European Liberals and French seal their cooperation in Strasbourg
“Ca y est!” – “It’s done!”, is what many europhile liberals probably thought last weekend. After months of uncertainty about the political anchorage of the pro-European Renaissance list of French President Emmanuel Macron in the future European Parliament, the speculation should now have come to an end.
After first tentative cooperation attempts at the ALDE party congress in Madrid last November, European liberals and the French Renaissance list finally sealed their post-EU-election cooperation. The cooperation is based on a Memorandum of Understanding for a still nameless future faction. It is likely that the French name “Renaissance” will be retained, being in line with the ALDE election slogan “Renew Europe”.
Cooperation with ALDE – but not exclusively
The electoral alliance Renaissance, which translates as rebirth, encompasses four parties and movements: La République en Marche, Mouvement Démocrate, AGIR and the Mouvement Radical-Libéral Social. MoDem and La République en Marche already formed a common list in the “Super Election Year” of 2017, while the other two parties joined them only in the run-up to the European elections 2019
Among the ALDE, especially larger member parties support the future cooperation: Free Democrats (Germany), Ciudadanos (Spain), D66 (Netherlands), Momentum (Hungary), MR (Belgium), NEOS (Austria) and VVD (Netherlands) support this faction. This selection is already a good indicator for the framework for future collaboration, which, however, is not explicitly exclusive:
“ALDE and the Renaissance list are determined to form a new group after the European elections which will be open to other like-minded parties. This new group will be a new force in the European Parliament and will put to an end the current Grand Coalition of Social and Christian Democrats. (…) Together we have a clear reform agenda for Europe, and we are willing to build a coalition with other reform-driven political groups in the European Parliament, which share our goals.”, reads the joint statement.
Macron’s supporters, alongside party leader Stanislas Guerini, French MP for Benelux Pieyre-Alexandre Anglade, and party representative for European Affairs Garance Pineau, have held talks with numerous European political partners in recent months, including Greens and Social Democrats. Representatives of other political movements also congratulated and signalled their support for the Renaissance project, such as the Portuguese Socialist Prime Minister Antonio Costa and former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
New Faction as Power Factor
Thanks to the new cooperation, the ALDE Group, which currently has 69 seats in the European Parliament, can hope for around 100 seats after 26th of May. According to recent polls, the group is likely to be dominated by the French delegation (around 21 seats), followed by liberals from Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
With this new level of (wo)man power, ALDE would break the de facto political dominance of the two major factions EPP (Conservative) and S&D (Social Democrats) and could become the kingmaker through this pivotal role. After the reconstitution of the European Parliament in early July, distribution of European top posts, including the presidency of the EU Commission and the EU Parliament, will also play an important role. Like the ALDE, President Macron is an opponent of the Spitzenkandidat (lead candidate) process for determining the Commission President, as he reiterated last week at the EU summit in Sibiu, Romania. Macron in particular wants to prevent EPP top man Manfred Weber, who as of future majorities in the EP, would have the greatest chance of winning the coveted position.
Beate Meinl-Reisinger, party leader of the Austrian Neos, went one step further with reference to the ALDE top team: “We must prevent the right-wingers from dividing posts and power after the election. EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager must become the new President of the Commission.” Whether Macron’s renaissance list also supports that option is currently unknown. An alternative compromise solution that has been heard of a lot recently, is Michel Barnier, French Brexit chief negotiator of the EU Commission and former EU Internal Market Commissioner and French Minister.
Cooperation ≠ Egalitarianism
Controversial debates within the new parliamentary group will not be absent in the future, as the signatories of the cooperation statement stressed. A united faction with Macron in the European Parliament does not mean that everyone agrees on all issues, the Free Democrats said.
The best example for this is the second seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where the monthly plenary sessions take place. All are preceded by elaborate and costly moving. While the German Liberals want Parliament to vote on maintaining the Strasbourg location, the French recently launched a nationwide petition to preserve this European heritage.
European Affairs Manager