What will the EU election results mean for infrastructure?


Do the results of the recent European Union parliamentary elections mean “continuity or rupture” for infrastructure policy?

The EU parliament election has delivered change across Europe, with the European People’s Party scoring a clear victory, tightening its grip on the chamber and far-right groups making major gains across the bloc. The centre-right force is on track to have around 184 lawmakers in parliament, a quarter of the 720 total, and is the only centrist party to have grown in the election. The centre-left Socialists and Democrats remained stable, while the liberal Renew Europe group was decimated.

But, with many of the parties of the right openly questioning the need for net zero and expressing climate scepticism, what does this all mean for infrastructure and policies like the EU Green Deal? Will infrastructure still be a priority following these election results and what can we expect on investment across the EU?

Speaking at an industry forum in London this week, Bernardo Matos, senior director for EU government relations at Bentley Systems, looked at the implications for infrastructure and whether we are looking at “continuity or rupture” following the recent EU elections.

“These results are not as disruptive as you might think, as the parties of the right do not form a cohesive bloc, unlike the centrist parties, who will still be able to set the direction of travel on policy,” said Matos. However, in terms of the climate and net zero agenda, Matos conceded that things could be different. So, is the EU Green Deal in danger? In short, Matos thought that it wasn’t, as many of the measures contained within it had already been voted for by EU member states and were bound by this in law. If they reneged, they could open themselves up to legal sanction, he said.

However, priorities and targets around net zero might be subject to some amendment as a result of the inevitable horse-trading that will take place around the forthcoming election of a new EU Commission president. Matos thought that there would be some compromises around the Green Deal in order to secure support for the current Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

“These results are not as disruptive as you might think, as the parties of the right do not form a cohesive bloc,” said Bernardo Matos, senior director for EU government relations at Bentley Systems.

“We need to understand that a changing world brings new political problems, with the key drivers going forward being resilience, competitiveness and security,” said Matos. A key question to be addressed was whether the EU’s transport networks could stand up to the challenges being placed upon them. “This has key implications for infrastructure as the transport across the union will be key in enabling nations to increase competitiveness in the face of increasing competition from China and elsewhere,” Matos said.

The election results will inevitably shine a spotlight on infrastructure funding. The current EU funding centrepiece is the post-Covid Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) adopted in 2021, later amended by the REPower EU plan launched a year later. These two funds expire in 2026 and there are now widespread calls to strengthen core frameworks like the Connecting Europe Facility, the EU funding programme to implement the trans-European networks for energy policy and infrastructure is critical to deliver the EU’s goals of resilience, competitiveness and security.

“There will be a continuing EU political focus on accelerating infrastructure rollout. This is a key policy driver and the EU is putting in place practical action plans to speed up investment and delivery,” Matos said. He thought that the EU Green Deal will largely survive, with some adjustments, but funding for infrastructure is likely to decrease meaning that states will need to do more with less. “This means that digital delivery becomes even more important and ‘going digital’ will be increasingly fostered by EU policy. Greater investment in a climate-resilient future also highlights the need for better data and analytics to understand the condition of existing assets, the risks they face and how to adapt,” said Matos.

With EU policymakers not aware of what good tools look like and what is good practice, it looks to be more important than ever for the infrastructure sector to get its message across in a coordinated fashion to ensure that legislators are better informed when making the key decisions affecting millions of people across Europe.