The European Parliament elections will be held in all Member States of the EU between the 22nd and the 25th of May, 2014.
Did you know that? My guess is no.
The European Parliament is the only organ if the EU that has direct legitimacy, in terms of the people actually having a say. The Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are elected by the people of each country, and then they are sent to European Parliament. With 754 MEPs in total, it is the largest parliament in the world (and of those 754 MEPs, only 33% are women).
What I find particularly disturbing, is that I live in a country that is part of the EU (Spain), in the capital of said country, I frequently travel to other European countries and I have seen no type of advertisement on the topic.
So why are people not voting?
There are various problems with the European Parliament, which may be the reason why it is not attracting the attention it should. For starters, there is a frightening lack of knowledge in regard to the EU, what it represents and how it functions. After the 2008 economic crisis, many, especially the Southern European countries, lost more faith in the supranational organ. While some people hold a lot of admiration for the EU and what it does, many others see it as a distant reality in which they have no say.
In terms of power, the Parliament has grown a lot since its creation in 1979, however since the first elections of that year up until 2009, it has lost 20 points.
An important and critical problem is the fact that the political ideologies of the political parties in Parliament are just too vague, and MEPs have to defend that ideology, which just adds to the confusion. For example, socialist MEPs from Bulgaria, Italy and Norway all have to work together under the same political party, but how can that function properly when each country is so different? Things are particularly complex for the Eastern European countries, who have been in a democracy for only 10 years, they don’t trust their political parties in their countries to go to Brussels because their own political parties lack legitimacy and clientele; especially when they are constantly changing.
Another issue is that there is no real job description for MEPs, which is a big issue considering that they are paid 84,000 euros per year (expenses included). And if you are wondering who is paying them, if you live in the EU, that would include you.
As you can observe from the graph above, the countries who are more knowledgeable in the matter are not, as one would think, its leaders/founding members. In fact, only 44% of Germans are aware of the fact that MEPs are directly elected by the citizens of each state, while the populations that seem to be more aware include those in Malta, Cyprus and Bulgaria.
While Merkel’s recent reelection has taken up the attention of the media worldwide, I haven’t seen any mentions of the European Parliament elections anywhere. Obviously I am not expecting the EU to put up a circus and knock door-to-door to raise awareness on the event, but more people would be aware of this.
The last turnout of the elections was a weak 42%, one would think that the EU would be eager to hire a campaign manager.
Chiara Romano Bosch.