As this election involves all 28 EU Member States, and thus includes candidates from countries that have not adopted the single currency, the analysis of the institutional functioning of the euro, and of monetary and economic policies responding to the Eurozone crisis is often unfairly overlooked, given the importance of these issues for the economic prosperity of the main Member States. Finally, all candidates seem to agree on the need to effectively tax the American and Chinese digital giants, in accordance with the wishes of public opinion. With one exception, the opposition of the European Council on this issue has not been debated or analyzed, thus illustrating the difficult translation of European institutional games, which public opinion has not yet managed to fully grasp, into political discussions.
In line with the results of the vast majority of pan-European surveys, migration issues have been widely debated. Migration has been at the heart of the discourses held by many Eurosceptic right-wing movements and governments since the 2015 crisis. In just a few years, it has become the most divisive issue in European political life. Czech leader Jan Zahradil spoke on behalf of the ECR group and expressed his party's strong opposition to the mandatory redistribution mechanism for asylum seekers decided in 2015. Following the spirit of the latter policy, most of the other candidates called for greater solidarity between Member States, which still seems unrealistic due to the opposition of many capitals.
The Union's place in the world and its priorities in terms of foreign policy were also discussed. In this category, transatlantic relations, as long as the relationship with Russia often came up, while the strategy to be adopted with the EU's neighborhood - which is of prime importance in view of the growing number of crises - and the relationship with China were mostly avoided. One might also regret the fact that so little time has been devoted to the terrorist threat or to industrial and budgetary defense policies. In these different areas, the absence of a French candidate, who we might expect to be more sensitive to these issues, was felt.
Given the picture you just painted, how do you see European political life evolving over the next five years?
The "Spitzenkandidaten" process is not yet fully established in the EU's institutional functioning. In particular, the French President and the German Chancellor are opposed to it. For the French President, this process must follow from the existence of genuine transnational lists for the European Parliament, a project that has failed so far despite Paris' support. It is therefore quite possible that none of the candidates who have attended these debates will become President of the European Commission. The European Council and Parliament will jointly make this decision, which will undoubtedly stem from complex negotiations, in particular between France and Germany. The very existence of this uncertainty has made the exercise of these debates somewhat artificial, and explains why they have not had the expected impact.
The current projections for the future European Parliament do not seem to deeply challenge current political dynamics. The emergence of new parties in Parliament, starting with La République en marche, does not seem sufficient to entirely reshuffle the composition of European parliamentary groups. However, according to opinion polls, the future Parliament will be even more fragmented than the current one, and the future President of the Commission could be the representative of an alliance of parliamentary groups.