the beginning.
This year will also feature major changes in the other main EU institutions—the EU Commission, EU Council, and European Central Bank.
- Uncertainty as to the next President of the EU Commission. The process gets underway June 20–21, when a qualified majority of the EU Council (28 EU heads of state and government) will designate a candidate. The EU Parliament must then confirm the designee by a simple majority, which can prove difficult given the division in Parliament and the absence of a clear majority among groups.
- An EU Commission with a significant portion of anti-EU Commissioners? Each member state has to submit a candidate to serve as commissioner. Given the number of Eurosceptic governments in the EU (Italy, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, etc.), the next Commission will most likely include a strong anti-EU contingent of Commissioners. The Commissioners will also then be subject to an individual parliamentary hearing in September–October followed by a vote of consent by Parliament on October 21–24. This could lead to the first fight between pro- and anti-EU MEPs who will try to vote down their respective opponents, with the hearings’ emphasis put more on politics than on policy issues.
- In December, a new President of the Council to succeed Donald Tusk (European People’s Party Poland) will be elected by the EU heads of state and government for a two-and-a-half-year term. The President of the Council is mainly tasked with representing the EU to the outside world and largely tackles big political and institutional issues.
- Finally, also in December, the EU heads of state and government, with the consent of Parliament, will designate a new President of the European Central Bank to succeed Mario Draghi (EPP, Italy) for an eight-year mandate.
The selection of these top positions will result from careful and significant political negotiations and compromises between EU heads of state and government, based on political lines national lines (Germany and France are the front runners), and gender (to increase the presence of women).
Intellectual Property: A Technical or Political Issue?
IP per se is not expected to be a priority during the new term. IP was not at the center of the political campaign for the EU elections, nor was it a priority under the last parliamentary term, with copyright being a notable exception. How IP will fare in the next term will depend on the commissioner’s profile (e.g., anti- or pro-EU? heavyweight or lightweight?), and whether IP is central in the next commissioner’s portfolio.
Which concrete IP issues could develop during the 2019–2024 term?
- The EU Designs legislative framework, following the public consultation that took place in early 2019.
- Among the other possible initiatives that could develop: the EU Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRED); an initiative on non-agricultural GIs; a review of the e-commerce directive; and future initiatives on artificial intelligence and blockchain.
Calendar and Next Steps
- June 20–21: European Council’s Summit designates its candidate for the President of the EU Commission
- June 24: Political groups notify their composition
- July 2–5: Inaugural plenary session of the 2019–2024 legislature
- Election of Parliament’s President by MEPs, the 14 Vice-Presidents, and the five Quaestors; and MEPs will vote on the number and composition of parliamentary committees
- July 15- 19: First parliamentary vote to elect the President of the European Commission
- Early September: 27 Commissioner-designates appointed by new President of the Commission and approved by Council
- Second half of September–October: Hearings of Commissioners-elect (in Brussels).
- October 21–24: Plenary session to vote on the confirmation of Commissioner-designate as a whole and President of the Commission provides inaugural address
- November 1: Start of the new Commission’s mandate (until October 31, 2024)
- December 1: Designation of the President of the European Council
- Appointment of the European Central Bank’s President