European Elections 101

Welcome to the Nouse European Election mini-site. Here, we will provide a brief synopsis of the manifestos of the 12 political parties presenting candidates in our constituency.

In the following seven day count-down, we will be unveiling a different article every day on different aspects of the European Election.

EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 101

Considering most A-level politics teachers ignore the EU because it is seen as too complicated to teach, it is not a surprise that most people haven’t the faintest idea what the EU is actually about. However, the European Parliament is the only supra-national organization in the world that consists of directly elected members so it follows that it is reasonably important. Our first daily update will be on the background and history, originally, the European Parliament was designed as a purely consultative body. Between 1970 and 1975, it gained budgetary powers and began to play a substantial role within Europe and the world. It consists of 27 member states. Passing legislation requires a high level of consensus, making it extraordinarily time consuming and open to criticism about its ineffectiveness.

Each nation in the European Union has directly elected its own representatives since 1979. The number of representatives is based on population, which means Germany has the largest number followed by France, Italy and the United Kingdom. The smallest countries are guaranteed a minimum of five seats.

Although elections are held every five years, turnout remains low. This has cast doubts over the democratic viability of representatives. When Romania and Bulgaria held their first EP elections, turnout was around 30%.

In 1992, the Maastricht Treaty was signed which required the Commission to have the approval of Parliament. The Commission is the executive branch of the EU and is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decision, upholding treaties and generally in command of the day-to-day running of the Union. It consists of a cabinet government with 27 Commissioners, one per member of state. Commissioners are responsible for upholding the interests of the EU rather than their individual countries. The EP President comes from the Commission.

The composition of Parliament has changed over time. In the 1980s, the far right picked up a substantial number of seats although they failed to increase this number or maintain it. The 1990s saw the arrival of ‘eurosceptics’ – representatives who were hostile to the concept or the idea of the expansion of the EU’s powers.

The 2004 election saw an increase of the sceptics, especially from the UK and Poland. However, the two largest parties remained the Conservatives/Christian Democrats and Social Democrats. The outcome of the coming election will affect the welfare of around 500 million citizens across 27 EU member states. Whatever the result, it will be the largest trans-national election in history.

Cast your vote on 4 June.

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