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From 23rd to the 25th of May 2019, elections to the European Parliament were held in the European Union.
It was the 9th parliamentary election since the first direct elections in 1979. The selected candidates, sometimes referred to by the German term spitzenkandidaten, were Manfred Weber for the European People's Party, Gianni Pittella for the Party of European Socialists, Nick Clegg for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, José Bové for the European Green Party and Alexis Tsipras for the Party of the European Left.
The election days were decided by the European Council in 2018 - upholding the 2014 decision to hold elections in late May instead of early June. The elections were brought forward to provide more time for the election of a president of the European Commission.
The Eurozone crisis, an offshoot of the Great Recession that had triggered in 2007, endangered the public's perception of the European Union. Although it affected most EU member states, the most troubled economies were those of southern Europe: Greece, Cyprus, Italy, and Portugal, along with Ireland. Among other reasons, harsh austerity measures significantly affected the public approval of EU leadership. The percentage of Greeks approving the EU leadership decreased from 32% in 2010 to 19% in 2013, while in Spain, the approval dwindled more than a half from 59% in 2008 to 27% in 2013. Overall, only four of the 27 members countries approved the EU leadership. The growing Euroskeptic movement epitomized the general dissatisfaction in the 2014 European Parliamentary election.
During the election, the European Conservatives and Reformists Alliance, the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Alliance, and the European Alliance for Freedom, gained an astonishing 121 seats, confirming fears that the Euroskeptics would score a resounding victory. In the aftermath of the election, the triumvirate was determined to stall the EPP's rise to power - the three institutions merged beneath the umbrella party of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists. José Manuel Barroso, President of the Commission, and Ex. Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker were both blocked by Parliament. Only when an unlikely coalition between the ALDE and the EPP was forged that Junker was permitted to ascend into the European Commission as President.
According to Keynesian economists "growth-friendly austerity" relies on the false argument that public cuts would be compensated for by more spending from consumers and businesses, a theoretical claim that has not materialised. The case of Greece shows that excessive levels of private indebtedness and a collapse of public confidence led the private sector to decrease spending in an attempt to save up for rainy days ahead. This led to even lower demand for both products and labour, which further deepened the recession and made it ever more difficult to generate tax revenues and fight public indebtedness. The failure of the European austerity measures in contrast to private investment damaged the ability of the private sector to confidently invest.
Fearing a further collapse in EU confidence, the Commission motioned to substantially increase the funds of the European Investment Bank. This motion was authorized in order to kick-start infrastructure projects and increase loans to the private sectors. A few months, in a extension of a earlier motion, 12 out of 17 eurozone countries agreed to extend a new EU financial transaction tax. In the months following the election, economic conditions gradually improved, as long term interest rates normalized and continental budget deficits were normalized. Although this marked a profound improvement, the Mediterranean nations remained trouble by critical debt per GDP.
In 2015, Nicos Anastasiades, President of Cyprus, announced that the $10 billion bailout had successfully reversed the Cypriot . This success disproved the lie to the notion that threat to the 17-nation eurozone's unity were receding. In the following three years, the EIB's unlimited intervention policy for struggling nations reversed the worse effects of the crisis. As a sign of the recovery, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi of Italy became the first PM to be consecutively re-elected since Silvio Berlusconi in 1999, and the first Prime Minister to be in office for two full terms since Alcide De Gasperi (1945-1953.)
The Lisbon Treaty, which entered into force on 1 December 2009, provides that the European Parliament shall endorse or veto the appointment of the President of the European Commission on the basis of a proposal made by the European Council, taking into account the European elections (article 17, paragraph 7 of the Treaty on European Union). This provision applied for the first time for the 2014 elections.
Based on these new provisions, all the political parties participating in the 2019 election designated presidential candidates ahead of the election.
European People's Party
On 6 and 7 March 2019, the congress of the European People's Party in Dublin selected Antonio Tajani as its presidential candidate and adopted an election manifesto. Jean-Claude Juncker has resigned his party leadership in 2018, seceding the EPP mantle to the former European Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship.
Party of European Socialists
The primaries of the Party of European Socialists was carried out according to the following timetable:
- 1–31 October 2018: nominations.
- 6 November 2018: PES Presidency meeting to check the candidacies and publish the official list of candidates.
- 1 December 2018 – 31 January 2014: internal selection process within each member Party or organisation.
- February 2019: PES Election Congress to ratify the votes on the candidate, adopt the Manifesto, and launch the PES European election campaign.
The PES Congress gathering in Brussels in November 2016 made the decision that it would select the PES candidate through internal primaries in each of its member parties and organizations. Running off the success of the previous 2014 election, Martin Shulz was re-elected as PES party leader - and nominee for President of the Commission.
- Elected candidate: Martin Schulz
Following the conclusion of the election, Shulz resigned from his position as leader of the PES and was appointed as President of the European Parliament.
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party
The timetable of the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) for designating its candidate for President of the European Commission is:
- 28–30 November: Nominations opens & Election Manifesto adopted at London Congress
- 19 December: Pre-Summit liberal leaders meeting to discuss nominations received
- 20 December: Nominations formally close
- 1 February: ALDE Party Candidate to be announced at special Electoral Congress, Brussels
In 2016, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE) members were said to be "struggling" to find a candidate for Commission president ahead of the 2019 European elections. The ALDE had suffered a drastic defeat to Euroskeptic parties in the 2014 election and many of its constituents believed a change in leadership was neccesary. Guy Verhofstadt was considered to be the likely nominee, but a meeting of the the ELDR party held in Dublin from the 8th of November to the 10th of November 2016 did not agree to formally nominate him yet; concerns voiced included the fact that it was considered unlikely that Verhofstadt would have a chance of getting elected as President of the European Commission. Instead, the ALDE congress convened a primary, where party leader of the British Liberal Democrat Party, and former Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, won an overwhelming majority.
European Green Party
Following its previous trend, European Green Party (EGP) announced that it would run an open primary online.Open to all inhabitants in the union over the age of 16 who "support green values", this resulted in José Bové's election. Other qualified candidates were Rebecca Harms and Monica Frassoni.
Party of the European Left
Meeting on 19 October 2018 in Madrid, the Council of chairpersons of the Party of the European Left (EL) decided to designate a common candidate for the president of the European Commission to prevent "the forces responsible for the crisis" from keeping the monopoly during the electoral campaign. The council accused the European Leaders of secretly imposing authoritarian motions on the continental populace. Alexis Tsipras, candidate in the 2014 election, was reelected to represent the EL.
Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists
The Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists represented all of the Euroskeptic, National Conservative parties in the EU. Formerly divided among three parties, the AECR merged with the Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy and the European Alliance for Freedom. The party did not present a candidate for the European Commission presidency, arguing that participation would legitimize the federalist vision of a European "super-state."
Early assumptions had predicted a moderate EPP and PES victory, ranging between a net gain of 10 to 15 seats. As the election neared - more and more opinion polls saw an unexpected surge in Pro-European support. In the United Kingdom, UKIP, the former champions of the 2014 election, saw their own vote fall sharply, mostly to the benefit of the Conservative Party. Despite Clegg's disastrous performance in the 2015 UK elections, the success of the 2017 EU Referendum in the Isle's had perpetuated the Liberal Democrat survival.
Meanwhile, a series of unexpected scandals had rocked the National Front in France - adding to Euroskeptic fears that the incoming troubles were insurmountable. The victory, which was a defiant triumph for Merkel's Germany, temporarily ended the fierce uprising of EUroskeptic sentiment in Europe. Undoubtedly, the late 2010s economic boom and the alleviation of the Euro-debt crisis stabilized the position of the European Federalists.