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Europe, Politics

Why the May elections to the EU parliament will be a little more European

IN THE RADICAL PRESS / MEMOIRE DES LUTTES 

By Bernard Cassen

Since 1979, members of the European Parliament have been elected by direct universal suffrage. However, so far , the campaigns preceding the elections had focused little on European issues, if not vaguely or  with mantras such as ” social Europe tomorrow .” In reality, everyone knew perfectly well that these elections had an entirely different purpose : measuring the political power relations within each country.

This distortion was hardly avoidable insofar as the composition of Parliament was the result of many national elections within members of the European Community (EEC ), which became the European Union ( EU) in 1993. Moreover , only a small minority of citizens had clear ideas about the role of the Commission , the Parliament, the European Council  (often confused with the Council of Europe), the Court of Justice. Not to mention the European Central Bank ( ECB). Suddenly ‘Brussels’ became the generic name for all EU institutions, whether they sit or not in the Belgian capital; it appeared to be an external bureaucratic or foreign entity, on which voters had in any case no power, which did not encourage them to vote .

The idea that the key national policies in the EU are only the transcription of decisions taken at European level has been slow to catch on. It was in France that this awareness took hold first, and it largely explains the victory of the “No” camp in the referendum of 29 May 2005 on the European Constitutional Treaty. The sovereign debt crisis has accelerated this awareness, and expanded it geographically.

In a sense, the establishment , within the euro area, the “troika” Commission / ECB / IMF , endowed with all the powers of government “benefiting”, so to speak, from its “rescue plans” was a real master class on the functioning of institutional Europe. These three unelected structures, not unaccountable to anyone, have brought up to date the concept of “limited sovereignty” that governed the relations of the Soviet Union with the “people’s democracies” or, in the last century, those of the United States with the banana republics of Central and South America.

This time, the imperial power is that of international finance, with European governments following instructions in voluntary servitude. But where are the dissidents, such those in Eastern Europe, or the resistance to the dictatorships in Latin America? Can the next European Parliament play this role by chucking at least a few grains of sand in the neoliberal gears (of which the euro is the centerpiece) ? There are good reasons to doubt it, even though the powers available to MEPs are not negligible.

The model that is currently spreading in European capitals is that of “grand coalitions”, bringing the conservative and social democratic parties or, amounting the the same thing, governments – such as that of François Hollande in France – elected on a Left ticket and then adopting right-wing policies. This model is the one that has prevailed in the European Parliament since 1979, and will undoubtedly be renewed after the May elections. In the light of this experience, the discussions over the next month will have the merit, however, of highlighting that there is no progressive national policies without a break with the European legal and monetary order. In this respect, these elections will be the most “European” ever held.

Translation by Revolting Europe

 

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope

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