A ridiculously low 43.4% of eligible voters (on a par with some of Australia’s better performing local councils where voting is voluntary) turned out last week to vote for candidates for the European Parliament. Criticism of national governments for failing to promote the elections misses the structural point of the EU: it has become, if it was not always meant to be, a tool of national executives to shift decision-making power away from national legislatures ( a point which I may expand on at a later date). Why would they then actively promote legislative accountability of institutions which serve this purpose?
The irony of the results of the recent European Parliament election is that the candidates which received the best results generally consider themselves to be ‘Euroskeptics’. This swing to the Right will see a Parliament less inclined to fulfill the EU’s chief motivating principles, deeper integration and greater harmony.
Yet supporters of the EU movement, albeit with appropriate caveats concerning the more ludicrous aspects of EU bureaucracy, should not be overly concerned about the apparent rise of political forces that espouse a certain antipathy to EU institutions. After all, it was these same forces (with assistance from disillusioned far-Left and Greens supporters) that successfully campaigned against the latest attempts to turn the treaties that comprise the constituting instruments of the EU into a formal constitution.
That constitution would have increased the relative power of the European Parliament to create a somewhat more accountable European Commission. It wasn’t a great reform, it didn’t completely address the ‘democratic deficit’ or create a true system of checks and balances, but it was something.
Now, Euroskeptics have elected a majority to a European Parliament which they ensured would continue to suffer from the ‘democratic deficit’ that has been the subject of critical analysis for at least 15 years. I suppose some comfort can be drawn from the fact that they can’t make too much trouble.