Ten reasons to vote in EU elections

May 15, 2009

paul-taylor— Paul Taylor is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own —

Opinion polls predict a record low turnout in next month’s EU-wide European Parliament elections. The Strasbourg-based assembly was once regarded as a toothless talking shop, but that has long ceased to be true. Indeed there are many reasons for Europeans to cast a vote.

In doing so they can shape European policies on the financial and economic crisis and the environment, and help determine who runs the executive European Commission.

By abstaining, however, they may let in extremists and make it less likely that the world’s only directly elected legislature will exercise effectively its role of democratic control over EU officialdom and legislation.

That could widen a democratic deficit that is one of the concerns about the direction of the European Union.

European elections are often seen as a cost-free chance to cast a protest vote against national governments or boost single issue parties that fare poorly in national polls. But more is at stake.
Here are 10 other reasons to vote on June 4 or 7 (depending on where you live) for the world’s only directly elected transnational parliament:

1) The crisis. For the first time since direct elections to the European Parliament began in 1979, a single issue dominates all 27 member states: the financial and economic crisis. EU lawmakers share legislative power with member governments on crucial issues such as financial and business regulation.

Unlike national legislatures, the European Parliament is not divided along government and opposition lines, and it cannot initiate laws on its own. But it can amend or block proposals, which gives it the ability to influence the outcome of European legislation. The next parliament is sure to tackle proposals relating to the crisis. The left-right balance of the chamber will influence, for instance, how far the EU regulates hedge funds, private equity, derivatives or even executive pay.

2) Barroso’s future. Low-profile Portuguese conservative Jose Manuel Barroso looks set for a second term as president of the executive European Commission, which proposes all EU legislation and ensures that those laws are enforced. He is backed by the conservative European People’s Party, the largest bloc in the outgoing parliament, and some socialist governments.

Some believe Barroso has been too pliant to big member state governments, turning a blind eye to anti-competitive measures and state bail-outs to secure support for his re-election. Many see him as a weak leader of a weakened Commission.

However, Barroso’s reappointment does not solely depend on the will of EU leaders. He must be approved by parliament, which holds hearings with individual nominees for policy portfolios and must vote to endorse the full Commission. A centre-left majority could block Barroso. Parliament has never rejected a Commission president before, but the threat of censure forced Jacques Santer’s Commission to resign in 1999, and Barroso had to modify his line-up before winning approval in 2004. If the socialist group emerged as the biggest bloc, it could demand that a centre-left candidate be chosen instead.

3) Radicals. There is a danger that the parliament will become a dumping ground for single issue groups and fringe politicians. Radical leftists and rightists, such France’s New Anticapitalist Party, the anti-immigrant British National Party or Belgium’s far-right Vlaams Belang, are hoping to achieve a breakthrough, helped by mainstream voters’ apathy. A low turnout would also benefit highly mobilised Eurosceptics.

4) The outgoing parliament played a key role in shaping environmental legislation to tackle the threat of climate change and promote clean energy. The make-up of the next parliament will help determine how far and how fast Europe moves towards a low-carbon economy.

5) Enlargement. Conservative French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have highlighted their joint opposition to Turkey’s EU membership bid. The EU legislature has no direct say in the negotiations but its reports on candidate countries influence the Commission and the applicants, and it has to assent to accession treaties.

6) The Lisbon Treaty. Irish voters will seal the fate of a major EU reform treaty in a second referendum likely in October after they rejected it last year. The text aims to give the enlarged bloc stronger leadership, a more effective foreign policy and a fairer decision-making system. A big vote for treaty opponents Libertas and Sinn Fein in the European Parliament election would dim the prospects of the reforms entering into force as planned in January, or at all.

7) Power. The Lisbon Treaty would extend the assembly’s power of co-decision with member states to almost all areas of EU legislation. Already, experts reckon more than half of national legislation is the transposition of laws decided at European level. Voters who ignore the European elections in the belief that the real power lies with their national parliaments are wrong.

8) Legitimacy. Critics often accuse EU institutions of being undemocratic, unelected or lacking legitimacy. The European Parliament is the main institution that exercises a degree of democratic control and scrutiny over the executive.

9) Idealism. The European Union is an unique experiment in transnational co-operation between former foes and remains a beacon for many countries beyond the union’s borders. For those who see a more united, integrated Europe as a better future, a big turnout is a must. For those who fear a European superstate, there are plenty of parties vying to curb Brussels’ powers.

10) Sleaze. The European Parliament has made strides in cleaning up abuses of travel and attendance allowances, unequal pay for members and nepotism that earned it a reputation as a gravy train, even if more remains to be done. As Britain’s parliamentary expenses scandal shows, sleaze is by no means an exclusive preserve of Strasbourg. If sleaze was an argument for staying home, many of Europe’s national chambers would be empty.

(editing by David Evans)


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To vote in EU elections is an important way to give an opinion and a responsable way to contribute to Democracy and the Global Dialogue in between EU and the other countries.
I agree with your article in the sense that it is right and productive to give a real vote, in action, and not only let others handle our destiny.

Radicals parties are so happy to see the low intention to vote for EU eleccions… promoting division and not dialogue and in consequence the isolation and risk of allow actions of NOT COEXISTANCE.

The countries inside EU must be always united and open to listen and constant dialogue to protect the population.
It is so important to realize that to be united and dialoguing is a matter of all.
Must be important to let know the population of EU that they are important and that their vote is critic to continue swerving them.Maybe the population feels so distant from the EU liders , is a misunderstanding or sensations of feeling separate or far , and in consequence they feel not important to vote. , that not trascendts to vote….maybe must build confidence to vote.
Also the young people must be encourage to participate.
Look the positive result in America with President OBAMA, in the sense that all gave a chance of speak out by voting.Not only criticism.
To take part of a votations means you are capable to use your freedom, your will, your thoughts, your social responsability inside the world and in this case inside Europe.
Of course inside EU are problems, of course a lot of issues must be addressed, but realize that EU was capable to be an example to the world about the power of be United. Do not loose that achievement.

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive

There is no point in voting for any of the establishment parties, as they are all compliant with the wishes of the unelected bureaucrats behind the EU project. The EU is not a democratic body, and therefore it doesn’t really need elections, they are just a facade designed to trick the gullible into thinking that they have a say, when they whole point of the EU is to ensure that the mass of the population does not have a say in the direction of the nation states to which they think they belong. The only purposeful vote is a vote for a party that is against the EU.

Posted by Oliver Chettle | Report as abusive

To answer point by point:

1) Independent nation states can cope with the crisis better than an unwieldy bureaucratic body without historical legitimacy, eg, Canada, Australia.
2) The EU is not a nation and therefore it should not have a president.
3) This would not be an issue if the EU was not undermining the sovereignty of nation’s which should be sovereign. It is the EU that creates the democratic deficit in Europe.
4) Nation states could take environmental issues just as effectively, and would have more democratic legitimacy to do so.
5) The EU should be abolished, not enlarged.
6) The Irish voters will not determine the outcome of the treaty. Unless the power of the EU bureaucracy is destroyed it will be forced though somehow with or without democratic approval.
7/smile) All laws should be returned to full national control. A parliament that does not represent a nation can never be legitimate.
9) The Soviet Union and Nazi Germany were also experiments in non-democratic utopianism. The EU should meet the same fate. It is an obsolete response to the fears of 1945.
10) The EU remains notorious for corruption. It is the EU project that has undermined British democracy, depriving the MPs of both real responsibilities to keep them occupied with legitimate work and keen public oversight to keep them on the straight and narrow.

Posted by Oliver Chettle | Report as abusive

I shall make the same effort that our local MP’s and MEP’s have made.

None. And no, I won’t complain about the outcome, I really couldn’t care less.

Posted by scoops | Report as abusive

I will be voting – against the EU. The European Parliament is as dangerous to our freedom as any other EU institution. It wants the same power as all the other institutions: total power. Our own Parliament has total power in this country, the difference is that we can get rid of them if we really put our minds to it, in general elections. The difference with the European Parliament is that once the European political elite get themselves into a majority there, with all the powers they want, the chances of 27 countries voting in concert to change the status quo will be infinitesimal – as that elite are only too aware. We will never be rid of them, and there will be no more democracy in this country than there was in Ukraine or Georgia, for example, under the last Duma of the Soviet Union (the one that was really supposed to be “democratic”). It took what amounted to a revolution to change that situation and we will be no better off.

Posted by Matthew | Report as abusive

I shall be giving the biggest NO vote towards the EU as I possibly can so do. I don’t want the EU: never have wanted it, never ever voted for it. Love Europe – hate the EU that’s what I say.

Posted by Larry | Report as abusive

I WILL most definitely be voting and urging all my friends and family to vote. Why?

British people never signed up to what the EU has become. We were lied to and deceived by our mainstream politcial parties. We have witnessed the USSR fall apart for the EU to become the next socialist/marxist superstate.

In Britain it is clear we have been badly let down by the LibLabCons pact & globalisation. We are seeing incomes fall, jobs go to migrants and Britains indigenious people have had enough.

I will vote for the BNP in order to dismantle the EU from within.

Posted by darren | Report as abusive

To do not vote or to vote is a inner choice and action.
But must be done with wisdom and not passion or simple reaction.Think carefully each pro and cons.Because in times of economical crisis and terrorist radicalism of extremes sides it is to risky to follow empty causes that derivates in isolation and unprotected population. The powers that are against EUROPE are waiting the DIVISION AND CONFUSION OF EU MEMBERS…what better way to achieve that poisoning the minds with emotional reactions instead of thinking how to act.
It is not easy the choices that the population have to face, but is part of their right.

I think that to vote all we have to see the situation since a panoramic way, as bloque , to be united is a power that was consolidated and in these times of economical crisis all are waiting to see how EU is in united position to continue protecting the countries that are inside the EU.
Passion and reaction never was an strategic choice.
How are you going to dialogue and sit and dicuss matters of importance like security, global issues,economical strategies, dependance of gas and oil, markets, immigration, that EU coalition without the European countries loosing their own development.

Maybe some of the opinions are based on legitime critic of issues that must be addressed but a boicot or not vote is not a way to confront those things we do not like and less to change what you think you can change.

If there is no vote from the population with what moral a=uthority youa are going to elevate your voice, and make a diference , or at least tried. Only to critic and not use the democaratic way to participate in common good.
Also how you can speak out for change or position and do not do the small and simple act act of vote to achieve a change , fix , or create a new way of EU way.

Maybe you have to search more how EU ARE VIEWED OUT SIDE EUROPE,you can have a lot of surprises and serious tasks to think about before take the action to vote or not to vote.

Posted by Maria | Report as abusive

There has been a steady bundling of economic powers like NAFTA, ASEAN and EU. To remain viable, Europe needs to have all the small countries together since the time of the colonies is long gone. The former colonies are trading partners now and not conquered territories. What resources does the UK have to sustain itself indefinitely? Or any of the European countries alone?

Posted by SG | Report as abusive

May 18th, 2009 10:50 am GMT – Posted by Oliver Chettle

Oliver well said, I wish you were a candidate I would be voting for you

Posted by zandra | Report as abusive