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Franck Biancheri, 2004: The democratization of the EU is the central political issue the next two decades

If the EU is unable to break this monopoly to allow real trans-European parties to exist, then, we can expect a double defeat in 2009: that of democracy and that of Europe.

15.06.2004 – The Newropeans Democracy Marathon had illustrated it(1). The analyzes of Europe 2020 emphasized it for several years(2). Yet until this weekend, nothing changed! Our dear political elites, technocrats, media and academics who think they are making European opinion continue to believe that democratization is still not a problem of particular significance for  the EU. Thanks to the abstainers who at last sent the needed wake-up call(3).

At least, indeed, every cloud has a silver lining! Since yesterday we are witnessing the discovery by these same “elites” that the Earth is round… and not flat! That the citizens, in democracy, do not mobilize for the issues that are hidden from them, that we make up or that we elude! That the Europeans, who since the Euro and enlargement have great desire to debating European issues, do not like being taken for idiots who would only have the right to ask “questions” … to these same omniscient elites, who than vote with their feet and plunge the European construction into a vast political “black hole”.

But let us make no mistake about it. This huge abstention has just made all of these same “elites” aware that the Community political project was of immense fragility, just like their own ability to drive it now.

Indeed, the voters, by abstaining, sent a message much more complex than the only abstention would let it believe. Let’s not forget that the 2004 European voter is no longer indifferent to the EU as in the previous elections. In recent years, with the Euro and enlargement in particular, he has become much more “expert” in European matters. He understands now that the EU is influencing the issues of pensions, social systems, employment. He saw during the invasion of Iraq that he could be much more “European” than the so-called European elites. In his own working environment he often becomes a European actor himself (in companies, universities, NGOs, local authorities, every day, hundreds of thousands of Europeans work at European level), who knows more about Europeans than the “politicians” who come to talk to him about them.

So this vote is first of all a “punishment vote” against the European elites. The European citizen has no major problem with the European construction. On the other hand, he has a growing feeling that the EU is badly run, by the wrong people …. and that the electoral masquerade of national elections to the European Parliament is a “democratic abuse” concocted by these same “Elites”, to enable them to remain at the head of the community machine.

So today the problem for the EU is that the European citizen is absolutely right. For many of those who abstained they did it knowing that this would lead to the results we discovered this weekend. And that’s exactly what they expected. To send a strong signal destabilizing the current system. A kind of “preventive democratic strike” against incompetent elites to manage Europe, to design a long-term future for Europeans and to address clearly the problem of power sharing between citizens and elites.

And if this “preventive democratic strike” does not work, then let’s wait for a complete disruption in 2009. Because, speaking with people, we see that they are not shocked by the results themselves, they blame politicians, Eurocrats and the media (especially television) to be responsible for this situation … and they do not care about whether the European Parliament is destabilized or whether the choice of the future President of the Commission is made more difficult. In a word, no “burst” expected for tomorrow. If the political offer is not made more legitimate, more attractive, more relevant to European voters, in 5 years, it will be a powerful blow will hit the European elites.

The objective for the EU, is clear:

  • target around 60% European turnout  in 2009;
  • analyze without restrictions all the means to achieve this target;
  • in doing so acknowledge that the end of the national parties’ monopoly over the European election is a top priority on the EU agenda.

If the EU is unable to break this monopoly to allow real trans-European parties to exist, then, we can expect a double defeat in 2009: that of democracy and that of Europe.

Franck Biancheri, 15/06/2004


(1) In 2002-2003, Franck Biancheri dedicated a whole year to the completion of a series of 100 citizen conferences in 25 European countries, the Newropeans Democracy Marathon, on the theme « What future for Europe? ». These conferences, and the resulting exchanges with thousands of Europeans from all social categories and ages, enabled him to elaborate the basic corpus of what was to become the political programme of Newropeans, a programme therefore founded on the individualized consultation of the European public opinion, later validated by the members of Newropeans. (in Franck Biancheri: His life)

(2) See the series of the GlobalEurope2020 seminars (archives): During 6 years, Europe 2020 organized high level seminars, bringing together officials and diplomats from the European Commission, EU Council and Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the member states. The main two topics were the reform of the European Governance / democratization one hand, and enlargement / EU – rest of the world relationship on the other (in Franck Biancheri: His organisations)

(3) This paper was written right after the EU election 2004, that was held between 10 and 13 June 2004 in the 25 member states. Despite that for the first time the citizens from the 10 new members states, including 8 of the 10 eastern european countries, could elect their MEPs the general turnout fell to 45.6%. The lowest turnouts were recorded in the eastern european countries (under 17% in Slovakia, under 21% in Poland … see wikipedia). In 2009 the turnout fell to around 42%…

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