Despite the constant accrual of competences since 1979, the European Parliament has attracted progressively lower turnout in its five-yearly elections and it is rather uncertain whether May 2014 will see a reversal in this trend. Experts from PISM, CEPS and the European Commission’s representation suggested that recent attempts to politicise the elections would also backfire, at a seminar on 25 November called “The EU After the 2014 Elections: Setting the Course for a Political Union?”.
The financial crisis has brought Europe to the centre of national debates, something which may certainly boost turnout. But so far, Eurosceptic parties have been the main beneficiaries, and stand to gain record support in May 2014. Yet, despite the recent announcement of an alliance between the French National Front and the Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, the possibility of a greater Eurosceptic coalition able to seriously impact the daily politics of the European Parliament is rather low. The main effect will be to reduce the clout of either the Socialists or the Christian Democrats, and thus the quality of party competition in the EP. Instead, large mainstream parties may be persuaded to form a grand coalition in the European Parliament, whilst Eurosceptic MEPs focus primarily on their domestic audiences.
Poland stands out as something of an anomaly, boasting a high level of trust towards the EU and no significant protest parties. And yet, the country’s pro-European position is based rather on the EU’s output legitimacy and on the fact that Poland still benefits considerably in tangible economic terms from its EU membership. The biggest challenge for Poland is thus to raise the very low level of knowledge about the EP itself, and increase turnout that in 2009 was even below the EU average and reached only 24.53%. This will help give the EU a more sustainable kind of legitimacy in Poland as well as boosting the country’s capacity to influence EU debates.
As regards the thorny questions of eurozone economic governance, multi-tier integration and the problem of a democratic deficit and lack of an EU-wide demos, the European Parliament remains the only directly elected institution in the EU, and naturally has an important role to play in counteracting EU fragmentation. However, with its limited competences in economic governance, the Parliament struggles to secure a proper position vis-à-vis the EU’s other institutions. It has also become increasingly discredited as a source of the EU’s legitimacy, and a greater role for national parliaments is being considered, which, however, can bring not only good but also bad results.
PISM’s membership in the prestigious network of European institutes, EPIN, was inaugurated with the conference “The EU after the 2014 Elections: Setting the Course for a Political Union?” It was organised in cooperation with the Centre for European Policy Studies and the Representation of the European Commission in Poland. The conference opened with a keynote speech by Henryka Mościcka-Dendys, Undersecretary of State at the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The EU after the 2014 Elections: Setting the Course for a Political Union? Programme