Are European elections overrated?

In a few days, 400 millions of citizens (hopefully) will vote to elect the new Members of the European Parliament. Since a few weeks, we’ve been caught up in the media circus that comes before any election, and the incentives to vote are everywhere. « Vote, make your voice heard! You have the power to change things! » Really?

Aaaah the elections…What a wonder…Democracy’s founding principle…Without that, how could we make Europe go in the right direction?

Let’s pass over the idealistic aspect and stop a moment on the reality of the facts. We will soon elect 751 MEPs, for five years. That’s a fact. Those MEPs will be on an almost equal foot with the Council to vote most of the laws (but not all of them) during this time. That’s also a fact. By voting, citizens will decide which direction Europe will take. That, is not a fact. It’s a myth. Maybe even a lie.

Of course the European Parliament’s necessity is irrevocable. During their last term of office, MEPs shown how much their work is useful and important (see the famous ACTA rejection). No one can deny it. However, the importance of the elections for Europe’s future seems to be a little overrated.

Even if the EP has gain more and more power thanks to the various treaties, it shares this power with the Council. Plus it still doesn’t have the right of initiative. Which means that, unlike in any other Parliament, MEPs are not allowed to make legislative proposals. They have to wait for the Commission, unelected body, to do so (even if they can, like the Council, ask the Commission to do it). When it’s done, the proposal is discussed by MEPs and by the Council, formed by the 28 responsible ministers from the Member States. And that’s where problems arise.

Those 28 visions don’t get along easily. Each of them defends its personal interest, and too bad if this interest is in contradiction with the European one. And if an unpopular measure is taken, well it’s “Brussels” fault, or “Europe’s” fault.  As if the European Union was some kind of independent entity, seated in a parallel world and totally detached from the Member States!

These national ministers form the third European legislative body when they discuss things in the Council. So yes the European elections are a necessity. But please, stop presenting them as the only way to impact the EU. Of course, by voting, citizens will influence Europe’s direction for the next 5 years. But only partly. Unless they understand that they need to act at the national level, Europe’s course will not change. The ministers elected in each Member State are the ones who seat in the Council, therefore they have a role to play in future legislation-making. Keep on sending there people with no federative, or at least efficient, vision of Europe won’t allow it to evolve and reinvent itself. The individualism, let’s even say selfishness, of some Member States are the real responsible of EU’s failure to realize its true potential. All the tools and structures are there, to achieve all European ambitions and to become a true worldwide leader. But the inconsistency and lack of clear, strong vision of various Council’s members prevent Europe from progressing and taking the place it deserves.

Citizens therefore need to act at the national level as well. By choosing national leaders who defend a real project for the European Union, and who will carry this project to the Council when negotiating, voters will finally have a true impact on Europe’s future. Electing the European Parliament is good. Improving the Council is better.


Just a reminder of how EU laws are created (courtesy of Europarl TV):


French version of the piece here


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