Allow me to take the liberty of posting here on a different topic, not directly on international conflicts, yet with a political content. I am going to expose some notes on the EU upcoming elections for the European Parliament (EP).
So, seems that during this week, we Europeans are called to the ballot boxes.
While the EU is often depicted as a monstrous bureaucratic creature, condemned to irrelevance by the emerging economies, it remains the most accomplished experiment of economic, social and political integration in human history.
In a vast May 22nd-25th election covering 28 countries, as many as 350 million people will be able to vote for members of the EP, the bloc’s only directly elected body. It will be the 8th pan-European parliamentary election since the first direct elections in 1979 (across the, by then, 9 European Community member states).
The results will be taken into account when deciding, around October this year, Mr. José Manuel Durão Barroso successor as President of the European Commission (EC). This is a result of the amendments introduced by the Lisbon Treaty, giving the EP new competences to decide on some policies (energy, agriculture, migration, justice, health, etc) together with the CE.
This election will therefore enable voters to judge the efforts of the leaders of the EU to tackle the crisis in the euro zone and express their views on plans to intensify economic and political integration. Hence the election slogan “Action, Reaction, Decision,” and the main message “This time is different,” as voters will be more influential than ever.
How does this apply to current issues?
As said, the EP’s powers were boosted by the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. It now co-decides, with the EC, in nearly all policy areas.
Amid continuing economic hardship for millions of Europeans and a much-criticized “disconnect” between EU institutions and voters, policymakers in Brussels are trying to democratize the election process, and for the first time, the election results will be linked to the selection of the CE President, although the grip of recession continues to weigh on attitudes regarding the economy.
Key issues for Europe’s voters include; the reduction of mass unemployment, the Sovereignty issue, the rise in migration since 2007, and also energy policies (mainly, on the cost of fuel).
Some of the policies the EP effectively took care of in the past were, for instance, the anti-tobacco legislation, the new price caps in mobile roaming charges, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta), as it lacked safeguards for freedom of expression on the internet, some new regulations for banks and other financial services, the reform of EU fisheries policy or the Common Agricultural Policy.
Why should I vote?
Regardless of where you live, the EU has a large, yet often unnoticed, impact on many aspects of your everyday life. Whether you are traveling, eating, working, doing business, shopping, surfing the Internet or breathing, all these activities are largely shaped by the EU.
With just over some days to go until EP elections results, two separate polls on May 12nd suggested around two-thirds of Europeans feel their voices are not heard in Brussels, although trust in the EU is rebounding from record lows. Only 37 percent of Europeans believe their voice counts in Brussels according to a poll by Eurobarometer (a public opinion service of the EU).
The turnout on EU elections is not usually very high, as the trust in EU institution decreases each period (it was 50% in 2008 vs. 31% in 2013) and austerity policies have not benefited some countries, being unable to boost the economy growth at the same time that reduced public spending.
What are the options?
The Members of the EP sit in political groups. They are not organized by nationality, but by political affiliation. There are currently 7 political groups in the EP. The groups are sometimes the formal representation of a Europarty, and, in other cases, they are political coalitions of a number of European parties, national parties, and independent politicians.
Each group takes care of its own internal organization by appointing a chair (or two co-chairs in the case of some groups), a bureau and a secretariat. 25 members are needed to form a political group, and at least one-quarter of the Member States must be represented within the group. Members may not belong to more than one political group. Some Members do not belong to any political group and are known as non-attached Members.
The groups in the EP are: the European People’s Party (EPP), the Party of European Socialists (PES, S&D coalition), the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party (ALDE), the European Green Party (EGP, EGP-EFA alliance), the Party of European United Left- Nordic Green Left (GUE, GUE-NGL alliance) the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) and the Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD).
Who are the candidates?
Six candidates have been put forward by the various political factions in the EP.(from left to right): Jean-Claude Juncker (PPE) –lawyer, Luxemburg PM (1995-2013), PPE President (2005-2013)-, Martin Schulz (PES) –book seller, President of the EP (2012-2014), VicePresident of the Socialist International since 2004-, Guy Verhofstad (ALDE) –lawyer, Belgium PM (1999-2008), Current President of the EC-, Franziska “Ska” Keller (EGP/EFA) –degree in Islamic studies, Turkish and Judaism, President of the European Greens Youth (2005-2007)- and co-candidate José Bové – French politician and syndicalist-, Alexis Tsipras (GUE) – Syriza’s leader (Greece opposition)-.
Last polls carried out by PollWatch on May 20th, suggest that, according to the apportionment system explained in the Traty of Lisbon (article 14) and the Treaty of Nice, EPP will get 217 seats (28.9%), followed by 201 seats of S&D (26.8%), 59 seats for ALDE (7.9%), 44 seats for EGP-EFA (5.9%), 42 seats for ECR (5.6%), 53 for GUE-NGL (7.1%), 40 for EFD (5.3%) and finally 95 for NI (12.6%).
It is important to know, that the mechanism to support each of the candidates/groups is voting for the national parties ascribed to such groups.
In Spain, for instance, the vote will be in closed and blocked lists (which means that the voter cannot mix different candidates or alter the order) and in a unique statewide. There is not a threshold either (as it is in Germany), as the Hondt system is used.
Each party will present a list with some candidates to become MEP (eurodiputado), with a head of list. Spanish members for the different Eurogroups are; for PPE, PP, Vox (Aleix Vidal Quadras) and UDC, for PES, PSOE and PSC, for ALDE, PNV and CDC (part of the Colaition for Europe), for EGP-EFA, IC-V, for ECR there is not Spanish party, and finally for GUE-NGL IU. For the NI there is UPyD.
What do they offer?
DebatingEurope edited these infographics which are pretty accurate on the main 10 priorities in each Manifesto of the Eurogroups (you can check out the complete texts in the link below);
Other Data and Bibliography
Links to the websites of the different Groups and its annual accounts till 2012:
- Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats)
- Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament
- Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
- Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance
- European Conservatives and Reformists Group
- Confederal Group of the European United Left – Nordic Green Left
- Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group
- Annual Accounts
Last Eurobarometrer: http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_415_data_en.pdf