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Without real trans-European parties, the European election is a “tourist class” election. By Franck Biancheri (2004)

Without real trans-European parties, the European election is a “tourist class” election. By Franck Biancheri (2004)

On 7 February 2018, the European Parliament, while the proposal was on the table, did not vote for the establishment of transnational lists and rejected any reflection on the creation of a single European constituency for the 2019 European elections and beyond. The national parties that occupy the European Parliament, convinced that the “alliances” by political family that they form in the European Parliament are sufficient to express the European voice of the citizens, don’t want revolutionizing the European democratization, which risks in particular cost them seats. They have even allocated the 73 British seats that should be released in 2019 with Brexit, even if they have acted for an effective reduction in the number of MEPs (see EP decision Composition of the European Parliament, 07/02/2018). However, as Franck Biancheri wrote in 2004: “National political parties can no longer assume the democratic responsibility of the European election. Their illusory attempts to form alliances between parties of the same political family is only an expression of their awareness that they can not deliver an understandable and credible speech to citizens in the European elections.”

Since 2004 democratisation in Europe lost its time. But with the emergence of transeuropean lists, like DiEM25, European Greens, the Federalists, …, hopefully 2019 European election, ten years after the expectations of Franck Biancheri, will perhaps not remain a “tourist class” election, and show that the citizens are the reformers.

Franck Biancheri, 13.05.2004Last Sunday, Europe Day, the Committee for the Defense of the Armenian Cause (CDCA) organized in Lyon a very large conference gathering the heads of lists in the European elections for the (french) Greater South-East region, around a question for the future of Europe: Turkey’s possible entry into the EU. Believing that Europe 2020 could help illuminate this complex debate, the organizers also invited me to intervene. With more than a thousand participants on a Sunday afternoon, the subject has shown that it is mobilizing and that citizens can be interested in the European debate … provided that it deals with what interests them.

The debate was particularly lively and the room very expressive of his convictions and opinions. However, and despite the quality of the speakers of the different political parties, I could not help but notice (and say at the end of this demonstration) how the absence of true trans-European parties completely distorted the democratic exercise that should be the election to the European Parliament.

First of all, most of the political leaders who are candidates in these elections (and I am talking here about all 25 member states) are unable to use this electoral opportunity as a vast pedagogy of Europe and Europeans: everyone speaks only of what he knows and what they know is national or regional politics; so they do not speak, explain, or make understandable the complexity of European political construction and its immense potential for action. At best, for those who have already been elected MEPs, they give some information about the functioning process of the European Parliament, but nothing more. Nothing about the political forces at work in the 25 countries, nothing about the expectations of the citizens of the 24 other Member States, nothing about the conditions of effectiveness of their own action within such a vast and diverse group.

We even see good-faith demonstrations that can only convince the average citizen that the European election is really an electoral “foolery”, and the European Parliament a “diversion” of democratic legitimacy. And this is all the more serious as these demonstrations are made in front of citizens motivated by European political themes such as, here, the possible entry of Turkey into the EU.

Here are some examples of this false community democracy in action, last Sunday in Lyon:

  • a politician explains that citizens should be interested in the constitution rather than in Turkey to decide their vote in the next European elections! In addition to being false, since the Constitution will give rise in time and to many referendums (and we still do not know what it will contain in fine, while the Parliament can if it wants to block or not the possible entry of Turkey), the citizens present did not fail to react loudly to the fact that the “elites” explain to them what “must” interest them or not in an election! Curious concept of “top-down” democracy that reflects the current community political system.
  • several “heads of the list”, spurred by the organizers, obliged to explain in a confusing way that although they are themselves in favor of the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by Turkey, the European political group to which they belong in Strasbourg has actually vote against! Understand who can … and especially what the elector must do in the face of “so-called” European parties, each of whose national components develop their own opinions that are often contradictory to each other. Vote for what the leftist, right-wing, eco-friendly candidate says in your country … and tomorrow you will discover at European level that his “European party” will decide the opposite! Where is democracy in this process?
  • a “head of the list” asserting that there is no “European people” while welcoming the fact that Europeans are increasingly refusing bureaucratic management of the EU. Look for the paradox!

We could continue this way for a long time. There is no question here of the honesty or the motivation of the policies concerned. But on the other hand a brutal statement: the national political parties can no longer assume the democratic responsibility of the European election. Their illusory attempts to form alliances between parties of the same political family is only an expression of their awareness that they can not deliver an understandable and credible speech to citizens in the European elections. But people are not fooled and perceive that behind the press conferences on a European flag, there is a void of common political vision, operational program and political staff to the size of the continent.

Let us risk a prognosis: the 2004 European election will be the last when the national parties will have the monopoly of the political offer; by 2009, we can expect the emergence of two or three new trans-European political forces, totally disconnected from national and regional political issues, and focused only on the European dimension of the challenges common to the whole continent.

There is no doubt that Europeans are waiting with increasing impatience to finally be able to express themselves as first-class European citizens and no longer only as European citizens of “tourist class”, the same as those elected at present in Strasbourg!

Franck Biancheri, 13.05.2004 – Translated from: Sans vrais partis trans-européens, l’élection européenne se fait en « classe touriste » (french) © FB Documentation 2018

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