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EU Elections: Turning a New Leaf

EU Elections: Turning a New Leaf

The results of the EU's parliamentary elections are in, but the work of parsing the 28-member bloc's most important election in decades has only just begun. Here are a couple of themes that emerged from the vote:


The center continues to collapse. The two big party blocs that have dominated the parliament – the center-right European People's Party and the center-left Socialists & Democrats – lost about a hundred seats between them. For the first time since direct elections began in 1979, they can no longer form a majority by banding together. They are now looking for coalition partners among smaller parties.

The former fringe has gone mainstream. While traditional centrist parties took it on the chin across the continent, Euro-skeptic populist and nationalist parties led by Italy's Lega and France's National Rally, the top vote-getters in their countries, surged to grab just under a quarter of seats.

But at the same time, the left-environmentalist Green Party also made strong gains, particularly in Germany. If the traditional blocs tap the Greens for a coalition, it could drag the EU's politics further left on some issues, like the environment, even as right-wing politics gains support.

Europeans aren't sleepwalking. More than half of eligible European voters turned out to vote – the strongest showing since 1994. What's more, this is the first time in the history of these elections that turnout increased from one election to the next. That suggests European voters aren't sleepwalking their way into a political realignment, they are actively running towards it.

What to watch next at the national level

In France, President Emmanuel Macron's centrist Republique En Marche, one of Europe's newest parties, came in second to Marine Le Pen's right-wing National Rally party, with 22 percent of the vote vs National Rally's 23 percent. While that's a setback for Macron domestically, it's far from a rout. And the increase in support for alternative parties at the EU level, including the Macron-aligned Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, could give the French president new influence in Brussels.

In Italy, Matteo Salvini's right-wing Lega party trounced his coalition partners, the 5-Star Movement. That's in line with Lega's broader ascent in Italy over the past year. The big question now is whether Salvini will call a snap election to capitalize on his growing momentum and rid himself of the need for a coalition with the discombobulated 5-Star altogether.

In the UK, does the victory of Nigel Farage's Brexit party heighten the chance that the Tories tap a Brexiteer like Boris Johnson as party head and prime minister? If so the risk of the UK careening out of the EU without an agreement on future economic relations would increase. If that happens, the EU, and especially the UK, could be in for major economic pain.

What happens next at the EU level: EU heads of state will meet in coming days to discuss the choice of next president of the European Commission – the executive body that drives EU policy. With no clear governing coalition yet to emerge, the debate is likely to be contentious – indeed, there are already signs of a split between Germany and France over their preferred candidates. Parliament will get its first chance to vote on a new Commission president on July 11. By then, we should have a clearer idea of whether the EU's fractured Europhile majority can hang together against an emboldened populist and nationalist right wing.

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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