Wednesday

19th Dec 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.

... or 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.

Orban protests target state media in new front

Unprecedented protests against Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban's "illiberal" style mark a rare united front of opposition parties, amid new violence against opposition MPs.

News in Brief

  1. 3,500 UK troops on standby for no-deal Brexit
  2. Brexit: Opposition disagrees over no confidence vote
  3. EU court confirms suspension of Polish judges law
  4. France to tax Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon
  5. EU negotiators agree CO2 targets for cars
  6. May: Brexit vote will be week of 14 January
  7. Rome finds extra budget funds to fit EU demands
  8. Polish climate talks end in agreement on rulebook

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Muscat's one-man rule poses challenge for EU
  2. Orban protests target state media in new front
  3. Brexit and the Queen Sacrifice
  4. EU gives Switzerland another six months for a deal
  5. Fiscal discipline rules in eurozone are devastating
  6. EU capitals see weekend of tear gas and water cannon
  7. Bulgarian 'EU passports' whistleblower wants justice
  8. No more Brexit talks, despite May's pleas

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  2. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  3. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  5. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  6. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  8. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  10. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us