Monday, April 15, 2024

Left lost in labyrinth of alliances – and splits – Euractiv

Dear readers,

Welcome to EU Elections Decoded, your essential guide for staying up to date and receiving exclusive insights about the upcoming EU elections. Subscribe here.

In today’s edition

  • Left cannot get its act together and will run a campaign with two electoral platforms, reflecting fragmentation
  • No to von der Leyen’s second mandate and defence build-up, left says
  • European parties filling coffers with some eye-catching donations
  • Flash updates: Macron’s party struggling to find EU lead candidate, the latest EU elections projections, a plot to found new left-wing parliamentary group, von der Leten’s second term bid, and much more. 

European left-wing forces are set to run in the EU elections with two separate platforms, with many similarities and common members, reflecting the fragmented left camp’s struggle to portray unity. 

While The Left group in the European Parliament – aggregating all of EU’s left-wing forces – is already a mix of diverging factions, new national parties born out of internal splits in Spain, Germany, and Greece are set to add to the group’s complex dynamics. 

Unlike the equally fragmented liberals, who will all go on the “Renew Europe Now” platform, the left camp is really struggling to come together under the same umbrella, with two parallel movements gearing up for the EU elections. 

The only faction constituted as a European party, the European Left (EL) – and thus the only one with the right to appoint a lead candidate – is set to convene and agree on a manifesto during a general assembly in Ljubljana on 24 February, in what will be the only European party congress taking place behind closed doors. 

Its president and future lead candidate, Walter Baier, hopes it will be a chance to showcase a “necessary” unity ahead of elections, he told Euractiv. 

But parallel alliances are brewing amidst discontent with the party’s role: “If the European Left were this big unifying party, then people wouldn’t need to look for alternatives,” a source close to the matter in the Left group said. 

A week before the EL’s congress, 15 left-wing parties from across Europe met in Copenhagen on 16 February to relaunch the Now the People political platform ahead of elections, founded first in 2017 by Spain’s Podemos, La France Insoumise, Portugal’s Bloco de Esquerda and the Swedish, Danish, and Swedish left. 

“We need to reunite the left, among very clear policies,” Manon Aubry, leader of La France Insoumise, told our Eleonora Vasques, adding: “We need an alternative to what we have in front of us, which is the far right, the liberals, and a divided left.”

The Now the People platform, many of whose participants are also part of the EL, is set to adopt some sort of electoral manifesto with ten common points, meaning the EU’s left-wing forces will effectively run with two parallel electoral programmes.

“We do not want uniformity, but a unity in action that respects differences between parties. There exists an agreement on the essentials (…). That’s, in my opinion, sufficient to create a unity that transcends party lines,” Baier told Euractiv when asked about this dichotomy. 

Despite trying to be an all-encompassing left-wing alliance, over time, the European Left party has lost attraction power – with at least seven of its members and observers also participating in Now the People. 

The Finish Left party (Vasemmisto) recently decided to take its distance by reducing their full membership to the status of observers while also being founding members of Now the People, MEP Silvia Modig told Euractiv.

When Spain’s Podemos rose on the EU scene, they rejected joining the Left party and founded the Now the People platform with like-minded forces, including La France Insoumise.

And, while the predecessor of La France Insoumise used to be a member, the party changed its status and is now an observer, too. 

“We do not want to compete or differentiate,” Aubry told Euractiv.

Along the same lines, Danish MEP Nikolaj Villumsen, whose party is both a member of the EL and a founder of Now the People, confirmed to Euractiv that “we do not see Now the People as something that is competing or replacing anything else”.

Left won’t join defence hype train

The current geopolitical landscape has rushed the EU to step up efforts in defence cooperation and industry build-up in the next legislative term with a brand new commissioner for defence

Unlike the Greens, who have reshaped their priorities and now support NATO and increased defence cooperation in their electoral manifesto, the European Left party is set to stick to its pacifist, anti-military narrative. 

“We do not support the increase of military expenses by NATO. Many European citizens are struggling with a cost-of-living crisis, while in the EU, billions of euros are spent for an unprecedented military build-up,” Baier told Euractiv.

Similarly, the electoral manifesto of Now the People! states that “the EU should not base its foreign policy on shoot-outs and nuclear threats, but instead focus on the defence of human rights, international law and the restoration of diplomacy and peace”.

No to von der Leyen’s second term

Now that Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has confirmed her reelection bid, she will need to gather support from EU leaders and the European Parliament after the elections. Listen to more in our podcast with Euractiv’s Nick Alipour. 

Just like in 2019, the left seems ready to vote against her.

“Von der Leyen has been a disaster as Commission president (…). This litany of chaos and poor decision-making leads me to the conclusion she is not fit to serve a second term,” Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus told Euractiv.

The European Left President Walter Baier accused her of “warmongering” in an interview in December, confirming he was “absolutely looking forward to von der Leyen leaving.”


Donations: Who is paying for the party?

Apart from the subsidies given by the European Parliament – altogether €50 million in 2024 – political parties and their foundations receive hundreds of thousands in private donations every year. 

For the first time, the Authority for European Political Parties and European Political Foundations (APPF) has decided to publish all donations every week, starting six months before the EU elections, to increase transparency. 

Citizens not interested.The conclusions, so far, seem to confirm the lack of relevance of European parties in European elections and the lack of connection between these parties and European citizens,” the founder of European Democracy Stiftung, which tracks European party’s donations, told Euractiv. 

In 2023, only 95 minor donations came from natural persons and 31 in 2024, so far.

The majority of net donations, instead, come from private companies and interest groups.

Multinationals4ALDE. Eye-catching data comes from ALDE, as the party received up to eight €18,000 donations in 2023 – the maximum possible – from companies such as Microsoft, Vodafone, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Amazon, AT&T, as well as the European Biodiesel Board. A whooping total, including other smaller donations, of €159,063. 

ECR gets the crown. The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) received the most donations in 2023 with a total of €222,200. Some eye-catching €18,000 donations came from the President of PGE Baltica, a branch of Polish state-owned energy giant PGE, an Irish media group, Italian industry, as well as telecommunications multinational AT&T. 

While the European Left, the European People’s Party and the Party of European Socialists received no donations in 2023, according to APPT data, the European Green Party (EGP) received some contributions from member parties and 18 minor donations from natural persons .

Foundations get the most. While no big donations have been made to parties yet in 2024, the party foundations – which carry out research and advocacy tasks – have received considerable contributions ahead of elections: a total of €123,991. Check them out


Flash updates

EU elections projection: Le Pen, Meloni soar as Germany veers left with Wagenknecht. While Germany’s new leftist breakaway party led by Sahra Wagenknecht soars with seven seats to the detriment of far-right AfD, Italy’s Fratelli d’Italia and France’s Rassemblement National are also on the rise, according to mid-February’s Europe Elects projections for Euractiv. Read more. 
Macron’s party looks for EU lead candidate – can’t find one. The date for the announcement of Macron’s Renaissance party’s EU candidate has been postponed several times, and key political figures have turned down the job, raising concerns that the party is not prepared or ready to launch its European Parliament electoral campaign. Read more.
Germany’s rebel Wagenknecht plots new left-wing group in EU Parliament. With the new German party BSW projected to become the biggest left-wing delegation in the European Parliament after June’s EU elections, its leader, Sahra Wagenknecht, insinuated on Tuesday (20 February) that she will try to create a new left-wing parliamentary group. Read more. 
Belgian party system designed to keep newcomers out, Dutch MEP warns. New parties joining the Belgian political system face an uphill battle to establish themselves alongside well-funded and already-established groups, MEP Sophie in ’t Veld, running with Volt Belgium, told Euractiv in an interview. Read more.

Polish FM Sikorski floated as a potential EU defence commissioner as agri commissioner faces critique. Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski is being floated as a possible candidate to head the new EU Defence Commissioner portfolio, while Agriculture Commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski faces troubled waters amid ongoing bloc-wide farmers’ protests. Read more. 

Von der Leyen’s mammoth task: Make the centre hold. As European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen launches her bid for a second five-year term, she is likely to face a balancing act of keeping EU unity and the far-right at bay. Read more. 

Von der Leyen faces delicate balancing act to indulge EU leaders. Ursula von der Leyen’s decision to re-run for the EU Commission presidency has prompted some positive reactions in several EU capitals, but her quest to secure enough support from governments may prove to be a little more challenging. Read more.

If you’d like to contact us for tips, comments, and/or feedback, drop me a line at max.griera@euractiv.com, or to Eleonora at eleonora.vasques@euractiv.com

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

Read more with Euractiv

Subscribe to our EU 2024 Elections newsletter


Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles