Sunday 7 June 2009

European elections: Diverted in unity

Julien Frisch has shown more desperation than euphoria in his reflections on the European Parliament elections, and it is easy to see a number of reasons why.

On the other hand, this Sunday is the big day. On the BBC’s web page (European) Elections 2009 we find the 19 member states, where people are voting for their representatives in the European Parliament:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.

The political parties at European level have remained on the sidelines, the choices are limited and the campaigns have been mainly national in scope.

The motto “United in diversity” is like a pale shadow of “E pluribus unum”, and today European Union citizens will probably be more diverted than united.

Despite the shortcomings, these are the most European elections we have at this point in history. The 40 per cent or whatever proportion of EU citizens who bother to vote will vote for a candidate or a party aiming for one of the institutions of the European Union, of growing importance at that.

It is true that national elections lead to the formation of governments, and that the Prime Ministers and other Ministers in the Council of the European Union have more of a say in what the EU becomes or isn’t allowed to become. But the weight of European affairs is even less in general elections.

There is something to be said for smooth interaction between national governments and parliaments in EU affairs, but scrutiny through 27 national prisms will never compensate for the lack of real parliamentary democracy and accountable government at EU level.

What would it look like, if national affairs were run by representatives of local Boards, and the important decisions had to be ratified by the local Councils, with a Parliament allowed to have a say on part of the issues?


Whatever the outcome of today’s European elections (and the earlier votes), the EU institutions will work the next four years, eleven months and 20-something days.

How well or badly will depend in part on today’s vote. Even when the choices and the impact are limited, some alternatives are more constructive than others.

Ralf Grahn

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