20% of EU seats in hands of eurosceptics but impact unclear

As heads rolled over the European Parliament election results in several countries, French president François Hollande went on TV to respond to the shock victory of far-right Front National.

20% of EU seats in hands of eurosceptics but impact unclear

The Greek government faced demands for its resignation from its main opposition, the left-wing Syrzia, who took the majority of seats and votes.

In Italy, relatively new prime minister Matteo Renzi even saw his country’s borrowing costs cut after his left-wing party won a majority in every province.

He cut income tax for his besieged citizens and made hiring temporary staff easier. Now his team of 28 Socialist MEPs rivals that of Germany’s Angela Merkel’s centrist EPP in the Parliament.

It was not just a matter of punishing governments that inflicted austerity on their citizens. In Latvia, just recovering from a massive recession, the prime minister responsible for the cuts was elected to the better-paid job in Brussels.

As national politicians reeled or rejoiced in the results, the impact of having around a fifth of the seats in the hands of eurosceptics was unclear.

Front National leader Marine Le Pen saw it as the first step towards putting her in the Elysée Palace. However, in the meantime, like every other head of a political party, she has to find allies in the European Parliament.

So do the other big anti-EU victors: Nigel Farage of Ukip, who topped the poll in Britain, Belgium’s separatist MEP Bart de Weever, the Dutch Geert Wilders, who did less well than expected and, the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party.

At least 25 MEPs from at least seven countries are needed to form a group and qualify for substantial administrative support, speaking time, attendance at meetings of political group leaders, and a quota of seats on committees.

There were two groups in the outgoing parliament — the European Conservative and Reformers Group formed by the Tories after prime minister David Cameron pulled them out of the EPP, and the Europe of Freedom and Democracy formed by Mr Farage. There is a third new group afoot, the Europe Alliance for Freedom.

However, traditionally there is little cohesion among polarised protest groups in the parliament, and this group is no different, with some fearing being associated with groups whose leaders were once jailed for racism, such as the Danish People’s Party.

The three main parties, the centre EPP, the Socialists, and the liberal Alde, had an agreement on the eve of the election that the winner would be given time to win a sufficient majority of around 399 to support their lead candidate for the post of Commission president.

However, already there were signs that German Socialist MEP and Parliament president Martin Schulz was ready to break ranks. His group is the second largest and, as such, the EPP’s Jean Claude Juncker should have the time, space, and support to get a majority.

In the meantime the euro-sceptics have until July 1 to find allies that they can form a lasting relationship with — as soon as they fall out, they lose their perks.

For more in depth updates and analysis on the fallout from this year's election and access to our comprehensive results database visit our special Election 2014 section.

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