Strong EU Vote Turnout Changed the Balance of Power in the New Parliament

The European Elections showed the highest voters’ turnout in 20 years, giving the European Union hope that people still believe in its future. However, the big center-right and center-left blocs in the European Parliament have lost their combined majority. Now, they will have to form a coalition with other political groups, which will likely include the Greens, which bagged record gains in the elections.

European Elections showed the highest turnout in 20 years, breaking 50 % of voters who went to the polls in 28 EU Member States. Since 1979 turnout has been steadily dropping, going from almost 62%, down to a historic low of 42.6% in 2014. Senior EU decision-makers say that these results demonstrate that voters still believe in the future of the EU despite crises it has faced in recent years.

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani attributed this victory to a very successful This Time I ‘m Voting campaign, which was led by the Parliament and joined by many civil society organizations. Slow Food Europe was part of the campaign, and with its messages urged citizens of the European Union to vote for the candidates who respect European values and care about the future of European agriculture and food (read our Manifesto).

However, the new Parliament will have a different composition than in the previous two decades and will be much more fragmented. The two most prominent political groups – the European People’s Party (EPP) and Socialists and Democrats (S&Ds) fell short in securing the majority. Predictions show that it is most likely that the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), which came in third, and the Greens, which will be the fourth strongest force in the Parliament, will be invited to form a robust pro-European coalition. The main concern that the anti-European parties could win enough support to block critical decisions has not proven to be true. Despite gains in countries such as Italy or France, a new alliance of nationalists and Eurosceptics is projected to come in fifth and represent a small minority in the Parliament.

The recent wave of climate protests across the continent was clearly reflected in the European Elections. The Greens have gained double-digit scores in countries such as Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands and Ireland, and they are projected to take up to 71 seats in the Parliament, compared to 50 seats in 2014. The result gives them stronger leverage to push for the greener agenda.

“Slow Food Europe hopes that the new Parliament will take responsibility and acknowledge that a big part of Europeans has sent a clear message that the EU needs strong measures to tackle climate change and curb biodiversity loss. The action should start with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Reform, on which the Parliament will have to vote in the upcoming months. We will not be able to fight climate change effectively if we do not have sustainable, environment-friendly agriculture which stops favoring industrial farming – one of the biggest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions,” says Ursula Hudson, president of Slow Food Germany.

Slow Food Europe is certain, though, that the new Parliament and pro-European groups will have to continue putting its efforts in building a sustainable and inclusive Europe, which could be the strongest answer to the far right and anti-EU political groups.

“We believe in a Europe that is united and strong in its values. As a civil society movement, we will continue to raise questions to the new Parliament and the Commission, and we will represent the voice of thousands of Europeans who ask for changes in our food and farming systems,” says Hudson.

The new Parliament will be inaugurated in July, while the new Commission will be elected by the Parliament in October. One of the first questions that the Parliament will have to debate is the CAP Reform.

Indre Anskaityte, Slow Food Europe

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