Monday

16th May 2022

MEPs to fight low turnout in European elections

  • The European Parliament wants citizens to be more involved in EU politics (Photo: European Parliament)

MEPs on Thursday (29 November) approved a new set of rules they hope will spur citizens to vote in the five-yearly European elections, a pan-European event that has regularly seen turnout fall below 30 percent in the individual member states.

Just days after only 29 percent of the Romanian electorate turned out for the country's first ever European elections, MEPs said that European political parties - currently numbering ten - should be able to use public money to finance political campaigns.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

They also voted to set up political foundations. These institutions - to get €7 million in EU funds next year - will be politically affiliated to a particular European party and will be designed to get people talking about Europe.

Welcoming the news, EU communications commissioner Margot Wallstrom, who proposed the plans earlier this year, said "Europe really needs genuine debate and political controversy to engage citizens."

Speaking to EUobserver, the commissioner said the point of the new measures is "not to ask everybody to love the European Union but to say: 'There is something going on, you had better participate.'"

Low turnout has long been a source of frustration for many euro-deputies who feel their claims to belonging to the most democratic of the EU's main institutions is often undermined by the fact that so few people vote to put them there.

The point is to become more acute from 2009, the date when the EU's new treaty is supposed to come into place.

Under this document, MEPs' power to co-legislate with member states has been doubled and includes politically sensitive areas such as farm policy and justice issues.

MEPs are hoping that a provision in the treaty meaning that the next commission president should come from the political party that does best in the elections will make voters more conscious of the effect of their ballot.

"We need to do something," said Ms Wallstrom, who suggested that one of the topics of the discussion around the election of 751 MEPs from 27 member states in 2009 could be whether a woman will land one of top EU jobs up for grabs that year - either as EU foreign minister, president or head of the commission.

Spending rules

The rules agreed by MEPs also allow parties to carry over 25 percent of their EU funds from one year to the next.

The current system prevents long-term planning as parties rush to spend any left over money by the end of the budgetary year.

German socialist MEP Jo Leinen, in charge of the dossier in the parliament, called it a "major step forward" for European politics - itself a concept representing "new territory."

He said he hoped the measures would create "a new dynamism" in EU politics as well as "a European public opinion."

Answering questions on fears about whether EU taxpayers money will be safely spent, Mr Leinen said that there is a "very compact system of control and audit."

The twin problems of European elections

While the elusive European political space is unlikely to spring up between now and the June 2009 European elections, an anti-EU treaty platform and the wish of the European Commission president to hold his post for a second time may go some way to fostering some European debate.

EU lobbies Hungary to break oil sanctions deadlock

After the EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen's Budapest trip, Hungary suggested it wants EU funds to offset the extra costs from receiving different oil sources, and the increased energy prices the planned Russian oil embargo entails.

Political groups shun far-right pro-Kremlin MEP

French MEP Thierry Mariani from the far-right Identity and Democracy Group is spearheading a report in the parliament's foreign affairs committee. The socialists are boycotting it.

Opinion

The EU Parliament Covid inquiry: the questions MEPs must ask

A basic lack of transparency around the EU's vaccines procurement negotiations has prevented effective public and parliamentary scrutiny. It has also made it impossible to answer some of the key questions we put forward here.

News in Brief

  1. German ruling party in regional election blow
  2. EU expanding arms-for-Ukraine programme
  3. Reports: EU drafts plans for Russia energy payments
  4. Pro-Russian hackers targeted Eurovision
  5. EU to donate extra €400m for Africa vaccines rollout
  6. Spain plans five-days 'menstrual leave' and to ease abortion rules
  7. MEPs reject proposal for stricter 2030 target on cars and vans
  8. Study: EU spent €341m on AI border technology

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  3. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  4. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersHuge support for Ukraine
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBWorkers want EC to limit subcontracting chains in construction

Latest News

  1. Sweden to join Finland in applying for Nato
  2. Russia sanctions and energy dominate Next WEEK
  3. Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?
  4. EU reaches deal on flagship cybersecurity law
  5. EU to help Ukraine export grain — amid food shortages fears
  6. Revealed: Big Oil shaped EU's gas-cutting strategy
  7. EU: Ukrainians hesitating to register for protection
  8. UK says 'no choice but to act' over post-Brexit trade rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us