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EU Elections Unpacked: a close look at the ECR manifesto

As part of our EU elections unpacked series, we have examined the manifestos of the Greens, centre-right Christian Democrats, the centre-left Socialists, the Liberals and the Left. For our final analysis, we turn our attention to the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) manifesto.

The ECR originated from the UK Conservative Party, which sought to advocate for looser ties with the EU while the UK was still a Member State, differentiating itself from the centre-right group EPP. Post-Brexit, the ECR has redefined itself, maintaining a core Eurosceptic stance and encompassing political parties ranging from centre-right to far-right. Current polls indicate that the ECR is on course to become the third largest group in the Parliament.

The ECR has put forward a clear manifesto alongside other publications outlining its main priorities for 2024-2029. Key proposals include enhancing European security, upholding Member State sovereignty, implementing stricter migration policies, revising the Green Deal to alleviate some of the current regulatory requirements, promoting pro-market policies for SMEs, and focusing on EU budgeting within existing resources.

With Ursula von der Leyen seemingly reluctant to dismiss cooperation with the ECR for her re-election as European Commission President, the ECR’s influence is expected to increase over the next five years.

Below, we delve into the ECR’s main proposals, organised by business-critical areas.

Single Market and unleashing Europe’s small businesses

Economic revitalisation is a core objective for the ECR. It highlights the need to reform industrial policy and strengthen the Single Market. Criticising unreasonable objectives and impractical regulations that have eroded Europe’s competitiveness and led to de-industrialisation, the ECR commits to stimulating economic growth by cutting red tape. This includes implementing the ‘Once-Only Principle,’ ensuring beneficial business regulations and fostering a level playing field in state aid.

In the digital arena, the ECR is committed to modernising the digital landscape to boost innovation in AI, 5G/6G networks, and quantum computing. It advocates for a ‘New Legislative Framework’ that understands the digital world, promotes innovative software products and protects them from outdated rules.

The ECR also aims to preserve Member States’ fiscal autonomy and ensure non-interference in tax matters.

Revising the Green Deal to support farmers

The ECR proposes a revised approach to the Green Deal, emphasising a balanced, localised climate strategy that prioritises socio-economic well-being. It argues for implementing existing legislative requirements before introducing new regulations.

It intends to review the ‘problematic’ objectives of the Green Deal, promoting ‘real’ sustainability that revitalises Europe’s industrial sector and ensures a just transition with support for those affected. The ECR supports research and innovation in alternative low-emission fuels and believe in the continued commercial viability of the internal combustion engine through technological advancements.

In agricultural policy, the ECR calls for a balanced approach, rejecting the excessive bureaucracy of the Common Agricultural Policy and promoting efficiency. It pledges to protect EU products through fair enlargement policies and initiatives against unfair practices, championing the exclusive status of EU geographical indications.

Transforming energy security and stimulating growth via trade

The ECR underscores its commitment to revolutionising energy security and driving innovation. It aims to strengthen the EU’s energy autonomy by enhancing logistics transport infrastructure, advancing new technologies, and securing energy and raw materials supply. Advocating for a technology-neutral approach, the ECR champions nuclear energy and geothermal power to maintain a competitive edge in the energy sector.

On trade, the ECR envisions the EU thriving on free trade, propelling economic growth through market-led prosperity and comprehensive trade relations.

It prioritises de-risking the EU’s relationship with China and seeks to reform the World Trade Organization. Additionally, it advocates for partnerships with strategic allies, including the US, the UK, Latin America and the Indo-Pacific region.

Streamlining the budget and prioritising national identity

The ECR manifesto highlights the importance of an efficient and effective EU budget. It proposes performance-based budgeting to ensure every Euro spent achieves maximum impact, advocating for transparency and rigorous scrutiny. Committed to precision and accountability, it aims to achieve these goals without requiring additional new resources.

The ECR places significant emphasis on preserving national identity and the sovereignty of Member States. Its manifesto calls for reforms that reduce unnecessary centralisation and oppose extending qualified majority voting on issues from which it is currently excluded, such as tax regulation. It argues that the European Commission’s role should not be mistaken for that of a government of a European ‘super-state.’ The ECR advocates for using existing Treaty provisions to usher in a new era of empowered sovereign states.

Protecting the EU’s borders

The ECR supports strategic EU enlargement based on merit and compliance with the Copenhagen criteria, rejecting any automatic deepening of EU political integration. It advocates for stronger ties with the global west and the UK, particularly on security and defence, intelligence sharing, energy, and migration.

Regarding China, it aims to balance engagement while addressing human rights violations and strengthening ties with Taiwan and other like-minded partners. It also proposes a more assertive policy towards Iran, focusing on its nuclear programmes and state-sponsored terrorism.

The ECR aims to strengthen Europe’s defence, technology and industrial base, to ensure the development and production of a full range of military capabilities in sufficient quantities for both Member States and their Allies. However, it maintains that defence prerogatives should remain with Member States, expressing scepticism about an EU-level defence union.

Their robust defence strategy emphasises the fortification of the European defence industry and enhancing cooperation with NATO. The ECR advocates boosting defence budgets, advancing technology and improving armed forces training to enhance EU-NATO cooperation. Alongside the Liberals, it clearly states that NATO should be the primary security actor for Europe.

The ECR emphasises the need for the EU to support Member States in managing migration flows, rejecting any imposition of illegal immigrants on citizens without their consent. Its manifesto includes plans to combat human trafficking and smuggling, increase repatriations, and collaborate with third countries on migration management.

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Léa Bareil, Deputy head, EU Regulatory and Public Affairs 

Gonçalo Loureiro, EU Regulatory and Public Affairs Intern

Annabelle Duramé, EU Regulatory and Public Affairs Intern