DATE: 20-08-2019

How do the results of the European elections affect the AEC and its advocacy work?

On 2 July, just before the start of the summer break, the newly elected European Parliament met in Strasbourg for the first time in its current composition. So, the question arises, what impact the results of the latest elections in May might have on the work of the AEC and its members. What changes can be expected in cultural and university policy? Will we still succeed in making the voice of the European Higher Music Education to be heard? To be able to answer these questions better, let's take a quick look at the new composition of the parliament.
With 179 seats, the group of the European People's Party (EPP) will continue to be the biggest group, followed by the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (152), the liberal RenewEurope group (110) and the Greens/European Free Alliance (76). The newly formed so called 'Identity and Democracy Group', gathering right-wing populist parties from different countries, finished with 73 seats and thus performed less than many had feared. However, the number of seats allocated to each group of parties tells only half of the story, because some right-wing parties, such as Hungary's current governmental party Fidesz, still belong to the EPP group. Also, Nigel Farage's Brexit party does not belong to the Identity and Democracy group but joined its fomer partners from Italy's Cinque Stelle in the Non-Attached fraction. 
At the end of the day it can be stated that the right-wing parties have become stronger, but the clear majority of MEPs still belong to the centrist parties whose democratic and pro-European attitude is unimpeachable. Looking at the composition of the new Parliament from more than a purely political point of view, it is positive that the 2019 elections made the European Parliament both younger and more female than it has been after the 2014 election.
As an evident consequence, all these parameters are also reflected in the composition of the newly constituted European Parliament's Committee on Culture and Education (CULT). This committee and its members have traditionally been AEC's main points of contact at the political level of the European institutions when it comes to promoting the sake of music and Higher Music Education. It goes without saying that time comes when MEPs, to some of whom we had established good and close contacts over the years, will leave the Parliament. This year we have to say farewell to, among others, the two former committee chairs Silvia Costa and Helga Trüpel, who have repeatedly been proving their commitment to our concerns and to whom the AEC is greatly indebted. Unlike these two, Julie Ward, who has always shown great affection for the work of the AEC, was re-elected and reappointed to the CULT committee. Unfortunately, she will have to leave her position immediately when Brexit gets into force. Whenever you are keen to learn more about the work that this committee has done during the previous legislative period, it is worth taking a look at the recently published Activity report 2014-2017.
In the newly composed CULT Committee, we will still meet some familiar faces and trusted contact persons. Of course, it will also be about making new contacts in the coming months and the AEC and the Higher Music Education sector to the awareness of the new committee members. Among other things, it will be on AEC CEO’s agenda to get in touch with the new chairwoman of the CULT committee, the German EPP MEP Sabine Verheyen soon.
Finally, let's come back to the question of what impact the results of the elections in May might have on the work of the AEC and its members, what changes we might have to face in cultural and university policy and whether it will be possible in the future to make the voice of European Higher Music Education heard by the European institutions. Even we are no prophets, we do not expect to be exposed to serious changes, neither in the negative nor in the positive sense. In any case, the impact of a possible Brexit is presumed to have a significantly more tangible impact than the new composition of the Parliament, because this would not only bring less money into the EU honeypots, but also complicate the cooperation with our UK members. Even though we are all firmly committed to keep these contacts to the best of our abilities, the withdrawal of financial incentives would make it an illusion to believe that, e.g. student mobility can be maintained to the extent we have become accustomed to.