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Tuesday, 6 May 2014

‘Killing the EP elections softly… with a cheesy catchphrase!’ How the Dutch national government and national television neglect the very important elections for the European Parliament

Killing me softly with his song
Telling my whole life with his words

It is perhaps one of the most important political events of the year within the EU and the Euro-zone: the elections for the European Parliament 2014.  Extremely important, as it is the first chance for the European citizens to speak up since the Euro-crisis emerged in its full force. The elections are to be held on the 22nd and 25th of May.

These elections give the European citizens a chance to speak up about the desired future and direction of the European Union: for instance, an union aimed at more economic, financial and political integration, in which expansion will remain an important goal versus a smaller, less powerful and strictly economically based union, in which the sovereignty of the member states will remain the focal point.

Besides that, these elections supply priceless information about the public support for and thus the viability of the European Union as a pan-European institute. They also offer valuable insights in the power of the populist vote in Europe.

And last but not least: in the wake of these parliamentary elections, there will be a few very important nominations, which will be decisive upon the near future of the European supra-governmental bodies.

These will be:
  • the arrangement of the new European Commission;
  • the nomination of the chairman of the European Commission (currently José Manuel Barroso);
  • (in November) the election of the new chairman of the European council (currently Herman van Rompuy). 
The upcoming parliamentary elections will be the first after the European Union went through arguably the worst economic crisis, since its foundation in the Fifties. A crisis in which the common currency and the countries that have been committed to this currency, both have been on the brink of a total, financial meltdown.

It was also a crisis in which the structural weaknesses of the current European governance model have been disclosed to the naked eye:
  • The domination of a few large countries (Germany, France…) over the rest, often at the expense of the other, smaller countries;
  • The preference of the national leaders of (especially) the large countries for weak bureaucrats, overdue politicians and ‘grey foxes’ as their national representatives in the European Commission and Parliament, as these people do not surpass the national leaders in charisma, decisiveness and political ambitions;
    • Having an ego and ‘having something to say’ is an alleged political, deadly sin for a European executive bureaucrat;
  • The numerous small catfights and the counterproductive envy and hostility between the northern and the southern countries, about who is to blame for the comeuppance of the crisis and which political direction is a critical condition for success;
  • The general political indecisiveness and powerlessness of the European Union, which is displayed in about any situation and conflict;
  • The ubiquitous willingness of the EU and Euro-zone member states to kick the can down the road, when finding a real solution for the financial and economic problems was not politically opportune!
What people remembered of – especially – the European Council, were the endless talking and the numerous nightly sessions, after which another half-hearted solution was presented to the world as a sheer victory for every party involved: no losers included.

People saw that the economic problems in many (South and East) European countries – massive unemployment and shortages as well as general poverty and despair - had been mounting and that real solutions, irrespective of how successful they could have been, had been swept under the rug.

It was always ‘yes’ against more austerity and more fiscal prudence, but mostly ‘no’ against plans that would provide more jobs and economic growth in the areas and countries that needed these most.

Instead of being a ladder, enabling countries to reach higher ground and prevent themselves from drowning in the financial/economic swamp, the EU seemed to turn into a stick to hit countries, which did not stuck to the “German” rules. Besides that, every country played the blame game, but nobody looked for real solutions.

In my opinion this is not what the European citizens deserve. In fact, this might be the main reason for the recent rejection of the European Union and the European institutions by many European citizens.

I don’t believe one bit of the notion that a majority of the European citizens wants to lock themselves up behind their white-picket fences and wants to restore the classic border controls and old currencies again, as if the European Union and the Euro-zone did not happen at all.

In my humble opinion, the European citizens feel being let down by their national representatives in the European arena. And above all, they experience a shortage in European representatives who they can trust and with whom they can identify, in these times of crisis. In other words: for most European citizens, Europe didn’t come to life from a political point of view.

This helped to create the myth that the EU is an undemocratic monster-turned-loose, which has gone out of control for everybody. In reality, Europe is what we are!

In future crises, the European Parliament – as a representative institute, chosen by the European citizens themselves - should be a much stronger force than it has been in the current crisis. And the parliament should also be much more recognizable and approachable for the European citizens than it is today.

Today is a time, in which archetypes of unknown, overdue, lazy and wasteful members of European Parliament (MEP) seem to predominate, topped off with a screaming MEP from the United Kingdom (i.e. Nigel Farage).

It is time to change this image of the European Parliament.

So without a doubt, there is something to choose, if you look past the sometimes weak candidates for the current elections: the ‘stickers’ and political dinosaurs that are mainly populating the voting lists for some of the European countries, including The Netherlands.

And yet, the European elections could be considered the non-event of the year, when it comes to TV-coverage and political enthusiasm for it in The Netherlands.

Former chairman of the Euro-group Jean-Claude Juncker came to The Netherlands in order to emphasize his candidacy as Chairman of the European Commission.

And there has been one debate between the Dutch candidates for the European Parliament: people who almost nobody knows and of whom nobody knows what they are going to do in Brussels and what exactly they stand for. And that was that…

Perhaps the most devastating supportive action for the European elections is the Dutch governmental ‘infomercial’ for these elections.

I will print here the integral (translated) text of this ‘informercial’:

VOICE-OVER: Thursday, 22 May is the time. Then the elections for the European Parliament will be held and are we going to vote. Please look after it that you take your ID-card and your voting permit.

Your voice, will you stand up for it?!

The European Parliamentary elections; killed softly… with a superfluous video clip and a cheesy catchphrase !

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