European Greens willing to join majority backing Ursula von der Leyen

Hungarian prime minister says fractured right-wing parties could become second biggest grouping following European elections

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen would be taking a “gamble” by not bringing in other political groups to bolster her current majority in the European Parliament, the Greens have said.

As the results of the European elections are finalised, attention has shifted to the prospects of Ms von der Leyen securing a second term as head of the commission, the executive arm of the EU.

The European Greens have indicated they would be willing to join the current coalition of the three main centre parties, in exchange for commitments not to backslide on reforms to tackle climate change. Bas Eickhout, one of the party’s lead candidates in the election, said the Greens were also looking for the next commission to be more forceful in standing up to EU countries that undermined the rule of law.

If Ms von der Leyen is backed by a qualified majority of the 27 national leaders later this month, she will then need a majority of the 720 MEPs to confirm her reappointment. The previous parliamentary majority of the centre right European People’s Party (EPP), the centre left Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and centrists Renew won about 400 seats between them at the weekend.

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Mr Eickhout said the commission president would be taking a “gamble” relying solely on the EPP, S&D and Renew, given some MEPs from those groups are expected to vote against her. “If you want a stable majority you need the Greens ... We are willing to be part of that coalition”, the Dutch MEP said.

Ms von der Leyen relying on some votes from the hard right to secure her reappointment would not be an immediate deal-breaker, he said, but any “sustained” working relationship with the right-wing extremes would be. “The far right don’t want a strong Europe, they want a very loose coalition of member states ... We will not be part of that, either you go for the far right or you go to the Greens,” Mr Eickhout told The Irish Times.

Separately, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban backed the idea of the extreme right-wing groups coming together to form a united bloc in the next parliament.

Mr Orban, whose populist party Fidesz topped the polls in Hungary, said if nationalist right-wing parties could agree to work together they could become the second biggest grouping.

Parties to the right of the EPP won about 160 seats, but they are mainly split between two groupings. The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), which includes Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy and Law and Justice in Poland, won 73 seats, according to provisional results from most countries. The far right Identity and Democracy (ID) group, which includes Marine Le Pen’s National Rally in France, won 58 seats.

The far right Alternative für Deutschland, which won 15 seats but was expelled from the ID group during the election over several controversies, and Mr Orban’s Fidesz, which has 10 MEPs, are not in any alliance.

Tom Vandendriessche, a Vlaams Belang MEP in Belgium, said the far right party was in favour of the extreme right forming “as large a group as possible”. It would have a “common agenda” when it came to wanting stricter migration policy and opposing environmental and climate reforms, he said. Mr Vandendriessche said he had “high hopes” about the potential for talks between ID and ECR resulting in a significantly expanded hard right group.

The various European Parliament political groupings are to hold meetings between the middle of June and early July, which will confirm what parties will make up their membership.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times