Centrists and progressives at the European Parliament

French President Emmanuel Macron wants to unite the progressives in the European Parliament against the threat posed by the far right, but the road is winding.

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French President Emmanuel Macron has made his bid to unite centrists and progressives with his new political offer, Renaissance . A political project set to put a positive spin to EU integration and the challenges that the European project is facing. The main interlocutor of Renaissance will be Guy Verhofstadt’s ALDE, the already existing group of liberal forces in the European Parliament.

As openly stated by Macron, the forthcoming European elections will be held under the “existential threat” of right-wing populism, given the momentum that far right, eurosceptic parties have recently enjoyed across the EU – especially in countries that elect a large number of MEPs such as Italy, with Matteo Salvini’s Lega being the first party in polls, and France, with Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National. The French president aims to come out of the elections leading the largest party in his country and to lead a coalition of progressives in the European Parliament, in order to deter the threat by the far right and form a group consisting of more than 100 MEPs.

Yet, it seems that instead of merging into ALDE with its MEPs, Renaissance wants to form a brand new group, being more open to the left and to the right, to the extent that this hypothetical new European family may drop the “liberal” in its name, as admitted by Verhofstadt. Indeed, in early May, Renaissance’s candidates held a meeting in Strasbourg with delegations from progressive parties across the EU. Besides the liberal parties, Italy's Democratic Party and Portugal's Socialist Party, both part of the group of socialists and democrats, participated with video messages by their leaders.

Rather than locking himself in candidate names and party power plays, Macron’s plan consists in forming a coalition revolving around themes and issues. Renaissance’s agenda was presented in Berlin last week. Among the various elements, the most salient are the environment, for which Macron proposes to increase the budget devoted to favor energy transition in the EU; the institution of an European army and the increase of defense spending; the safeguard of democratic standards within the EU, to be achieved by linking the access to EU funds to the respect of the rule of law, directly attacking the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán.

The ideal end of Macron’s bid to the next European elections is to revive European integration, setting a coalition of the willing to relaunch a grand, ambitious European project from within the EU institutions, given the difficulties experienced by the French president to do so through the, apparently jammed, Franco-German engine.

Anyway, Renaissance’s journey to the European elections and the rationales underpinning its view, may encounter a big challenge: the election’s result may be a severe blow for Macron. According to the latest polls , in fact, Le Pen’s Rassemblement National is slightly ahead of the President’s party: a second place in the elections would be a serious political damage for Macron, already stumped by the months of protests enacted in France by the yellow vests.