The head of the European Liberals’ list for the elections to the European Parliament next June, Valérie Hayer, ruled out a future European coalition that includes the Conservative parties and Reformists (ECR), among them Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia and the Spanish right wing party Vox. 

In an interview with the European Newsroom on Wednesday, Hayer insisted that for her group it is unthinkable to sit at the negotiating table with ECR, which she called extreme right in its entirety. In that assessment she included Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni personally.

Hayer stands at the forefront of the call for the right to abortion to be included in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. She challenges in particular the approval of the Italian Parliament to authorise militant anti-abortion associations to intervene in abortion clinics to convince women not to have abortions. “The Italian Parliament has adopted an amendment that allows anti-abortion militants to intervene in clinics that perform abortions to discourage women from having an abortion. A coalition agreement with the ECR, which includes the Fratelli d’Italia, which includes (tomorrow) Eric Zemmour’s Reconquête, (…), is therefore out of the question,” the liberal candidate said about future coalition arrangements in the EP.

“I am very confident about Renew’s position in the next European Parliament,” the 38-year-old French politician, a close associate of President Emmanuel Macron, said.

Shift to the right in European elections?

Hayer, who also chairs the Renew group in the European Parliament, warned that the ultra-conservatives and the extreme right will be able to add enough seats to form a blocking minority with their foreseeable gains at the polls on June 9.

“I say to voters throughout Europe: beware of the temptation of the far right, because the far right wants to unravel Europe, to undo the European project. It would mean withdrawal, loss of competitiveness, loss of jobs. It would have meant, under the mandate we passed, probably no recovery plan that benefited all our businesses and all our citizens throughout Europe,” Hayer said.

Asked if she extends this warning to her counterpart in the European People’s Party in the European Parliament, , after the occasions in which the EPP has sought support on its right to counteract a more progressive majority, Hayer said that she has “confidence” in the will of the European People’s Party to continue working towards a pro-European coalition. This has been expressed to Weber himself.

“It is in our DNA to fight against extremes,” stressed the French politician, who said she trusted that the Renew Europe group will continue to be useful in achieving majorities in the next legislature. She warned that Renew will not sign any ‘blank cheques’ with regard to support for the future nominee to head the European Commission.

The group’s objective after the elections, she said, will be “to return to European Parliament in the largest possible numbers to maximise the influence” of the formation and ensure that the work program of the future Commission focuses on its priorities: improving the strategic autonomy of the European Commission, defend competitiveness and support liberal democratic values.

Europe needs ‘strategic autonomy’

“The geopolitical risk, the risk of Trump’s return (to the White House) is a reality. We need to give ourselves the means to decide for ourselves, as Europeans at the level of the European Union, to build this strategic autonomy so that we are no longer dependent on other powers. As we have seen with our energy supply, we were dependent on Russia. We are no longer dependent on Russia. [It means] no longer depending on Asia for our battery supplies, and no longer depending on the United States for our common defence,” Hayer stressed.

Another of the challenges of the next legislature will be, for Hayer, to build the next phase of the European Green Deal after having focused the last five years on the design of it. “Now we have to implement this legislation. Making sure that no one is left behind, which means supporting and giving opportunities to our businesses,” she explained.

“We are simplifying and speeding up processes, making life easier for companies that want to develop wind or photovoltaic energy projects, or electric batteries. We must implement and create the regulatory and financial conditions so that the environmental transition becomes a reality and we achieve climate neutrality by 2050 in all sectors,” she said.

EU enlargement in the Western Balkans

Speaking about EU enlargement, Hayer said that there has been a lot of progress in that area recently because of the situation in Ukraine.

She pointed out that the rule on which the process of accession to the Union is based on merit applies to both Ukraine and the Western Balkans. It is also important for the EU to implement reforms so that it can function after enlargement.

“We Europeans ourselves must undertake reforms if we are to be more effective in our decision-making processes,” said the French politician.

She warned that the presence and influence of Russia and China can be seen in the Western Balkans, and that expansion is also a “geopolitical tool”.

Alongside Hayer, the leading liberal candidates are Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann from Germany and Sandro Gozi from Italy. The liberal Renew faction in the European Parliament actually consists of three parties: the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE), the French Renaissance of President Emmanuel Macron and the EDP (“European Democratic Party”), to which the Free Voters also belong. The European elections take place  on June 6–9, 2024.

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