Series: To the new leaders of Europe

With the European Parliament elections in June and the selection of Europe’s new leaders on the horizon, the stage is set for a reshaping of the EU's political landscape. Against the backdrop of shifting geopolitics and escalating global crises, our commentary series 'To the new leaders of Europe' looks into the implications of these domestic political choices for the EU’s international cooperation and foreign policy. It explores how the EU’s relationship with countries worldwide is changing and emphasises the importance of investing in strategic global partnerships.

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    Introducing the series


    Challenges ahead

    Current projections for the European elections indicate a shift to the right of the political spectrum and potentially more reliance on populists and radical right parties to sustain political majorities. While political dynamics vary by country, European capitals may choose more nationalistic, eurosceptic and populist representatives for posts in Brussels.  

    As a result, the tone of the next European Commission may differ sharply from the one of the centrist ‘geopolitical Commission’ Ursula von der Leyen inaugurated in 2019. While a scenario in which the EU withdraws from the world is unlikely, we could witness a shift towards a more inward-looking and Western-centric EU. The EU will potentially further deepen an interest-driven, mercantilist and transactional approach towards the rest of the world. Consequently, the integration of EU domestic priorities with external action could intensify and extend beyond initiatives like the Global Gateway strategy and the Team Europe approach. 

    EU domestic priorities – including migration, competitiveness, job creation, defence and energy security – are gaining greater prominence on the political agenda, signalling changes in how these issues will be addressed. Scaling up support to Ukraine and enhancing the EU's defence capabilities remains a complex and pressing issue. While Brussels is all about geopolitics, EU businesses are showing signs of fatigue with the geopolitical discourse and are pushing for a more pragmatic focus on European competitiveness and jobs. As the likelihood of a second Trump presidency grows, the EU will need to carefully consider its partnerships. 

    Not everyone in Europe agrees, and some constituencies and member states feel the heat of a more interest-driven EU. Of particular concern is how the EU's values agenda and its commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals will be positioned within this evolving landscape. As the climate crisis is looming, consensus around the EU Green Deal is showing signs of strain. All these challenges will require smart and creative solutions.

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    If you would like to know more about the series, give us feedback or share your thoughts on specific issues, you can get in touch with Mariella Di Ciommo or the commentary authors. For enquiries related to outreach and media, please contact Virginia Mucchi or Isabell Wutz.

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