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After the EU elections: Europe – what now?

GREEN CHOICE / In the future, border control, defense policy and climate will be some of the most important tasks for the European Parliament, which has now been filled by representatives from the Greens.


Europe has spoken. Participation in the European Parliament elections increased by 8 percentage points from 2014 and hiked slightly above 50 percent. The attendance is significant and shows a never-ending sign of the phenomenon many have swept away: There is a European political space. Politics is not just a national issue. Because when industry and business use technology and capital to rally with the earth's resources, working conditions and democracy itself, politics follows. "Voters see the link between societal challenges at national and international levels," Sylvain Kahn, professor of geography and history at Science Po in Paris, told Le Monde newspaper. Voters want to find solutions to the climate crisis, migration pressures, tax issues and trade wars – all cases where countries alone are powerless in the face of major powers and capital forces.

It's Trump, Putin, Brexit and Greta Thunberg, we can thank the European electorate for waking up. Because when the traditional blue-red axis of the balance of power lies dormant, space for parties on the flanks opens; not just right and left, but also between those who want more or less the EU. Most attention is given to the right-wing or right-wing populists. Nigel Farage's (Brexit Party) spectacular comeback is naturally drawn to the mass media. In the United Kingdom, the Liberal Democrats' Lead, Not Leave campaign got unexpected success, and remainthe parties' total support actually hit Farage in the boots with over 40 percent support.

Italian League's Matteo Salvini made a brisk choice, and French National Assembly Marine Le Pen beat the incumbent President Macron on the finish line. Together they got around 50 representatives in the European Parliament. Unlike Farage, Salvini and Le Pen's new alliance has now agreed to change the EU from within. "Good luck", many people sigh. The problem for Salvini and Le Pen is that they have never taken political work in parliament seriously. If they work together to elect committees leaders or assume the role of case chair, they actually have real opportunities to shape EU policy in specific areas.

What is it Europe's voters want EU cooperation to do? Four themes emerge in all party groups: First: How should we deal with the migration pressure from the Middle East and North Africa?

Everyone wants to strengthen border control, but few will share the immigration burden with countries bordering the Mediterranean. The EU's core values ​​of solidarity and responsibility sharing are put to shame if a distribution key is not introduced for countries that benefit from free border crossing. But there are close political shots: The Visegrad countries of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia do not want to know anything about France, Spain and Italy's idea that freedom requires responsibility. In plain text, this means that in countries that do not share their burden of integrating refugees who have been granted a valid residence permit, citizens must submit to passport control and be allowed to check when they enter Schengen countries. A treaty on the distribution of refugees who have moved to a different country than they arrived is on the negotiating table. It is called Dublin II, a common asylum policy that Norway will also have to associate with.

EU climate legislation is expected to be strengthened, which means a new plan to reduce gas imports. This can have major consequences for the Norwegian economy and employment.

Then to the climate crisis: European voters have given the green parties 67 representatives. As the second and third largest parties in Germany and France respectively, the Greens have gained new momentum. The Commission came last summer with a reserved idea of ​​reaching zero emissions of greenhouse gases within 2050, which has mobilized the German car industry to the brink of anger. Zero-emission cars are both bad stores and provide fewer jobs.

Now German industry has advocated "A new balance", where climate policy should take into account industry and jobs. The reaction did not wait, and German voters sent a record number of EU parliamentarians from the Green Party. Unlike the right-wing populists, the Greens are among the best in the class to work politically. See what our own Eva Joly did during the ten years she sat in the European Parliament, where she raised the problem of tax optimization, provided protection for whistleblowers and not least the creation of a European prosecutor for VAT evasion and defaults on EU funds. Parliament's fourth largest group is expected to work diligently to strengthen EU climate legislation, which means that a new plan to reduce gas imports will be put on the table. This will have major consequences for the Norwegian economy and employment.

There are also high expectations for the new Commission's work to strengthen European defense and security policy, including the defense industry. When Trump forces European countries to increase their defense budget, the money goes to the US defense industry with beneficial effects for companies in Silicon Valley, which in turn creates the foundation for the dynamic startup environment. If Europe fails to spend more money on its own defense industry, we are also unable to compete against US technology giants.

Taxation and control of GAFA companies (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon, but also others like Uber, Netflix and Airbnb) are high on the agenda in Europe. A symbolic tax of three per cent of sales in Europe comes into effect in 2021, but is completely insufficient in relation to the large cash flows companies are taking out of the EU to invest in tax havens. The OECD is also working on an agreement, but has no sanctions. Budget-poor EU countries with expensive welfare states have now had enough. In addition, when the GAFA companies use the information their customers leave to manipulate political choices, it indicates a major gap in the legislation. The new European Parliament will do much to seal this.

Paal Frisvold
Paal Frisvold
Writer for MODERN TIMES on Europe issues.

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