Far-right’s potential impact on the future of the European Parliament

The recent European Parliament elections have marked a significant shift in the political landscape, with far-right parties across Europe making notable gains. The implications of this shift are multifaceted and complex, influencing everything from legislative priorities to the dynamics of party coalitions within the Parliament. Understanding how these far-right parties might leverage their newfound influence is crucial for anticipating the future trajectory of the European Union’s policies and governance.

Far-right leaders such as France’s Marine Le Pen and Italy’s Matteo Salvini are at the forefront of efforts to consolidate their influence. Recently, these leaders met in Brussels to explore the possibility of uniting their fractured right-wing factions. The idea of ​​merging or reorganizing the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group with the Identity and Democracy (ID) group to form a far-right supergroup has gained traction. Such a coalition would not only amplify their voice in Parliament but also potentially alter the balance of power. The ECR, buoyed by recent electoral gains, has already surpassed the centrist Renew Europe group as the third largest group in the European Parliament.

Membership in these pan-European groups is more than symbolic. It dictates the allocation of crucial resources such as funding, staffing, and speaking time during parliamentary debates. These groups also help shape legislative agendas and voting strategies. Therefore, the decisions made by far-right parties regarding their group affiliations will significantly influence their capacity to effect change within the Parliament.

Despite the apparent benefits of a united far-right front, significant ideological differences and internal divisions present formidable obstacles. For example, the ECR generally supports Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, whereas some ID parties exhibit more pro-Russia sentiments. These ideological discrepancies complicate efforts to forge a cohesive and effective alliance.

Three critical questions will shape the far-right’s influence moving forward: How will Germany’s Alternative for Germany (AfD) party align? How will Hungary’s Fidesz party navigate its affiliations? And what strategic alliances will Italy’s Brothers of Italy party pursue?

Germany’s AfD, which significantly increased its representation in the European Parliament from nine to fifteen seats, faces a challenging road ahead. The party, currently unaffiliated after being expelled from the ID group due to a controversial statement by then-lead candidate Maximilian Krah, must now decide on its next steps. Joining ID is a likely goal, but this is complicated by the upcoming French national elections, where Le Pen’s National Rally-a major player in ID-is leading in the polls.

If rejoining ID proves unfeasible, AfD must consider forming a new group. This is no easy task, as forming an officially recognized group in the European Parliament requires at least twenty-three members from seven different member states. AfD might seek out other pro-Russia parties from countries like Poland, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Slovakia to meet these requirements. However, AfD’s controversial reputation makes it a challenging partner for many.

Hungary’s Fidesz party, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, is another key player currently unaffiliated after being ousted from the center-right European People’s Party (EPP). Despite securing eleven of Hungary’s twenty-one seats, Fidesz’s influence is hampered by its lack of affiliation with a major group. Initially, joining the ECR seemed a strategic fit, but this plan fell apart due to opposition from new ECR members from Romania’s Alliance for the Union of Romanians party and possibly ECR leaders like Giorgia Meloni.

With ECR membership off the table, Fidesz has limited options. Joining ID could constrain Orbán’s broader ambitions, especially as the party seeks to recover from its worst election performance in two decades. Orbán may instead focus on forming a new far-right bloc or fostering a loose alliance among like-minded parties, positioning Fidesz at the center of this new configuration.

Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers of Italy party are perhaps the most influential actors in the new European Parliament. As leaders within the ECR, they are courted by both far-right factions and more centrist groups. A potential alliance with Marine Le Pen’s National Rally could elevate the far right to the second-largest bloc in the Parliament. Conversely, cooperation with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen could enhance Meloni’s influence within more mainstream EU policies but might compromise her nationalist credentials.

Meloni’s decisions will significantly impact the broader political landscape. Collaborating with von der Leyen could facilitate legislative action on defense, climate change, immigration, and economic policy, leveraging her party’s strong position within ECR. Alternatively, aligning more closely with ID could marginalize her influence on broader EU policies but strengthen the far-right bloc’s internal coherence.

The reshuffling of political coalitions in the European Parliament is poised to reshape its operations. With narrower margins, centrist groups may need to engage more with far-right and far-left parties to pass legislation. This dynamic could lead to more issue-specific coalitions, where cooperation on certain policies transcends traditional ideological boundaries.

The far-right’s influence in the European Parliament will depend on their ability to navigate internal divisions and form strategic alliances. The upcoming months will be crucial as parties like AfD, Fidesz, and Brothers of Italy make pivotal decisions about their affiliations and collaborations. These decisions will not only determine their immediate influence but also shape the future direction of the European Union, impacting key issues such as defense, climate policy, immigration, and economic strategy. The far-right’s growing presence adds a layer of complexity and unpredictability to the European Parliament’s future, underscoring the importance of vigilant observation and analysis in the coming years.

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