Written by Silvana Limni and Vanda Suha
European students out there at Queen Mary, Europeanelections are coming up in a few months and are expected to take place between the 23rd and the 26th of May of 2019!
It’s this the time to start getting informed on what you want to vote for and what are the parties available and their programmes.
The European parliament is the only directly elected body of the EU, so it is an important chance for European citizens to play a role in what goes on in European institutions.
When are the elections and how to vote?
The elections will take place between the 23rd and 26th of May, this year, which means all eligible EU citizens can exercise their right to vote. EU Parliament elections take place every 5 year, meaning this vote is crucial to set the future direction of the institution.
Voting processes differ depending on each member state, i.e. all the rules that apply for national general elections, are valid in this case as well. If you want to find out more how voting takes place in your home country, we encourage you to check out your government’s website.
For more information, click here
What are we voting for?
The EU Parliament, headquartered in Brussel, is the legislative body of the EU and is the only body, which is directly democratically elected by the citizens of member states. Other institutions, like the European Council, are composed by representatives of member states’ governments. It is a body with great significance, because it provides the checks and balances of all the activity of other EU institutions. Thus, the Parliament has the final say and its pronouncements need to be adopted by every member states.
Seats are distributed among EU countries according to a quota calculated from the size of their populations i.e. the bigger the country the more representatives it has in the Parliament. That is why for example, Germany can send 96 representatives meanwhile Croatia only 12. You vote for representatives of parties from your country, who will eventually be part of an equivalent European party in the Parliament, which reflects at best their views. For example, if you vote for a right-wing representative from your home country, it is very likely that this person will be the representative of a right-wing party in the EU Parliament, like the European People’s Party (EPP).
List of Parties and Main Representatives (source bbc.uk):
The EPP is one of the powerhouses of the EU Parliament with its most representatives. The members are centre-right politicians aiming for stronger EU integration. Most of the representatives come from the governing German party, the CSU. Interestingly, Jean Claude-Juncker is also part of the wider EPP.
The other powerhouse is the S&D, which mostly contains centre-left politicians from EU member states. One of the most famous members is Martin Schulz, who has been the President of the Parliament.
It was the biggest winner of the 2014 elections and consitis a peculiar mixture of centre-right and Eurosceptic politicians who mostly promote economic liberalisation and are socially conservative. The Polish Law and Justice Party contains most of its representatives.
ALDE is one of the most Euro-enthusiastic parties in the EU Parliament often deciding on key votes.
GUE contains far-left politicians i.e. hardcore communists, who are mostly Eurosceptic but not in a national sovereignty way. They are anti-austerity and anti-capitalism, mostly coming from Scandinavian states.
This is an alliance between two parties who take a centre position on most of the proposed issues within the Parliament.
The EFD is against European integration and could be a winner of the 2019 election considering Italy’s Five Stars Movement party is one of its main contributors.
The ENF is against the EU, led by French politician Marine Le Pen, and the Italian Northern League also favours this party.
Non-attached (NI)MEPs 14
Many in the EU Parliament do not belong to any parties as they feel like none of them represents their views.
Why is this election important?
This election will set up the direction of the EU for the next 5 years which is very crucial considering all the challenges the EU is facing right now.
First of all, Brexit, which partly originated from the concerns about the bureaucratic decision-making mechanisms of the EU, including its immigration policies, has weakened the EU as a legitimate actor. Even if Brexit does not happen, which is still yet to see, it has already impacted the EU greatly, and the institution should learn from its mistakes. Furthermore, according to a survey, more than the half of the member population believes the EU is heading to the wrong direction, clearly demanding some sort of change.
Another great challenge are the populist movements and governments all around Europe. This does not mean that countries, which have a populist government are necessarily against the EU. However, it happened to be the case for example in Italy, which will send 76 representatives constituting a significant player in the Parliament. With its recently elected populist government, the coalition between the Five Stars Movement and the Northern League, created a very euro-skeptic atmosphere in the country. Thus, it is extremely important to raise awareness about the elections, targeting mainly young people who are more likely to be in favour of the institution.
Why does your vote count?
Many believe that participating in elections, especially EU ones won’t make a difference. Every vote counts, and it is incredibly important to exercise your right because this is the only way we can get directly involved with EU affairs. The EU has already started its campaign to encourage citizens to vote, especially targeting young people. Despite all the encouragement it is unlikely that people will show up to vote in great numbers, as only 40% of the EU population went to the polls in 2014. The least turnout was in Slovakia where only 13% of the eligible voters exercised their right.
For this reason, go out and vote this May!