However, there is at least one good piece of news to report about the populist right ‘camp’, so tospeak - the spectacular failure of Libertas, the new EU-wide anti-EU party recently created byDeclan Ganley. Not only did his affiliated lists on the continent score very badly (only Philippe deVilliers in France, a familiar face on the populist front in his own right, made it to Strasbourg), butGanley himself was not elected in ‘his’ Ireland, just a few months after masterminding thesuccessful No campaign against the Lisbon Treaty. This seems to demonstrate that in today’sEurope, while there unfortunately is plenty of room for country-specific populism (statisticallyclassified as “others”), there is virtually none for a single, homogenous, and centrally coordinatedanti-EU movement – as underlined by the political demise of its champions in Denmark.The other relatively good news also comes from Ireland: despite the fears of many analystsand pollsters, Irish voters channeled their dissatisfaction with the current Fianna Fail-ledcoalition government and its handling of the crisis in the direction of the mainstreamopposition, Fine Gael, which is part of the EPP family and a strong supporter of the LisbonTreaty. This augurs well for the planned second referendum on Lisbon in the early autumn.
The outcome of the European Parliament elections makes the reappointment of José ManuelBarroso at the helm of the European Commission more likely, of course. Not only was he thevirtual candidate of the EPP family, but he was also endorsed by three prime ministers from thePES camp (Gordon Brown, José Luis Zapatero and José Socrates). This, and the defeat of thePES, make it less likely that an alternative candidate may emerge to challenge him, at least atthe European Council level (things could be different in the Parliament, when it comes to theformal investiture).For the time being, however, it is still unclear whether he will be nominated at the forthcomingEU Summit, and then submitted to a vote of ‘investiture’ when the new Parliament opens itssession on 15 July, or whether there will be a simple ‘political endorsement’ at the Summitwithout a formal procedure - while waiting for the referendum in Ireland and the possible entryinto force of the new Treaty. By the same token, the appointment of the entire newCommission (including the parliamentary hearings for the Commissioners and the final vote onthe College) may be postponed by a few months.The second top appointment to be made is that of the President of the Parliament itself.The ever-more central role of the EPP, once again, will make it more difficult for the othermainstream parties to coalesce against it. Therefore, it can be expected that one of the tworotating Presidents for the period 2009-14 (probably the first one) will come from the EPP.At this stage, the top candidate is the former Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Busek, sponsored,among others, by the German CDU-CSU and the French UMP (whose Joseph Daul chairedthe EPP group in the outgoing assembly). But other demands and ambitions may have tobe accommodated, as Silvio Berlusconi’s PDL has become a force to be reckoned with in thenew group. It also remains to be seen which other family the EPP will try to ally with in apower-sharing agreement: the PES or ALDE (as in 1999-2004) - or possibly both if necessary.And how is the new assembly in Strasbourg expected to operate and vote more generally? Thisis difficult to predict, of course. The outgoing Parliament was strongly influenced, from late2005 onwards, by the formation of the Grand Coalition in Germany: by then, the EPP and PESgroups were both chaired by German nationals (Hans-Gert Pöttering and Martin Schultz), andthe effects on the Parliament became soon evident. Germany will go to the polls again in lateSeptember, and a change of government coalition is equally likely to affect the proceedings of the European Parliament, because of the sheer number of German MEPs. It will also berelevant to see what the British Conservatives eventually decide to do in terms of groupmembership – right away as well as after a possible election victory at home next year.In light of the election results, however, it seems reasonable to say that the new Parliamentcould well turn out to be:
less in favour of further enlarging the EU, especially (but not exclusively) to Turkey: theParliament will not be a central player in this policy area, at least at this stage, but theoverall ‘mood’ of the voters will inevitably reverberate on the overall process;