European Parliament elections 2019, a “test” for EU model

Thursday, 2019-05-23 11:22:36
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The building of the European Parliament is seen in Strasbourg, France. (Photo: Getty)
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NDO – From May 23 to 26, more than 420 million voters of 28 European Union (EU) member countries will cast their ballots to elect 751 members of the European Parliament (EP) for the 2019-2024 tenure. The elections take place while the EU is facing numerous difficulties and the building of a strong and unified EU is becoming an urgent requirement for the alliance.

The elections start on May 23 in the UK and the Netherlands. Voters in Ireland and the Czech Republic will go to the polls on Friday, with Latvia, Malta and Slovakia on Saturday and the remainder of member states on Sunday.

Prior to the election, the European Economic and Social Committee (CESE) issued a resolution calling on EU citizens to vote in the EP elections. The resolution emphasised that by exercising their voting rights, citizens have contributed to protecting the EU’s values, such as democracy, protection of human rights, the rule of law and freedom of expression. At the same time, the resolution affirmed that only a unified Europe will help promote progress in the areas that can only be solved at the EU scale, such as combating climate change, inequality, poverty, unemployment, terrorism or corruption.

However, analysts stated that it is not easy for the EU to gather forces to build a “unified EU”, and the elections are likely to witness the division of the alliance’s people, in the context that the “old continent” is being confronted with numerous challenges at the same time. In terms of economics, the EU’s alliance model has no longer maintained its attractiveness and revealed many “negative aspects” after the economic crisis that broke out about 10 years ago. The website investigaction.net (Investig’Action) reported that the wave of criticisms aimed at the common currency, the euro, has surged again in the EU recently. Economists said that the use of the euro in the “Eurozone monetary union” has been entailing many uncertainties for member countries, while making the European economic crisis more serious over the past decade with a soaring unemployment rate, especially in Southern European nations.

Meanwhile, extreme nationalism and populist movements have been rising strongly in many European countries, and more and more leaders of these movements have called for secession from the EU as well as acts against the euro. Last weekend, right ahead of the EP elections, tens of thousands of people took to the streets, marching in Berlin and six major German cities to protest populism and extreme nationalism.

Another challenge for the EU is that the EP elections take place while the “historic farewell” between the bloc and the UK (Brexit) has still yet to come to an end. According to the latest polls published by the UK news agencies, Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, a newly formed political party in favour of a “hard Brexit” (the UK leaves the EU without a deal), will win the most seats among the UK parties in the EP election. The UK currently holds 73 seats in the EP, and when the country leaves the “European common roof”, the number of seats in the EP will be reduced to 705. The UK’s previous seats will be reallocated to some EU countries.

In addition to the aforementioned issues, the EP elections take place in the context of internal divisions within the EU over a series of other domestic and foreign issues, such as the settlement of the immigration crisis and the EU relations with the US, Russia and China. European analysts and media have said that amid the piling difficulties faced by the EU, division and Euroscepticism are spreading widely. Public opinion polls before the election showed that most voters expressed dissatisfaction and indifference to the EP elections, because they no longer have confidence in the EP as over recent times, MPs have failed to work out reasonable solutions to the EU’s “tough problems”.

It can be said that the EP elections will be a “test” for the EU model. With any forces taking the majority of next tenure’s EP seats, the building of a strong and united EU should become a top priority because of its significance to both the EU as well as each member state. This is also the reason why before the EP elections, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier affirmed the importance of a “strong and unified” EU, while calling on the German people to participate in the EP elections.