Monday, June 14, 2004

The Road to Strasbourg

Europeans continued a proud tradition in this weekend’s elections to the European Parliament in Strasbourg: using the elections to reward or punish the party in power. European elections are seldom about the development of the EU; they reflect national politics instead. In most core states, Euroskeptics and parties dedicated to sovereignty are on the political fringes. The European politics of the major parties don’t tend to differ but in degrees. In France, “sovereigntists” lost ground even though Chirac’s Christain Democrats (UMP) lost to the socialists. The SPD in Germany took a stunning defeat, but that did not stop the Greens from making tremendous gains (reaching 12%), suggesting that there is a migration away from the SPD, not a realignment. The SPD defeat reflects disenchantment with the need for social reforms as well as the ineffectiveness of the limited reforms that have taken place (one analysis suggests that the SPD lost workers under 30 years). Belgians split regionally, with the socialists taking the Walloon vote, a coalition of the right taking the Flemish vote; the fear is that the two regions are becoming identified too closely with specific political alignments. The only places where Euroskeptics made substantial gains were in newly incorporated nations in the East. On as positive note, Joerg Haider lost out as the representative of the Euroskeptics from Austria.

Regional results mirrored national trends. In the super-region Est (consisting of Alsace, Burgundy, France-Comte and Lorraine), the socialist list beat the conservative/Christian democratic 29% to 17%. Conversely, CDU won in Rheinland-Pfalz and Nordrhein-Westfalen.

[Update:] More than Euroskepticism, populism gained as a result of the elections. Smaller parties capitalized on anti-Brussels (not anti-EU) sentiments to make significant gains.

[Update:] The prevailing trend in the elections is a shift to the center-right in individual countries, one which favors the European People's Party, a coalition of Christian Democractic parties that wants to infuse more Christian ethics into EU affairs and that is strongly in favor of subsidiarity (read: they are not "pro-sovereignty".) Here are some of the positions of the EPPE:
  • Support development of market economy, but emphasize the social aspects of economic advancement as well as the individual.

  • Democracy and protection of ethnic minorities above nationalism.

  • Federal and decentralized rather than centralized development of the EU.


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