INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: European Elections Campaign: What to Expect

Published: Mon 15 Mar 2004 01:36 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BRUSSELS 001094
SIPDIS
DEPT FOR EUR/ERA
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED-PLEASE HANDLE ACCORDINGLY
CORRECTED COPY OF BRUSSELS 1089
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR TU EUN USEU BRUSSELS
SUBJECT: EUROPEAN ELECTIONS CAMPAIGN: WHAT TO EXPECT
REF: A) BRUSSELS 631; B) MUNICH 159
1.CORRECTED COPY OF BRUSSELS 1089
2. (SBU) Summary: The European Parliament (EP) is now
focused on the June 10-13 European elections. As a result,
there will be almost no legislative activity between early
May and September. U.S.-EU relations, the war on terrorism
and Iraq are likely to be themes in many MEPs' campaigns as
they heat up in April-May. Another key campaign issue will
be Turkey's EU accession -- EP approval is needed before
any new member can join. The elections are expected to
yield up to 60 percent turnover of MEPs, and our
interlocutors, perhaps hastily, predict that the EPP-ED
(Christian Democrats and Conservatives) will keep a
plurality of seats with the PES (Socialists/Social
Democrats) coming in second. In the post-election EP, the
expected pro-Americanism and euroskepticism among many new-
member-state MEPs will bear watching. END SUMMARY.
SERIES OF PRE-ELECTION REPORTS
------------------------------
3. (U) This is the second in a series of reports on the
European elections. Septel provided general background on
the European Parliament and the European elections system.
Subsequent telegrams will go into more detail on the role
of U.S.-EU relations in the elections, the reelection
prospects of key MEPs, possible realignment of party groups
and the expected influence of MEPs from the countries set
to join the EU on May 1.
EP ACTIVITY FROM NOW TO SEPTEMBER
---------------------------------
4. (U) Much of this year's remaining legislative work will
be done in the three EP plenary sessions between now and
May 6 (March 29-April 1, April 19-22, May 3-6).
Resolutions or reports on the following issues of interest
to the U.S. are set to be brought to a vote before the May
closure: U.S.-EU relations, Guantanamo detentions,
preparedness for EU entry of the ten countries set to join
on May 1, progress of Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey towards
EU accession, cross-border investment services within the
EU (2nd reading), capital markets transparency directive
(1st reading), use of labels to claim health benefits of
food products (1st reading), harmonizing member-state
legislation to enforce intellectual property rights (1st
reading), open skies agreement with third countries
including the U.S. (2nd reading). Resolutions on biometric
data for passports and Passenger Name Record (PNR) may also
be voted on by May.
5. (U) As of May 6, EP business will halt to allow MEPs to
campaign at home. The post-election EP, (including the
newly elected batch of new-member-state MEPs) will not meet
again until July 20-23, at which time the main focus will
be election of new EP officers and committee chairpersons.
The first plenary after the August summer break will be
September 13-16, at which voting on legislation will begin
again in earnest. What is not finished before May 6 is put
in abeyance until September, and must be formally revived
by a decision of the EP leadership (Conference of
Presidents) or it will die.
U.S.RELATIONS WILL BE CAMPAIGN ISSUE
------------------------------------
6. (U) Officials in both the EPP and PES tell us that
themes connected to transatlantic relations such as Iraq,
the war on terrorism and the link between European Security
and Defense Policy and NATO will be important campaign
issues. In most of the new member states from the former
East Bloc, we expect keeping close ties to the U.S. to be
an especially prominent theme. Immigration issues,
including worry in western Europe about jobs being taken by
workers from the new member states, are also expected to be
important trans-national themes (septel).
TURKEY ACCESSION: MANY AGAINST
------------------------------
7. (U) Another key issue for many will be Turkey's
accession to the EU. No country can join the EU without an
EP vote approving the accession. The Bavarian Christian
Social Union (CSU) and many in its Christian-Democrat
sister party (CDU) plan to run opposing Turkey's accession
(ref B). In reaction to this, the German Social Democrats
and Greens have reiterated their stance in favor of Turkish
accession. Although it appears that now a majority of
current MEPs favor Turkish accession, they are far ahead of
their populations, opening the door for candidates to
exploit this issue in their electoral campaigns.
SOME EXPECT CHRISTIAN-DEMOCRAT WIN...
-------------------------------------
8. (U) Our EP interlocutors are predicting that the EPP-ED
will hold on to its plurality, but much can happen between
now and June. With victory as their expressed goal, EPP-ED
Chairman Hans-Gert Poettering and UK Conservative leader
Michael Howard have negotiated a deal -- to be voted on by
EPP-ED MEPs on March 31 -- keeping the British
Conservatives in the EPP-ED. Although the EPP has
consistently opposed U.S. policy on the ICC, the Kyoto
Protocol and Guantanamo, it is the most pro-U.S. EP group.
It includes in its ranks, in addition to the German
Christian Democrats and the UK Conservatives, the Spanish
Partido Popular, the Italian Forza Italia and the Dutch
Christian Democrats. Partido Popular's surprise defeat in
this weekend's elections may have an impact on campaign
calculations, and could put a dent in the conventional
wisdom predicting an EPP plurality.
...BUT CHRISTIAN DEMOCRATS MAY SPLINTER
---------------------------------------
9. (U) EP interlocutors told us that, after the EPP-ED, the
PES is expected to remain the second strongest party group,
and that the Liberal Democrats (ELDR) should come in a
strong third. The Greens should lose seats, as they are
very weak in the new member states. One recent
development, however, could throw a wrench in the works.
On February 20 some members of the EPP (principally from
the French UDF and the Belgian CDH) met in Rome with
leaders of the ELDR and members of the Italian "Oliva"
party (recently launched by Commission President Romano
Prodi) to explore the possibility of creating a "true
European Federalist party" - in explicit opposition to the
EPP's inclusion of the euroskeptic UK conservatives. If
this new party group does in fact emerge, the EPP could
lose seats relative to the PES. Both of these major
parties could also find themselves faced with a third
centrist force significantly stronger than the current
ELDR.
WHO WILL STAY AND WHO WILL GO
-----------------------------
10. (SBU) According to the Parliament's EPP spokesman, the
following key EPP-ED MEPs (and friends of the United
States) are expected to return because of their high
position on their party lists: Party Group Chairman Hans-
Gert Poettering (Germany), Foreign Affairs Committee
Chairman Elmar Brok (Germany), Transatlantic Policy Network
(TPN) Chief James Elles (UK), and Environment Committee
Chairwoman Caroline Jackson (UK). In the PES, party group
leader Enrique Baron Crespo has not yet decided whether to
run for re-election. Many key PES MEPs such as Economic
and Monetary Affairs Committee Chairwoman Christa Randzio-
Plath (Germany) and PES Foreign Affairs Committee
Coordinator Jannis Sakellariou (Germany) will not run for
re-election. The leader of the ELDR group, Graham Watson,
will probably be re-elected but may not remain as ELDR
chairman. Other key ELDR MEPs such as Foreign Affairs
Committee Vice Chair Baroness Nicholson (UK), whose record
on transatlantic issues is mixed, and PNR rapporteur
Johanna Boogerd-Quaak (Netherlands), who opposes the U.S.
agreement with the European Commission on PNR, will
probably be reelected. Franco-German Greens leader Daniel
Cohn-Bendit, elected on the French Green list in 1999, will
underscore his standing as the premier force behind the
recent formation of a Europe-wide Green Party by running as
number two on the German Greens' list.
NEW MEMBER-STATE MEPS PRO-U.S.
------------------------------
11. (SBU) Altogether pundits expect the June elections to
yield up to 60 percent first-time MEPs (including the 162
new-member-state MEPs), much more than in previous
elections. We expect many MEPs from the 10 new countries
to bring pro-U.S. attitudes and new-member euroskepticism,
but their lack of EP experience will likely lead them to
maintain a lower profile in the beginning. If a plurality
of the new-member-state MEPs are EPP-ED members, they will
add to the weight of the pro-U.S. but euroskeptic British
Conservatives and Forza Italia. END COMMENT.
FOSTER
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