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Political situation in the EU

European Union danger elections

Political situation in the EU, satisfied 19%

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Since 1979, these MEPs have been elected direct rather than indirectly from national parliaments. But turnout for these elections has been falling in several countries. There is a danger that the number voting in June will be lower than ever before. 

Moreover, in the current grim economic conditions across Europe, voters who do turn out are all too likely to take the opportunity to punish the major parties and vote for fringe and even extremist politicians. There are particular circumstances that may encourage this electoral response. 

First, everywhere there is a sense of disgust at the way the recent boom seemed to privatize gains while the subsequent bust socialized losses. A few rich individuals appeared to gain and all taxpayers to lose. This has spread a sense of unfairness. 

Second, globalization has been the target for populist criticism. It is usually defined to mean everything we dislike – from changes to our traditional way of life to loss of jobs. It is a brave politician who points out how much liberalizing trade and opening up markets have increased our overall prosperity. 

Third, in Britain at least, the entire political class has been discredited by a sleazy scandal about the expenses that many parliamentarians have paid themselves. Analogies with pigs, snouts, and troughs fill the pages of British newspapers. 

But there is another reason for the lack of interest in the EU elections. The European Parliament has power, but it deals with issues that, while important to voters, do not top their list of concerns. 

The EU’s member states retain power over the most sensitive political issues, including taxes, health, education, pensions, the labor market, and foreign policy. So the questions that dominate national campaigns have little impact on European elections. 

The European Parliament deals with the important areas where individual countries have pooled their sovereignty, like trade, the creation of a pan-European market, and the biggest environmental issues. But these are not often the questions that trigger the most passionate interest. 

In addition, the European Parliament’s detachment from national political debates means that it has less political legitimacy than is desirable. Indeed, those who worry about the creation of a European superstate can rest easy. There will be no such entity, because there is no European electorate; the electorate remains French, Belgian, Latvian, Greek, and so . n. They all vote at the same time, for the same institution. But what does an Italian know – or care, for that matter – about British politics?


by Chris Patten

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