Sunday

24th Jun 2018

Commission unveils plans for noisier EU elections

  • EU voters should know who they are voting for in 2014 (Photo: wikipedia)

The European Commission on Tuesday (12 March) unveiled a series of proposals to make the next European elections a pan-European political event rather than an also-ran quasi national poll with an embarrassingly low turnout.

If member states implement the suggestions, voters in 2014 will know who their national party is affiliated with at the European level and who this party wants as the next President of the European Commission.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

Citizens across the EU will also all vote on one day - until now the ballot has been held on different days in some member states - and be informed about the presidential candidate through TV debates.

"It is important to get more people to vote," said citizens' commissioner Viviane Reding.

Average voter turnout has been declining since direct elections began in 1979, reaching a low point of 43 percent in 2009.

This voter apathy has become a major point of discussion and unease both due to the European Parliament's rise in law-making powers as well as the recent large increase in the European Commission's powers over national budgets.

"We are deepening European integration. We have seen in our everyday lives how important the European semester [budgetary cycle] has become and the country-specific [economic policy] recommendations," said institutional affairs commissioner Maros Sefcovic.

"That calls for more democratic scrutiny of what the European Union is engaging in. We need to ensure the participation in the European election is as high as possible," he added.

The commissioners also used recent survey data to back up the recommendations.

A eurobarometer showed that 62 percent of citizens believe turnout would be boosted by having commission President candidates and a single polling day.

Eighty-four percent say more people would go to the ballot boxes if they were more aware of the EU's impact on their lives - with European elections tending to remain stubbornly and exclusive about national issues.

Tuesday's suggestions are meant to smooth out any potential wrinkles in what is a new system for choosing the commission President, introduced with the Lisbon Treaty in late 2009.

The treaty says the EU leaders are meant to choose the next commission chief "taking into account" the EU elections. The wording, while putting pressure on national governments traditionally used to behind-closed-door haggling on who will be president of the European Commission, is not watertight.

"In politics there is always room for complication," admitted Reding.

But she added that it was important that discussions on how exactly the wording is interpreted take place now, rather than after the election.

Sefcovic, for his part, said it was "difficult to imagine that the [election] result would be completely disregarded" by EU leaders.

The commission's proposals have been welcomed by the parliament and by European political parties.

"The arrival of party political champions on the scene will dramatise the European Parliamentary election campaign across Europe," said UK Liberal MEP Andrew Duff.

The parties themselves are due to nominate their presidential candidates by early 2014.

Several names are already cropping up, including that of Viviane Reding for the centre-right EPP.

The attempt to engage European voters comes as some analysts fear that dissatisfaction with Brussels austerity drive could trigger a rise in populist and fringe parties ahead of the EU vote.

The election is due to take place on a day between 22 and 25 May next year, after EU ambassadors on Tuesday agreed to move it forward from June in a bid to avoid voters' holiday plans keeping them away from the ballot box.

Agenda

EU elections on the agenda this WEEK

European Parliament elections will feature on the agenda this week after a poll to choose 12 new MEPs in Croatia on Sunday.

Hungary to push ahead with 'Stop Soros' law on NGOs

The Hungarian government of Viktor Orban has said it will not wait until Friday, to hear a verdict of European legal experts on human rights, before going ahead with its bill curtailing NGOs who work with migrants.

Analysis

Greece facing post-bailout challenges

Creditors are expected to agree Thursday on a final loan and debt relief measures for Greece. After eight years on an international lifeline, the country will remain under close surveillance - but will have to find a new economic model.

News in Brief

  1. Venice Commission: Hungary should repeal NGO law
  2. Trump threatens to slap 20 percent tariff on EU cars
  3. EU closes deficit procedure against France
  4. Romania's ruling party leader gets jail sentence
  5. EU states defer individual decisions on asylum reforms
  6. Commission opens case on Qatar gas flow
  7. EU adopts posted workers directive
  8. EU leaders to call for 'coordinated plan' on AI

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  2. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMHRMI Launches Lawsuits Against Individuals and Countries Involved in Changing Macedonia's Name
  3. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  4. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  6. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  10. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  11. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network

Latest News

  1. Migration row at centre of EU summit This Week
  2. Merkel's woes cast shadow on EU's future
  3. Europe's tech race - trying to keep pace with US and China
  4. Merkel and Juncker's mini-summit risks fiasco
  5. Greece and creditors proclaim 'end of crisis'
  6. How a US firm pushed for EU €2.1trn pension fund
  7. Commission defends Africa migrant plan ahead of summit
  8. Bavaria hijacks EU migration talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  2. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  4. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  7. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  9. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  10. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  11. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  12. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us