Since its first elections in 1979, the European Parliament has seen a gradual decrease in voter turnout. The results of polls from May 22 to 25 showed the second lowest civic engagement of its history, only 43.09 percent. This is a serious issue, taking into account the competencies of the Parliament such as electing the President of the EU Commission, approving laws, budgets, and treaties. In addition, many right wing parties were elected for the Parliament. For instance, in France, the National Front (FN), led by Marine Le Pen, received 24.8 percent of the vote to become the country’s largest party in the European Parliament (24 out of 75 French members of the European Parliament). Her party is known for its willingness to reduce the powers of EU. Thus, the labeled “Europtimists” will have to work together to balance the new “Eurosceptics”.
In Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Strategic Vision, he describes the nature of Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy: “a backward-looking combination of assertive nationalism, thinly veiled hostility toward America for its victory in the Cold War, and nostalgia for both modernity and superpower status.”
The newly elected European Parliament will help set the political tone in Europe for the next five years. The new MEPs will have a major impact on the next College of Commissioners and will also have a say on critical issues, from a free-trade deal with the United States, to the energy supply across the continent, as well as on questions of institutional reform and the governance of the single European currency.
With the European Parliament elections just days away, the mood of the European electorate is anything but celebratory. Having spent much of the young 21st century celebrating Europe’s various achievements, the perennial questions in Brussels and Strasbourg were whether to deepen or widen the European Union. Yet only seven years after Greece joined the Eurozone in 2001, the global financial crisis erupted in the United States and spread to Europe. Today, previously unthinkable scenarios have become common discussion points in Brussels, London and many other European capitals. The question now is not whether the Eurozone will expand to other member states or candidate countries, but whether it will survive the test of time and what the consequences for the European Union will be based on the election results in May.
The date of the European election in the UK on May 22nd is fast approaching. But with less than a month before voters go to the polls, the European Parliament’s optimistic slogan for the 2014 election—“This time it’s different”—appears to ring hollow in the UK.
As the countdown to the European Parliament elections gets shorter, campaign efforts step up amongst MEPs and would-be-MEPs. After voting over 20,000 times in the current parliamentary mandate, on over 35,000 amendments, the final session of the 2009 to 2014 parliamentary mandate was brought to an end on April 17th in Strasbourg. They are now fully in election mode until EU voters go to the polls to elect 751 new MEPs between May 22nd and 25th.
French President François Hollande has unveiled a new front bench team—a new “government of combat”. Manuel Valls, popular former Minister of Interior and considered a centrist, has been appointed Prime Minister, while Ségolène Royal, former French presidential candidate and President Hollande’s ex-partner, has been given a key cabinet position as Minister of Environment.
In 2014, Europe will mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the “Great War”, remembering the tens of millions of lives lost during that conflict. Also, this year more than 300 million Europeans will go to the polls to elect representatives to the European Parliament (EP)—the European Union’s (EU) only directly elected institution. Is there a link between one event and the other, you may ask? As John Feffer, co-director of ‘Foreign Policy In Focus’ recently wrote, “In place of jostling empires, there is [today] the European Union, a modern family beset by the usual bickering but nothing that a smothering bureaucracy can't handle.” The elections this May could actually be a watershed event, with potentially immense consequences for the continent and beyond. Institutional changes introduced since the last EP elections, as well as strong external factors—Europe’s current economic situation, disaffection for the ideal of European integration, or international tensions—will most likely result in a very different composition to the EP than in the past.
Spain, in the first decade of the new millennium, was the land of opportunity for many Latin Americans. At one point during the early 2000s, Spain was considered one of the top ten largest economies of the world, thus it became a logical and hopeful alternative for Spanish-speaking workers throughout the Americas. Droves of people immigrated from Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. For many, the dream did become a reality, and Spain was basking in its novel place of economic stability and might. But the construction boom in Spain popped in 2008 to 2009, bringing Spanish banks to their knees and spurring a deep recession that is to this date still dragging the Spanish economy to subzero growth.
The sudden change of mind on the European Association by Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych in late November had unexpected and devastating impacts on his administration. Instead of the usual rallies in the thousands, which the government expected, the protests against his decision grew to hundreds of thousands of people—in some cases, over a million people attended. The government took an arrogant stand of ignoring and trying to suppress the protests, but this made things even worse for Yanukovych. The festive celebration of the European future of the country turned into politically charged movement after police brutality against the small pro-European student's camp at the center of Kyiv 4 AM on November 30th. Similarly brutal suppression of the fairly meaningless protest in Belarus in December 2010 made the country freeze in fear, and the following Western sanctions forced Lukashenko into a close alliance with Russia. It was different in Ukraine.
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