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EU elections: Alignment on climate shows that door remains open for EPP-ECR coalition

Ahead of June’s EU elections, the EPP’s official thinktank and the ECR have set out their positions

By: EBR - Posted: Wednesday, May 8, 2024

The alignment between the centre and hard right parties on the contentious issue of climate shows that a post-election deal is a real possibility.
The alignment between the centre and hard right parties on the contentious issue of climate shows that a post-election deal is a real possibility.

by Nathan Canas

Ahead of June’s EU elections, the EPP’s official thinktank and the ECR have set out their positions. The alignment between the centre and hard right parties on the contentious issue of climate shows that a post-election deal is a real possibility.

During the Maastricht debate between the lead candidates of the various European political groups on 29 April, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen refused to rule out the possibility of a post-election coalition with the hard-right European Conservatives and Reformists Party (ECR).

Socialist lead candidate Nicolas Schmit argued forcefully against von der Leyen’s European People’s Party (EPP) doing a deal with the ECR, who he claimed “do not respect the fundamental rights our Commission has fought for.”

Von der Leyen’s own centre-right group remains divided on this approach. The group’s vice-president Siegfried Mure?an and the German CDU party favour an alliance with the socialists and liberals.

While opposition to a post-election deal remains, the latest policy publications from both the centre and hard right groups show significant convergence on the high-profile issue of climate.

A new direction for the Green Deal

‘7Ds for Sustainability’, a strategy paper released by the EPP’s think tank, pushes for a reorientation of the Green Deal towards economic growth. For the Wilfried Martens Centre, the various environmental policies put in place during the mandate risk leading to an “investment deficit” in Europe, as well as harming European industries and businesses.

“Unfortunately, parts of the EU’s climate policy equation are broken and lead to undesirable outcomes” commented Dimitar Lilkov, one of the text’s editors, to Euractiv.

For their part, the ECR claims that the Green Deal has failed to become a growth strategy. The manifesto states that ECR will protect citizens, farmers and businesses from the negative impacts of “the current over-ideological green climate policy” and expresses a wish to review “the more problematic objectives of the Green Deal.”

Defending SMEs, less red tape, energy autonomy

For EPP and ECR, the EU single market is essential to achieve carbon reductions.

The EPP’s strategy paper states that “the single market is Europe’s key asset to drive down costs for the transformation, but it needs to be strengthened to deploy strategic net zero technologies for direct and indirect electrification”.

Both groups also agree that the next European mandate should stop over-regulation, focus on creating a single market for innovation, and support cleantech SMEs.

ECR commits in its manifesto to “empower small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) by cutting down on unnecessary red tape, calling for a temporary halt on new EU rules for small businesses, instead directing resources towards implementing and enforcing existing legislation.”

The EPP’s strategy paper points the finger at the EU’s continuing dependence on oil and gas imports, which they say leave Europe vulnerable in terms of energy security.

One of the solutions proposed by the centre-right is to use renewable energy to achieve energy independence. This means “enhancing the security of critical raw materials in the EU.”

The ECR echoes these views and, advocates for strengthening EU autonomy “by paying particular attention to logistics infrastructures, new technologies, and energy and raw materials supply.”

Von der Leyen’s political dilemma

Von der Leyen’s continued openness to the hard right ECR group reflects their polling strength. The hard right group is forecast to capture 86 seats in the June elections.

ECR’s expected strong performance is thanks in part to the popularity of Fratelli d’Italia in Italy. The party of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is leading with 27% of the popular vote.

Whether von der Leyen could successfully court the ECR without alienating lawmakers from the left remains to be seen. The Socialists & Democrats Group (S&D) is currently on track to secure 140 seats.

While von der Leyen may remain open to cooperation with right-wing parties, there are still limits. Far-right group Identity and Democracy (ID) considers that the European emission reduction targets are “totally unrealistic” and that “the mandatory transition to renewable energy sources is unachievable within the given timeframe”.

This uncompromising stance, which contrasts with the position of the ECR, suggests that an EPP-ID alliance remains very unlikely on such a central matter of EU policies.

*first published in: Euractiv.com

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