Thursday

14th Dec 2017

European politics to get more political

  • Politics continues to be local when it comes to European elections (Photo: wikipedia)

European political parties are gearing themselves up to actively fight for citizens' attention following years of low-turn out in EU elections and widespread ignorance about who MEPs are and what they do.

Under plans published by the European Commission on Wednesday (26 June), EU parties - such as the centre-right, socialists, liberals and greens - will be able to campaign at national level during European elections, next taking place in mid-2009.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

At the moment EU parties are banned from entering the national political fray at European election time, meaning that although the vote is about electing over 700 MEPs to the Brussels assembly, it tends to be fought as 27 national election campaigns with candidates made or broken on domestic issues.

The new rules will also allow parties to have a financial surplus at the end of the year and build up small financial reserves, they also foresee over €1 million to establish political foundations – providing an extra forum for political debate and research.

According to Margot Wallstrom, the commissioner tasked with bringing Brussels closer to citizens, it needs to be made clear that citizens' "political choice matters and that their active involvement on European issues has a direct bearing on their everyday lives."

The plans have been generally welcomed in the European Parliament, where MEPs experience first hand the political vacuum between national and European level politics.

UK liberal MEP Andrew Duff says "party political foundations at the EU level are going to be a key element in developing political thought and sharpening debate with a European dimension."

"I think the European parties have to be more present to create a trans-national debate," says German socialist MEP Jo Leinen, in charge of this dossier in the parliament.

Voting for a commission president

He envisages them having the same slogans, posters and a "top candidate who runs for commission president."

Giving voters a say on who will run the commission, arguably the most visible of Brussels' institutions, is seen as key to boosting turnout, which in the last elections, three years ago, hovered at the 30 percent mark in some member states.

At the moment, EU leaders decide who the commission president is, a system that goes on behind closed doors and is based on political pay-backs, ferocious haggling and a dose of whim.

It would be a "huge breakthrough" if political parties were to decide on both a main candidate and their programmes ahead of the elections, says Mr Leinen.

Barroso re-run?

This candidate could then travel around Europe and appear on local radio or TV shows so that people would then know what they were ultimately achieving when casting their vote for their local MEP.

It is an open secret that current commission president Jose Manuel Barroso would like to run again for the job when it comes up in 2009.

Many are now watching whether the centre-right European People's Party, to which he belongs, will endorse him ahead of the 2009 elections.

An EPP move would spur other parties to do the same, says Mr Leinen, with analysts hoping that such a move would then open up the European election campaign to transnational themes such as immigration, climate change, globalisation and enlargement.

With a new EU treaty possibly in place by 2009, MEPs are aware that they have to up the turn-out and improve citizens' understanding of what they do. As it stands, the treaty will extend the European Parliament's co-legislating power in around 40 areas.

Thousands march for Catalonia in Brussels

Around 45,000 people marched in support of Catalonia in Brussels to get the EU involved in mediating the conflict with Madrid. 'Europe must realise that it can still play a role in the Catalan crisis,' said self-exiled Catalan leader Puigdemont.

Commission takes Orban's Hungary to court

The EU executive steps up several probes over Hungary's illiberal tendencies, while it is also suing Poland and the Czech Republic over migrant quotas.

European Liberals pin hopes on Macron

The French president "will be part of our family", Alde president Van Baalen said at the party congress. But some leaders, like Dutch PM Mark Rutte, seem to be less enthusiastic.

Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short

EU summit leaders on Thursday will not reach any deal on migration, while Italy and the Visegrad Group countries confront each other on the Trust Fund for Africa. The debate on internal EU asylum relocation, however, remains off the table.

Romania searching for EU respectability

Ten years after its accession and a year before holding the EU presidency, the fastest-growing EU economy wants to "engage" more with its partners. But concerns over the rule of law continue to give the country a bad image.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch takes Germany to court over road taxes
  2. Russia sanctions hit Germany hardest
  3. Italy likely to hold national elections on 4 March
  4. ECB expected to continue pumping money into markets
  5. Report: Pro-Kremlin trolls targeted Scottish referendum
  6. MEPs vote to allow phosphate additives in kebabs
  7. Babis government sworn in in Czech Republic
  8. Russia looks to crypto-currencies to evade EU sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  2. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  3. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  4. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  5. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  7. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  8. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  9. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  10. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  11. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  12. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe

Latest News

  1. Tusk migration note prompts institutional 'hysteria'
  2. Migration looms over summit, as Africa pledges fall short
  3. Brits in EU-27 are uncertain, alone and far from protected
  4. 2018 fishing quotas agreed - but Brexit muddies waters
  5. Medical HQ to spearhead EU military push
  6. Facebook to shift ad revenue away from Ireland
  7. EU renews glyphosate approval, pledges transparency
  8. Romania searching for EU respectability

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage
  2. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  3. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  4. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  5. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  6. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  7. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  8. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  9. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  10. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  11. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  12. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations