Thursday, 12 February 2009

EU law basics: European Parliamentary elections 2009?

Yesterday I tried to find easily accessible information about the upcoming European Parliamentary elections, to be held in June 2009. My chosen prism was that of an EU citizen politically interested enough to find out or a student with an assigned task to present the basics of the electoral system.

In other words, I imagine that I was more diligent than the usual reader, but not rigorous enough to unearth every buried nugget. The information had to be accessible.


What did I find?

In short, the Commission web pages refer to the newly launched portal of the European Parliament ‘European Elections ─ It’s your choice!’.

The Council links to the same web page, but if you look for ‘elections 2009’ with the general search function you end up with a lot of valuable information about elections elsewhere than in the European Union.

Clearly, among the EU institutions the directly elected European Parliament is the place to go if you want tangible information. At first appearances, it seemed right. The EP has just launched web pages aimed at informing the public (but when I retried a moment ago, the pages were down).

Anyway, yesterday there were pages with short texts about the upcoming European elections and links to pages on the elections in the individual member states.

For the more serious students there was little to find on two fundamental aspects: 1) the European level rules on the EP elections and 2) the rights and obligations of the members of the European Parliament we are about to elect.

I have little against hoopla ─ light snippets and visual entertainment ─ if public information still covers the basics. But without at least referrals to the laws, regulations and administrative decisions public information becomes mere infotainment.


EP ─ It’s your choice!

There is no need for my criticism to blacken the EP election page makers’ day for too long. First of all, the launch of the election pages is a huge step. All the needed knowledge is readily available in-house. Now it is just a question of making some serious additional information available to the public.



In my view, the EU institutions did less well than Wikipedia in covering the basics of the European elections 2009. This said with some reservations.

I believe that I found articles in ten EU languages (out of 23 official ones and a host of regional and minority languages).

Wikipedia was all right if you read the English or the Spanish version (if I remember correctly), but in many languages the articles were mere stubs, in dire need of writing and editing.

But even the best articles were somewhat short on the harder legal basics. As a fan of Wikipedia, I hope for continued efforts, especially with regard to the ‘smaller’ languages.


National sites

I worked through basic Google searches on the European Parliamentary elections 2009 in just a few EU languages.

There were, of course, discussions by and about candidates, but my primary interest was to see what governments and scholars had to offer on the (European) rules concerning the EP elections 2009 as well as the rights and duties of MEPs.

The United Kingdom offered clear official information about national election law, but I think that the only exact reference to an EU document was in Spanish (referring to the status of the voting rights of residents who are citizens of other EU countries). A Maltese page referred to an EU web page on the status of such intra-EU ex-pats.

The search was far from extensive, but it tends to support the view that there is a missing link between the European level and national government information.

If the European Parliament does not fill this void, who will?

Ralf Grahn