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Electoral buffeting in Europe

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While we in the US were focused on Iraq and our domestic issues, Europe's electorate turned in the lowest voter turnout ever tallied by the European Parliament even as that electorate turned out, or turned upon, many of its constituent national governments.

While there are many victims, notable among them supporters of the US-led Iraqi effort or of a strong European Union, most incumbent parties received a thrashing, giving rise to a consistent underlying theme is a drop in voter support of the European Parliament as its powers have expanded to the point that it "has the power to approve nearly 80 percent of EU legislation," can pass on "the EU's EUR95 billion budget and can fire the European Commission."

Little known to most US readers, this powerful body is about to try to hammer out a draft EU constitution, create Euro-coalitions among parties with similar political leanings, and pass on the merits of Turkish EU candidacy. The recent vote could be both buyer's remorse on the part of newly admitted states (which usually have a high voter turnout) and a signal to the legislatures of member states to proceed very cautiously.

I see the original six signatories of the Treaty of Paris (France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxemburg and the Netherlands) as the core of European nations that had borne the brunt of fighting on what became the "allied side" of the post WW II divide. (France was intent on anchoring West Germany into western orbit, while blunting its military growth and so deflecting further Soviet ire.) As EC, and now EU, membership expanded southward and now eastward into former Warsaw Pact nations, it has been my opinion that it will be harder and harder for members to find common cause and effective collective policy. (They certainly will bridle under continued French hegemony of EU foreign policy.)

This is hardly the vision that rose with Jean Monnet (also here), arguably Europe's architect of union in the wake of WW II, who voiced the idea that European union was "was indispensable to the maintenance of peaceful relations."  I have often wondered where Monnet himself drew the boundary on a functioning European organ.

Europe's National Governing Parties Suffer Heavy Losses
World Bank Development News
14 June 2004

Gordon Housworth



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