EU voters not interested in the European Parliament elections. What’s behind this European Titanic?

José Manuel Barroso, in the centre, casting his ballot for the 2014 elections of the candidate of the EPP for the function of next President of the EC

José Manuel Barroso, in the centre, casting his ballot for the 2014 elections of the candidate of the EPP for the function of next President of the EC

It’s just a matter of few days, and around 350 million European voters will be called upon to choose their representatives. They are expected to go the polls to vote in elections to the European Parliament, the EU’s only directly elected body. Think about it, almost 5% of the globe’s population called to express its preference is something which could shake the entire globe. But the only thing which this huge democratic exercise is not doing, apparently, is engaging the European voters, as black clouds loom behind the stars of the Union.

Six out of 10 Europeans are “not that interested” in the European Parliament elections next week, despite huge efforts by campaign managers to make the ballot more relevant, according to a poll* released last Thursday by Ipsos MORI – second largest market research organisation in the UK. And if the average turnout at the last EU election in 2009 was 43 percent, only 35 percent of respondents said they would definitely vote during the next 22-25 May poll. The survey revealed that the greatest enthusiasm was registered in Belgium (53 percent), where voting is required by law, followed by France (44 percent) and the Netherlands (41 percent). The lowest was in Britain (27 percent) and Poland (20 percent). Ouch!

The elections will not only decide the 751 deputies who will sit in the European Parliament from 2014-2019, but more than likely determine who will lead the European Commission, which holds the right to propose legislation. And guess what the survey revealed? More than 60 percent of people do not know who any of the candidates are.

These are signs which lead to one and only sad conclusion: the EU has failed to engage the people, to attract the citizens to its project. And how did this happen? Where all this lack of faith for a Union that “brought peace, prosperity and democracy, even in difficult times,” as EU President Herman Van Rompuy said earlier this year, come from? Let’s try to explain this.

One of the main reasons is distance. The European Union feels distant to many European voters. Many think that it is some kind of “philosophical” experiment held in Brussels or Strasbourg, very far from the people’s everyday life. There’s also widespread frustration at a perceived lack of reporting of the European parliament’s activities, and resultant confusion about its scope and responsibilities. Popular perceptions of a remote, unaccountable EU elite, are expected to boost support for populist, far-right and anti-EU political parties in many member states such as France – which, we must say, has always been one of the main power engines of the Union. The EU policy makers have perhaps failed to communicate effectively that this creature, this Union, is made by people, is made for people, and that exists only through people’s support.

The second key for this alleged failure may be austerity policies, be this only a matter of perception among people, or a real terrible mistake in the EU’s economic vision. The point is that most of the EU citizens, especially in the countries which have paid “the highest price” during this time of economic crisis, see Europe as something which is all about money and parameters. Everybody feels that there’s a common frustration with the politics of austerity and inflation control. There’s also a feeling of widespread unfaith about the moves that the EU took into the countries’ policies on agriculture, patents protection, import/export regulation.

We believe that another survey released last March by Ipsos MORI can give a clear overview on the situation.
Most people across the ten countries** involved in the survey believe the European Union plays a very important role in crucial policy areas, especially the economy, agriculture and laws, where around eight out of ten feel it has influence over their country. There are differences by country – for example the Spanish the ones that feel the most that the EU has influence over the economy, jobs and the finances of their government, while the British, Germans and Polish are particularly likely to stress the influence the EU has over immigration.

On balance, people feel that the EU’s impact has been more negative than positive across all of these policy areas, according to the survey. They are particularly negative about its influence on their government – its finances and its ability to make decisions in the best interests of the country – but less so about its impact on people’s daily lives.

Moreover, the survey revealed that citizens in France, Italy and Spain are all particularly negative about the EU’s impact on the economy (74, 74, and 68 percent respectively are critical), and many feel that their economy has been damaged by the demands of austerity (75, 70, and 75 percent respectively). Over half, though, of people in Poland (59 percent), Hungary (53 percent) and Germany (52 percent) think that the EU has benefited their economy.

And here’s the biggest knot, which might be seen as one of the third main reason behind this lack of confidence in the European Union: equality. The survey told that there are also faultiness in perceptions of whether all EU member states have benefited from the Union equally. Large majorities in Spain (73 percent), Italy (71 percent) and Poland (64 percent) believe that the EU gives an unfair advantage to richer countries over poorer ones, but this falls to two out of five (39 percent) Germans. More than half (53 percent) of the voters in Britain agree that the EU gives an unfair advantage to richer European countries over poorer ones. See the economic crisis, once again, and the way the EU handled it, we should say.

There’s only one good side of the matter though. Most of the analysts from recent polls (as one held by the Guardian last week) reveal that the voters, although unhappy, have not given up with the European integration ideal, and still believe in Europe as a driver for peace and freedom. Gideon Skinner, Head of Political Research at Ipsos MORI, said: “There is […] clearly some expectation that anti-European parties will do well in the upcoming European elections. However, when given the chance Britons say they prefer staying in a reduced EU rather than leaving it altogether. It is also interesting to see that in some countries such as Spain, Italy and France views are even more negative, especially on economic issues – although this again does not always translate into an automatic desire to leave the EU”.

What emerges is a fragile situation. The European Union is at a turning point now, where this election may represent either the biggest threat for integrity, or the injection this organisation needs to change now and be back to the where people need it. This is the time for the stars to show that they can shine again.

Follow @carlomotta_ on Twitter

* A total of 8,833 people were polled in Belgium, Britain, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden by Ipsos (source: Reuters)
** Between February 4th and February 18th 2014, Ipsos surveyed 7,028 respondents aged 16-64, in nine European countries (Belgium, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain and Sweden) for their attitudes towards the European Union. A further 1,017 18+ people were interviewed online in the Netherlands between 18 and 20 February 2014

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Dinner with friends: how Switzerland is relaxing its coronavirus lockdown

Across Europe, people are struggling to make ends meet. We need a common response immediately.

Mindfulness: a freedom we can still have in the pandemic

Hate speech exacerbating societal, racial tensions with ‘deadly consequences around the world’, say UN experts

GSMA Announces First Keynote Speakers for 2019 “MWC Los Angeles, in Partnership with CTIA”

Erasmus+ and its predecessors: a life-changing experience for 10 million young Europeans

Europe bows to Turkey’s rulers, sends Syrian refugees back to chaos

These are the world’s least – and most – corrupt countries

UN rights chief ‘extremely concerned’ over deadly crackdown on protesters in Iran

The London City-EU connection holds despite of Brexit and the ban of LSE-Deutsche Börse merger

On their epic journeys, migratory birds connect nations and inspire people, UN says on World Day

What is systemic racism, and how can we combat it?

This Pacific island has banned fishing to allow the marine ecosystem to recover

Brexit update: Leave campaign leads race but undecided voters will determine the outcome of the EU referendum

Rising human trafficking takes on ‘horrific dimensions’: almost a third of victims are children

Rise in Caribbean children displaced by storms shows climate crisis is a child rights issue: UNICEF

No way out for Eurozone’s stagnating economy

Do we judge robots on their colour? This study says we do

Austria: reforms will be necessary to uphold high well-being levels

$1.4 billion needed this year to fund UN’s agency for Palestine refugees

Here’s why leaders need to care about mental health

‘Complacency is still strong’ over stopping genocide, says top UN adviser

‘Protracted crisis’ in Venezuela leads to ‘alarming escalation of tensions’: UN political chief

UN chief hails Libyan leaders’ agreement to hold general election

The missiles fired against Damascus, Syria divided Europe deeply

UN Human Rights Council resolution on youth and human rights: a step forward for youth rights

Public health through universal health coverage can help to attain many SDGs

EU summit: Are the London Tories planning an exit from the EU?

The Amazon is reaching a dangerous tipping-point. We need to scale solutions now if we have any chance of saving it

UN expert condemns new sentence for jailed Venezuelan judge as ‘another instance of reprisal’

2 trillion drinks containers are made every year – so where do they go?

UK: Customs Union with EU or a longer delay of Brexit

Number of members in Parliament’s committees to change after Brexit

UN forum to explore use of outer space to improve lives, protect planet

A ‘charismatic leader’ dedicated to making the world a better place for all: officials bid farewell to former UN chief Kofi Annan

AIESEC @ European Business Summit 2014: The Digital Era: A New Business Frontier

Mental health: what can be done to diminish increasing suicide rates?

Towards a seamless internal EU market for industrial goods

Cash for babies: How Europe is tackling its falling birthrate

5 reasons to be more cheerful about the future of the oceans

How does your immune system work?

5 ways to be a better humanitarian

Time to make a fundamental choice about the future of healthcare

Fairer and clearer rules on social benefits for EU mobile workers agreed

A new kind of company is revolutionising Africa’s gig economy

How LA plans to be 1.6°C cooler by 2050

Global Goals top General Assembly President’s priority list

Why the Greeks forgave Tsipras’ pirouettes around austerity and voted again for SYRIZA

WHO chief underscores need to address climate change following visit to Bahamas

‘Reef cubes’: could these plastic-free blocks help save the ocean?

Africa is helping the drone industry get off the ground. Here’s how

Banks get new capital for free and citizens pay the bill

Circular Plastics Alliance: 100+ signatories commit to use 10 million tons of recycled plastic in new products by 2025

Cyclone Idai: emergency getting ‘bigger by the hour’, warns UN food agency

MWC 2016 LIVE: Ericsson/Cisco partnership on track, insist execs

Youth for Climate Change

Alarming level of reprisals against activists, human rights defenders, and victims – new UN report

The energy industry is changing. Are governments switched on?

COP21 Breaking News_03 December: Europe’s children urge leaders to commit to climate action at UN Climate Summit in Paris

ECB: Reaching the limits of its mandate to revive the Eurozone economy

More Stings?

Advertising

Comments

  1. My programmer is trying tto persuade me to move
    to .net from PHP. I have always disliked the idea becaue oof the
    expenses. Butt he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using Movable-type on numerous websites for about a year and aam nervous
    about switching to another platform. I hve heard very good
    things about blogengine.net. Is there a way I can import
    all my wordpress posts into it? Any help would be really
    appreciated!

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s