Wednesday 6 May 2009

European elections: Real choice for voters?

Everyone who wonders at voters’ apathy ahead of the June 2009 European elections should read Peter Sain ley Berry’s blog on EUobserver: A Political Website Standard Might Improve Election Turnout (5 May 2009).

The blog post looks at the web sites of the European political groups in search of meaningful information about the European Union the Europarties want EU citizens to vote for.

Consumers are protected, but real choice is not on offer for voters in the European elections.


European integration is an ongoing project and the Treaty of Lisbon is but an intermediate station on the way to a European Union willing and able to defend the security interests and improve the prosperity of EU citizens.

Far from “institutional navel-gazing” the future of Europe remains the profound issue the European level parties have to tackle and where they need to engage with citizens.

Beyond the Lisbon Treaty, an EU based on its citizens is the main challenge for the first decades of this century. Democratic government, legitimacy, accountability, effective institutions, fiscal and budgetary reform, as well as the future borders of the European Union need clear visions.

Foreign and security policy, including our defence, are crucial to our security, but even a blind man can see the inadequacy of present and proposed arrangements in a challenging world.

The internal market still falls short of a borderless area for people and services in the face of obstruction and roll-back pressures based on national protectionist arguments.

The future of EU spending requires new choices. Does our future rest on agricultural subsidies and regional funding, or should Europe build its future on brain power?

At the present time, the European Parliament does not decide these questions, at least not on its own, but the EP can become the catalyst for change. Naturally, the European Parliament will also house the sovereignists, wedded to antiquated ideals and existing power structures. If willing, the European Parliament can become the arena where the opposing views clash and are given meaning to the citizens of the European Union.

But, of course, for that to happen the European political parties and movements have to take on a new role. If the current party coalitions are unable, constructive pan-European parties are needed.

Then there is the level of “business as usual”. Each Europarty needs to offer its blueprint for the next five years of legislative work. How will its future vision translate into the humdrum activities in the short term?

Citizens need to think about our global and common European challenges. Even if the national parties campaign on irrelevant issues, there is still a margin of choice for the informed voter.

Ralf Grahn

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