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Posts Tagged ‘Euro elections’

Considering the fact that most of us do not even know who the candidates are, this is a tough question even for those who follow Eurpoean current affairs closely. Nevertheless, this does not detract from the question’s importance. In 2009 it was included in the Lisbon Treaty that the next Presidency of the Commission shall be linked to the EU parliamentary elections, giving Europeans, for the first time, the power to elect our president. The idea is to reverse a worrying trend that has seen voter apathy steadily increase in parallel to the EUs influence in our lives; a development as apparently paradoxical as it is worrying.

Unfortunately, if one endeavours to find out who exactly are the candidates vying for our votes, it doesn’t get much easier. One is presented with a list of nondescript politicians who we can indirectly vote for, and a selection of slightly better known individuals who may be selected by the EU Commission regardless of the outcome of this vote.

Let us begin with the former group. Jean-Claude Juncker (for the centre-right European People’s party), Martin Schulz (for the centre-left Party of European Socialists) and Guy Verhofstadt (for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) are the representatives of the EU Commission’s three biggest political parties. If their party achieves the most votes in the next European Parliamentary elections they will (maybe) become president of the commission. This (maybe) refers to the actual wording of the Lisbon Treaty which simply states that the Commission must “take into account” the results of the EU Parliamentary elections in selecting a new president. This means that successful and well known national politicians are not willing to put themselves forward for an election decided by unpredictable and occasionally arbitrary EU politics. This problem is further compounded by many at the EU level, Angela Merkel being among them, openly citing their opposition to a partisan EU president.

Consequently, all that is remarkable about the current candidates is their unoriginality, despite the exceptional circumstances that will define their presidency. All from the franco-germanic heart of Europe, all committed to further transfer of powers to the EU, and all relatively unknown outside of Brussels; with the EU deep in one of its most serious crisis to date, can we really imagine a little known traditionalist EU politician to pull a fragmenting and sceptical Europe out of this mess? In Brussels, they are even calling them the “spitzenkandidaten” (lead candidate) as if they were completely unaware of any centralist authoritarian connotations this may have for ordinary EU citizens.

Adding insult to injury, the spitzenkandidaten have spent most of their campaign canvassing fellow party members and playing internal party politics rather than reaching out to voters. Perhaps tellingly, the only party to hold primaries were the Greens who, although realistically not in the running, have at least made an excellently nuanced point about the EU democratic deficit.

It seems that certain parts of the EU simply have their heads buried in the sand, so maybe strong leadership will be what is required to pull them out. Many commentators are predicting that the European Commission will simply ignore the vague wording of the 2009 treaty and put forward a high profile figure that will be able to both rise above EU party politics and have the name recognition to appeal to EU citizens. The Economist has floated Christine Lagarde as a potential candidate with the capability to drive Europe forward with a more liberal approach that could win over a sceptical UK. However, in many parts of Southern Europe she is seen as symbolic of EU hypocrisy and hierarchy for her remarks about Greece being in crisis due to Greeks not paying their taxes. At the time Lagarde, as head of the IMF, paid no tax at all; along with her “yachters tan” and diamonds, she may as well have claimed that taxes are just for the little people. Furthermore, in light of her current implication in the Tapie Affaire (a controversial €400 million state payout to a convicted criminal in 2008) any legitimacy that Lagarde may have enjoyed for the being “high profile” will have taken a serious beating, even in her native France.

And so we come to the best of rest, and honestly (like many of my fellow EU citizens), the author has lost all interest in the question. In the end, whether the candidate is picked from the winning party, or directly by the Commission, the next president should simply be one who maintains stability within the Euro zone, and any of the main candidates should be able to handle that. What is important is that the democratic charades that only further damage the EU’s legitimacy be left behind, EU citizens already feel patronized enough. Meanwhile, democratic legitimacy must be built from the bottom up and that is why my vote will be with one of the Green party candidates. In fact, being the only party to hold primaries, they are the only ones I really can vote for.

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