The EU elections in May can be considered as landmark elections due to a significant increase in the turnout, highlighting the will for a new political structure for the next five years. It will be the first time in 40 years that the centre-right EPP Group and the centre-left S&D Group are losing their support in society and cannot create a majority alone. In four of the six largest member states, France, Italy, Poland and the UK, the Eurosceptics on the right were coming in the strongest. On the other side, the Green parties improved their result in several countries. A high percentage of the new Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and the rebranding of enlarged political groups, such as Renew Europe (Liberals), will change Brussels’ dynamics.
The opening session saw many new faces as 61% of MEPs are new to the Parliament. In total, 751 MEPs were elected from 190 national political parties in 28 EU countries. There are more women than before, accounting now for 41% of MEPs, up from 36%. The youngest MEP is a 21-year-old from Denmark, being the youngest person ever to sit in the Parliament. The oldest MEP is an 82-year-old media-savvy tycoon and ex-prime minister of Italy.
To position our industry among the new Members of Parliament, the EPRA public affairs team has created an EU elections manifesto with the industry’s political priorities and proposals for policy-makers (have a look at www.webuildeu.com). An ongoing advocacy outreach programme aims to increase the visibility of the real estate sector.
The Parliament’s Economic Committee will be a focus area. New members’ familiarity with the financial markets and the important role of real estate investment in European financial stability, economic stimulation and job creation cannot be taken for granted.
Based on what we have seen and heard so far, we can expect a new type of EU politics with new complexity in political trading in the search for deals and unpredictability of outcomes, driven by whichever pet political (and national) group issues are prioritised.
French President Macron’s kingmaker role driving the new group of ‘Renew Europe’ in the Parliament means Paris will hold de facto veto power over future deals. We can expect a renewed push for an EU budget, European capital markets and consolidation of the EU banking sector. We can also expect a more nativist industrial policy with an active pursuit of competitiveness of EU industry and financial sector versus US and Chinese peers, including a more interventionist stance in the development of EU champions.
Climate change is the heavily used buzzword nobody can escape these days. It includes the pursuit of binding carbon emission targets and an even stronger focus on sustainable finance.
On the tax front, there will be a push for EU-level taxes to create EU-own resources with a focus on carbon, financial and digital taxes.
And on Brexit, we can expect a more assertive stance, placing greater conditions on future Brexit extensions and strict market access/level playing conditionality in any future UK-EU relationship.
Together with the strengthened role for the Greens, this supports a more interventionist and confrontational EU policy across many areas that affect our sector: climate, trade, taxation, data protection, competition, market access, corporate transparency and accountability. A lot of challenges to cover for the next mandate.
Our industry has contributed to this European way of life by investing, creating jobs and making the economy grow while providing services responding to the needs and desires of citizens and consumers.
For the future, however, Europe’s achievements will be confronted with challenges, both political and economical, which it can only protect if industry is at the centre of its attention, having it protected and flourishing and not over-regulated and burdened.