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European elections: Eurosceptics and Greens rise, but big parties hold on

Horse-trading over top jobs now begins

EU

After predictions that the EU’s political map could be hit by an earthquake, results from the European Parliamentary elections show the centre-ground parties have survived with a medium-sized tremor.

That’s the picture when results from across the EU’s 28 member states are collated and put into the groupings which sit in the Parliament in Brussels.

Country by country, the picture differs, however. The UK remains paralysed and fixated by Brexit, and the UK’s two biggest parties, the Conservatives and Labour, have been humiliated by two opposing tribes of voters angry at their policies.

Both lost many seats to Nigel Farage's newly-minted Brexit Party, focused on seeing through the UK’s departure from the EU, and the resurgent Liberal Democrats, which have been buoyed by voters seeking to stop Brexit.

Across Europe, Green parties and Liberal groups have made gains, as well as the right-wing nationalist and populist groups, who saw the biggest rise in the share of the vote, up 8.7%.

These largely Eurosceptic parties have a figurehead in Italy’s Matteo Salvini, leader of the Northern League, which took pole position in the country with around a third of the total vote.

Despite this surge, it is easy to overplay the gains of the smaller parties.

Interim results from across the 28 EU member states show the two big groups, the centre-right European People’s Party (down 4.7%) and the centre-left Socialists and Democrats (-7%) remain in a dominant position, despite both blocs having lost over 40 MEPs each.

They remain the two largest groups in a Parliament of 751 MEPs, but have lost their traditional majority and will now have to turn to other parties to form coalitions.

This will mean that the liberal ALDE group or the Greens will now have a decisive role in decision-making over the five year parliamentary term.

eu

Choosing new leaders

Attention now turns to the task of choosing candidates for a number of key roles, replacing current president of the European Commission Jean Claude Juncker, plus 28 EU Commissioners, and a new president of the European Council, currently Donald Tusk.

Manfred Weber, from the EPP bloc, has been the favourite to take over from Jean Claude Juncker, but the group’s poor showing at the elections means this is no certainty.

The decision will be subject to much negotiation and horsetrading among the member states’ leaders, with France’s Emmanuel Macron believed to favour the current competition commissioner, Denmark's Margrethe Vestager, over the Angela Merkel-backed Weber.

Pharma’s perspective

While Europe’s pharma lobby group EFPIA has been as careful as ever to stay out of endorsing candidates, its leaders did urge Europeans to take part in the elections and engage with a pan-European vision.

The sector is keen to see Europe deliver a pro-business and pro-innovation agenda, and this makes it fearful of the kind of disruption and breakdown in pan-European co-operation threatened by the nationalist parties.

An even clearer threat to public health and to pharma has been the anti-vax movement, which has gained a voice among Italy’s populist eruptions in particular.

Nathalie Moll

EFPIA's Nathalie Moll

When the elections kicked off last week, EFPIA’s Director General Nathalie Moll said the health of the EU’s citizens depended on “policy-makers, healthcare professionals, civil society and industry” to pool resources and expertise.

EFPIA developed its own manifesto for the elections, a nine point plan which included driving an “evolution towards outcomes-focused healthcare systems,” fostering new clinical trial design supported by digital tools and a new ‘strategic dialogue on healthcare and life sciences' in the EU.

Probably the biggest outstanding issue is the future of plans to introduce EU-wide health technology assessment regulations, which ran out of time to be finalised under the current Commission.

EU-watchers say the industry should be wary of the new influx of Green party MEPs, who have traditionally been strongly suspicious of pharma lobbying and its profit motive. Moves to set out a strong coalition against pharma and its high prices for specialist medicines is also growing in Europe and beyond, with the issue gaining much attention at the recent World Health Assembly.

Nevertheless, the new Commission is likely to continue its predecessor’s focus on supporting economic growth in Europe, where stagnation has helped foment the political unrest.

Article by
Andrew McConaghie

28th May 2019

From: Healthcare

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