EU elections: why I will vote tomorrow

CC/Flickr/Rock Cohen

CC/Flickr/Rock Cohen

We are now halfway through the 2014 European elections, and no matter which way things go, we will have to own up to our choices (or the lack thereof) for the next five years. Yet on Thursday, British and Dutch citizens went to the voting booths in record-low numbers (less than 35% in the Netherlands).

The European Parliament arguably has more power than ever in influencing the workings of the Union and is the only directly-elected institution within it. Yet EU citizens care less and less at every election.

Voter turnout in the European Parliament Elections. Picture credit: Quartz

Voter turnout in the European Parliament Elections. Picture credit: Quartz

No matter whether you are pro-EU or eurosceptic, the Union and its member states are at a turning point: the aftermath of the economic crisis, the negotiations surrounding the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the United States of America, the diplomatic crisis with Russia, the digital transition undergone by our society, and, most importantly, the repositioning of European member states within the global order…

Part of the answer will happen through the European Union. For better or worse, its institutions have changed the lives of hundreds of millions of European citizens through the internal opening of its borders, its agricultural policies, its fight for civil rights, etc. Whether it is to take apart, or to make it stronger, citizens must take it upon themselves to show up at the booth to make their preference is taken into account.

This year in particular, the votes gathered by European parties should actually impact the election of the President of the EU Commission as a result of the 2010 Lisbon Treaty. Critics pointed to statements from Angela Merkel and Herman Van Rompuy indicating the European Council may present an outside candidate for the post (such as Frenchwoman Christine Lagarde), but few have talked of the reaction of the future eurodeputies: parties such as ALDE, the EPP or the S&D indicated they would shut down the European Parliament if they were imposed an outsider, yet stressing again the growing importance of the elected body.

People often complain the European Union is not democratic enough, but how can we believe they really do want to participate in its decision making if they pass out on the EP elections? Go vote if you haven’t done so already.

Picture credit : European Parliament

Picture credit : European Parliament

Party candidates for the EU Commission Presidency

*EPP – center-right: Jean-Claude Juncker (Luxembourg)
*S&D – center-left: Martin Schulz (Germany)
*ALDE – liberals: Guy Verhofstadt (Belgium)
*Greens: Ska Keller/José Bové (Germany & France)
*European Left: Alexis Tsipras (Greece)

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UK & Netherlands : which way will the pendulum swing?

CC/Flickr/Jennifer Jane Mills

UKIP activists – CC/Flickr/Jennifer Jane Mills

Today, the 2014 elections for the European Parliament started in the Netherlands and the UK. Many fear that the UKIP and the PPV will swipe victory in their respective countries. What do you think? Answer this poll as we wait for preliminary results to come in. 

Martin Schulz to Marine Le Pen

EP President Martin Schulz.  CC/Flickr/SPÖ Presse und Kommunikation

EP President Martin Schulz.
CC/Flickr/SPÖ Presse und Kommunikation

Since we gave a whole blogpost to Marine Le Pen’s intervention in the TV show Des Paroles et des Actes on April 10th, here is a bit from the person she did not want to debate with.

On the same day, Le Petit Journal interviewed President Martin Schulz: what questions would he have asked Le Pen if she had accepted to debate with him on television? There were two:

-Why do you want to form an alliance with Jobbik, an extreme-right Hungarian party that wants to collect the names of Jewish members of the European Parliament and of the government in a registry?

-If you are reelected [to the European Parliament], do you intend to become the leader of the far-right parliamentary group [you want to create], and to be more present in the European Parliament?

Schulz declared that Le Pen probably did not want to debate with him on European affairs because she had little knowledge on that topic despite her 10 years in the European Parliament.

Here is the link to the full episode of Le Petit Journal [in French].

Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen was in Russia on April 12th to meet with the President of the Duma. Here’s another gem to be added to the blog’s collection:

French MEPs, where are you at?

Empty chair policy at the EP?  Credit: CC/Flickr/Ronnie Mcdonald

Empty chair policy at the EP?
Credit: CC/Flickr/Ronnie Mcdonald

José Bové (Green party) was the first one to draw attention on the absence of French MEPs at the European Parliament (EP). So much so that Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Front de Gauche) felt compelled to publish a document on his website justifying his absences.

Question: what is the secret to being a good MEP? Is it the percentage of votes you participated in? The amount of time you spent in the Parliament buildings during your mandate? The number of questions or remarks? What do you think, readers?

In the meantime, here are some numbers on the main French MEPs looking for a new mandate to the EU, so that you can make up your mind on the value of these statistics. Reminder to understand the ranking in parenthesis: there are currently 766* representatives in the European Parliament. Also, an attendance record below 50% means the MEP loses half of his/her daily allowance.

To give you a sense of perspective: here are the numbers of Marie-Thérèse Sanchez-Schmid (UMP), who won the Parliament Magazine award for best MEP for regional development. She is contributing to the creation of  pan-European railway network.

85% attendance in parliamentary votes (453rd)
33 questions (336th)
131 reports amended (99th)
3 reports drafted (140th)

José Bové (Greens) CC/Flickr/dmonniaux

José Bové (Greens)
CC/Flickr/dmonniaux

José Bové (Europe Ecologie):

86% attendance in parliamentary votes (412th)
25 questions (487th)
Motions for resolution (252nd)
54 reports amended (426th)
5 Reports drafted (80th)

Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Front de Gauche)

70% attendance in parliamentary votes (677th)
42 questions (357th)
40 motions for resolution (150th)
6 reports amended (690th)
0 report drafted (677th)

Corinne Lepage (formerly CAP21, now the founder of Europe citoyenne)

80% attendance in parliamentary votes (566th)
44 questions (343rd)
13 motions for resolution (311th)
184 reports amended (24th)
2 reports drafted (215th)

Marine Le Pen (Front National)

66% attendance in parliamentary votes (709th)
3 questions (715th)
0 motions for resolution (454th)
0 reports amended (738th)
0 reports drafted (551rst)

Harlem Désir (Parti Socialiste)

50% attendance in parliamentary votes (752nd)
14 questions (601rst)
26 motions for resolution (212th)
12 reports amended (660th)
1 report drafted (372nd)

Alain Lamassoure (UMP)

83% attendance in parliamentary votes (503rd)
7 question (673rd)
4 motions for resolution (491st)
35 reports amended (565th)
4 reports drafted (97th)

All numbers are courtesy of VoteWatch Europe, as seen on April 11. 

* There will only be 751 left after the May elections (max. number allowed by the Lisbon Treaty) – proportions had to be recalculated because of the addition of Croatia to the Union.

European campaigns in France : when and where ?

We have talked a lot about a few small European parties, so here are the dates of the launch of their European campaign. Go see for yourself what they are all about !

Us Citizens (Nous citoyens) is launching its campaign on the 5th of April. Meet them at 15:00 at the Espace Charenton, in the 12th arrondissement of Paris.

Citizen Europe, the European list of the Citizen Gathering (Rasemblement Citoyen), will be meeting in Paris Wednesday 09/04 in the Rue des Rosiers. More details to come ASAP!  You might have to make an early choice there, because the UMP plans to launch its European campaign that very same day.

Pierre Larrouturou’s New Deal party (Nouvelle Donne) will be in Strasbourg on the 11th of April for the presentation of their EU objectives. Meet the candidates at 20:00 at the Cultural Center of Illkirch.

The European party (Parti Européen) has not yet determined a date to meet with its supporters – we will keep you updated !

The ones you’ve already missed

The Socialist Party (PS) took an early start by launching their campaign at the beginning of March. If you missed it, here is a video of most of the action (in French of course) with the head of the EU socialists Harlem Désir.

http://dai.ly/x1effxp

 

Same thing for the FN, which presented its candidates a few weeks back.Aymeric Chauprade, the leader in Ile-de-France for the FN’s European list, was even present during several of the campaign meetings for the local French elections.

Here is a poll on EU voting intentions in France published by Le Figaro on Tuesday.

http://www.lefigaro.fr/medias/2014/04/01/PHOe8276fbc-b99d-11e3-b80b-3bfae645a38e-805×353.jpg

The Party of the European Left has not specified a date for the launching of its European campaign.

Special award for originality

France might arguably be the most original of all EU member states in terms of political parties. Here is a new one I stumbled upon:

  • Alliance Royale, a political party whose main goal is to restore a monarchy in France while remaining open to the concept of Europe. Its leaders hope to improve on 2009, where they only won 0,05% of the votes in Ile-de-France.
Alliance Royale meeting on March 24, 2012. CC/Flickr/Remy Noyon

Alliance Royale meeting on March 24, 2012. CC/Flickr/Remy Noyon

European Union : who will remain in 2015 ?

No matter the result of the May elections, 2014 will be a year of changes at the top of the European Union. It should actually not a surprise, when you look at the elections’ slogan: “This time, it is different.”

Quick check-list of changes: 

  • 751 members of the European Parliament;
  • The President of the European Commission;
  • 27 Commissioners for the member states;
  • The President of the European Council
  • A EU high representative for foreign and security policy
  • A Presidents of the European Parliament
Average of polls for February 2014.  Source: Quartz

Average of polls for February 2014.
Source: Quartz

No brainer there: the first ones to go will of course be the Members of the European Parliament (MEPS)– we can expect at least a bit of changes in their ranks this year, if anything because of the surge of eurosceptic parties in Europe. FYI, the elections take place at the end of May, but the Parliament’s composition will remain unchanged until June 2, 2014.

Next, it’s bye bye to EU Commission President Barroso. The former Prime Minister of Portugal has been leading the Commission for the past ten years. Let’s once again underline the fact that, for the first time, and as a direct consequence of the 2010 Lisbon Treaty, the EU elections will have an impact on the election of his replacement : the EU council’s vote should reflect the majorities identified within the European Parliament through these elections.

Baroness Catherine Ashton.  CC/Flickr/FriendsOfEurope

Baroness Catherine Ashton.
CC/Flickr/FriendsOfEurope

We are also saying goodbye to Catherine Ashton, who will have to step down with all EU Commissioners. Small commentary here: we can only hope for a more decisive representative for the EU Foreign Policy. As several critics pointed out when she was nominated, Ashton just did not have the charisma and stature necessary to overshadow the national representatives of the EU member states. It was a strategic decision of course, but therefore the choice of her replacement will be telling as to the lessons the EU member states took away from the Ukraine crisis.

Finally, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has announced that he will not try for another mandate when the current one expires next December.

Most of these positions are up to hard bargaining within and sometimes outside the Union. The EU commissioners, for example, are chosen by the Commission’s President and representatives of the 28 member states. An important commissioner spot (Internal Market for example) may be given in exchange for support on the nomination of another top EU officer.