German chems demand new EU Parliament reconciles climate, industrial policies

Author: Jonathan Lopez


LONDON (ICIS)--The new European Parliament (EP) will need to reconcile policies to limit climate change with industry-friendly measures that secure jobs and global competitiveness, the German chemicals trade group VCI said on Monday.

More than 400m EU voters had the right to go to the polls between 23-27 May, and slightly more than half of them chose to do so.

Turnout came at 50.95%, considerably higher than the 42.61% who went to the polls in 2014.

However, political forces outside the traditional social-democrat (S&D) and conservative (EPP) spheres increased their votes, with the Liberals of ALDE and the Greens considerably improving their results.

EP-elections1In fact, the bloc EPP/S&D who normally has the key to choose the European Commission – the EU’s executive body – has lost the overall majority in the 751-strong chamber.

See the EP’s official website for a list of full results.

The rise of the Greens – with 10% of the seats in the new EP – as well as other forces may complicate the election of a Commission president, which may drag on for months, according to financial analysts.

In one of the most climate-conscious elections in Europe so far, the Greens’ strength may also propel more environmentally-friendly policies which industrialists across Europe fear could damage their global competitiveness

The Greens’ rise in Germany – home to the largest chemicals industry in Europe – was notable.

The country’s chemicals trade group VCI said it was pleased that a pro-EU majority had clearly won the elections in the 28-country bloc, but added that “ambitious” climate protection policies should be combined with those helping prop up economic growth and increase industrial employment.

"The new MEPs [member of the European Parliament] are now faced with the task of reconciling economic, social and ecological goals with each other,” said VCI’s director general Utz Tillmann.

The trade group added that only a “competitive, innovative industry” could be able to its part in tackling climate change, develop a high level of consumer protection, and achieve sustainable development in the long term.

“The success of the next legislative period will eventually have to be judged by whether the reconciliation of economic, social and environmental goals has been achieved," said the trade group.

Europe-wide chemicals trade group Cefic was not immediately available for comment.

The traditional majority of EPP and S&D, which normally agree the European Commission’s president and share out the key positions in the EU’s executive body, came to an end in this election.

The Commission is a key institution within the EU – it is in charge of implementing the budget as well as EU-wide regulations.

The EU is due for a seven-year budget starting in 2020 – the so-called Multiannual Financial Framework, MFF – and will need to oversee the UK’s departure from the EU, now planned for 31 October.

However, the rise of smaller parties and the lack of an EPP/S&D overall majority could push the appointment of a new Commission beyond the planned date of October.

London-based analysts at German investment bank Deutsche Bank said on Monday that EPP and S&D will need “broader cross-party agreement and discipline” while pointing to how anti-establishment groups also had a good showing at the elections, with above 30% of the 751 seats.

“But we remain doubtful that these groups will manage to permanently overcome their (many) differences and use their leverage to promote their own coherent policy agenda,” said the bank.

“The increased fragmentation on the next EP will make the appointment of the next Commission President a potentially lengthy procedure. None of the EP's lead candidates will find it easy to secure support of a majority of the MEPs and the Council [heads of state and government] might see this as a reason to deviate from the lead candidate procedure altogether.”

However, if the process drags on for too long, financial markets may find a reason to distrust the euro, the single currency that is official in 19 of the EU countries, the so-called eurozone.

“This [a lengthy standoff between Council and Parliament that delays the new Commission] would reflect badly on the EU's prospective ability for constructive policy making and joint decisions and could thus impact market's confidence and trust in the single currency,” concluded Deutsche Bank.

Focus article by Jonathan Lopez