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)

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. 

3 ways to make EU elections ‘sexier’

It’s a fact: the number of Eurosceptics is growing throughout Europe, as shown lately in Germany. Yet no matter the individual opinion, the only tool available to make the Union better are the upcoming elections. At this point, even EU Commissioner Viviane Reding only hopes for a voter’s turnout of around 50%. So why not imagine things that could make these elections ‘sexier’ for everyone in France and in the EU as a whole?

Not saying we have to go as far as the Norwegian band Kollektivitet (BUT…)

1. Let EU citizens vote directly for the EU Commission president. The Union has already taken a step in this direction by giving more prominence to the nomination of candidates for the post within European parties. Several people oppose this solution, including EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who believes the current institutions do not need to be reformed.

The fact is however that the Union needs solutions to better involve the entire European population in this democratic process. European politics are often overshadowed by domestic affairs : as seen in the 2010 constitutional treaty referendum debacle, EU votes can turn into a popularity contest for the current national government. This is another log added to the Eurosceptic fire in France, given the all-time low rating of President François Hollande. 

We’re talking about the highest office of the sole body with power of initiative within the EU institutions. A direct elections of the Commission’s president may take away the national dimension associated which each party to consider what the candidate may actually be able to achieve at the European level. It is a face people will be able to relate to and associate with the Union. 

2. Create better promotional videos! If you were in the United States during the 2012 presidential elections, you’ve seen the Lena Dunham/Obama video ad. Of course, this one is biased, but there are many other (fun & objective) possibilities. Short videos are a great way to grab the attention of voters from different generations. So far, the EU has remained rather low key: with under 100 days to go before the EU2014, the two promotional videos of the Parliament’s website (actually just one video: most of the images are the same) arguably lack inspiration. The tone is rather serious and historical, with scenes of crisis and the Berlin wall and the EU appearing as a beacon of hope… Where is the European innovation?

UNICEF Ambassador Selena Gomez.  CC/Flickr/ellasportfolio

UNICEF Ambassador Selena Gomez CC/Flickr/ellasportfolio

3. Find some sexy/famous/inspirational/knowledgeable EU ambassadors ! It is the time the EU comes to term with the strategy it has been pursuing for the past thirty years or so: the pursuit of a European identity is in a way the creation of a brand. As a brand, it needs faces to represent the concept, and EU commissioners are not cutting it. Look at the ambassadors of UNICEF! Of course, these ambassadors are advocating children’s rights, but some will argue that the contribution of the Union to peace is worth the go. What impact could celebrities from all member states that are both knowledgeable about the Union and ready to advocate EU elections in their respective countries have in May?

Here is at least one fun step in the right direction.

 This is actually an initiative of Old Continent,
an agency aiming to develop the EU brand!

How about you?
What are your ideas for sexier elections?

Please comment below!