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


  1. You could try this, albeit in french only

  2. True, perhaps not easy to find and not on the dedicated election site, but there is some info about the election act available in 3 languages on the EP site:

  3. mhhm too long?
    Go to
    than choose Fact Sheets/ Contents on the left menu and then
    "THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT: ELECTORAL PROCEDURES" under European Union Institutions and Bodies

  4. x.delcourt,

    My focus was on what the EU intitutions do to help us become informed citizens, so I did not look much outside these and the national government sites.

    But I have come across the student site you mention, and it is pretty good. It combines several kinds of information and is well designed, too.

    I can join in your recommendation.

  5. Christian,

    Thank you for your comments. I searched beyond the scope of my blog post and I am almost 100 per cent sure that the pages you mentioned were among those I looked at, but I decided to comment from the viewpoint of an interested citizen (who is not writing a treatise on the European elections).

    Therefore, 'accessible' was a key criterion.

    The European Parliament has all the knowledge it takes to add information missing between the European and the national level (some updating wouldn't go amiss).

    Even if there is fairly little on the electoral system, national information sources seldom refer to the few common rules that we have.

    The treaties are there, as a foundation, and I think that I have just shown that the basic provisions could be made somewhat more accessible to EU citizens than at present.

    Then there are the MEPs' Statute, privileges and immunities, internal rules etc., of interest to students, for instance.

    I hope that the European election pages can become a rich fountain of information, both light and deep, for among almost 400 million potential voters there are various needs and interests.

  6. I'd say that the lack of Wikipedia articles indicate a lack of interested citizens.

    The internet is a powerful tool, but the EP elections need to break into the traditional media to make a significant impact.

    Still, the lack of easily accessable information for the more casually interested citizen is a bit depressing.

  7. Eurocentric,

    Perhaps one could say that there are greater pools of voluntary talent in some languages, such as English. Anyway, Wikipedia is a great project, although I hope that the article stubs could be developed in all EU languages.

    The importance of the Internet is increasing, but you are right about mainstream media.

    They become interested when they imagine that their readers or viewers are, so the EP elections need a wholesale reform programme to reverse the declining trend.

    Short term the Europarties are in pole position. Only by fielding candidates for Commission President can they concentrate attention on their platforms.

    The EP election pages are a detail, but at least there a pan-European perspective is needed.

    Even if the Lisbon Treaty is a half-measure, the role of the EP would be enhanced if the treaty enters into force. But it is much easier to campaign against an "incomprehensible" treaty than for a zillion of internal improvements.

    It is hard to say if any of the real pan-European parties have any chances. Even if Libertas has messed up its beginnings and the latest Ganley interview highlights the glaring contradictions in recruitment and messages, it has the advantage of media attention; perhaps enough to become a channel for discontent.

    Well, there is a fair amount of nforation available on the EP elections for those who are interested, and there are tons of information about the European Union in general on the Commission and EP web sites.

    The Council and its dealings form the notable exception. Only the final decisions are accessible in any real sense for the public, and even for dedicated researchers it is an arduous task to find useful information, without inside information.

    But sometimes I think that the EU citizens ought to take some responsibility. "You can't push with a rope" goes a Finnish saying. If there is little demand for information and quality, we citizens get what we deserve.

  8. thanks for asking ;-)
    here they are

  9. Chris,

    Tahnk you for the link. I am going to take a look.


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