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20th Sep 2019

MEPs keen to shine spotlight on EU elections

  • Parliament: Member states should raise awareness about the EU vote, says the report (Photo: Luc Mercelis)

The European Parliament on Thursday (4 July) agreed a series of proposals designed to highlight the first-ever political race for the post of European Commission chief.

The resolution urges European political parties to name their candidates "sufficiently well in advance" of the European Parliament elections on 22 May 2014.

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The aspirant Presidents should "personally" present their political programme in all 28 member states and there should be "a series of public debates" between the nominees.

In a bid to raise awareness of the existence of EU-level political parties, the resolution suggests the party's names should appear on the ballot sheet and that they should have campaigning spots on national TV.

The resolution also calls on member states to "organise a public campaign to encourage citizens to turn out to vote," with turnout reaching a historic low of 43 percent in 2009.

EU commission vice president Viviane Reding, whose name is often mentioned as a potential candidate for the centre-right EPP, said she welcomed the move to "reinforce the direct role of EU citizens in Europe’s democracy."

UK Liberal MEP Andrew Duff, who drafted the report, said that the vote - as with national votes - could have real consequences.

"If I were from a country under a Troika programme, I would be in front of the polling station early in the morning on 22 May 2014," he tweeted, referring to the groups of EU and International Monetary Fund officials which oversee bailouts.

The European Commission, as one of the international lenders for bailed-out countries, has been a strong advocate of austerity measures to quickly rein in budget deficits.

The commission is also the guardian of the EU treaties and the sole EU institution allowed to initiate laws.

The 2014 EU election is being billed as a highly symbolic poll.

MEPs are keen to raise the turnout amid fears that people see the EU as part of the problem in the economic crisis.

Klaus Welle, the secretary general of the parliament, recently noted that the race between commission candidates is unlikely to make a big impact next year, but for subsequent EU elections it is set to become a "major factor."

The EU treaty says leaders have to choose the commission president "taking into account" the election.

Thursday's resolution says it expects the nominee put forward by the party winning the most seats in the election "will be the first to be considered."

Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs

European People's Party group leader Manfred Weber defended Ursula von der Leyen's decision to rename a commission portfolio, partly dealing with migration, "protecting the European way of life". He said it means rescuing people in the Mediterranean.

Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing

Hungary was quizzed by EU ministers over its domestic crackdown on media, judges, academia and NGOs. Hungary's minister responded by saying the country had defended "the European way of life" for centuries, and it should be respected.

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