EUROPEAN THINK-TANK REVIEW – XIX. (June 2014)

Written by | Friday, June 20th, 2014
European Values

The ‘Personalisation’ of the European Elections: A Half-Hearted Attempt to Increase Turnout and Democratic Legitimacy?    
Sonia Piedrafita a Vilde Renman (Centre for European Policy Studies)
Between 22-25 May, the election to one of the main institutions of the European Union, the European Parliament (EP), were held across the entire European Union. As the data from the previous years show, the participation in the elections to the European Parliament has been gradually decreasing. While during the first election to the European Parliament in 1979 nearly 62 percent of voters came to the polls, in 2009 it was only 43 percent and only 28 percent in the Czech Republic. Of course, this significantly reduces the democratic legitimacy of the EP and the whole EU as well. Moreover, this year’s election took place in an atmosphere characterized by declining support for European integration and a general distrust towards the EU institutions, whereby this trend also needs to be seen in the context of the protracted economic crisis.
Nevertheless, this year’s election was significantly different from the previous elections since this time the voters’ voice did not only decide the composition of the EP, but it will also be decisive in selecting for the individual who will in the next five years be at the helm of the European Commission (EC). Based on the Treaty of Lisbon, there is a close link between the results of the elections to the EP and the decision on who will lead the next European Commission – it is because the EP invites the major political parties at the European level to nominate their candidates for the position of the European Commission’s President. This study analyzes the nomination process within the parties and their approach to the personalization of the electoral campaigns. It also addresses the question of whether this change has a chance to increase public interest in the European elections and in the European politics as a whole.
The authors point out that although the efforts to increase the election’s impact on the future direction of the EU can be seen as a positive development, the success of this initiative is still far from certain. The emphasis put on European political parties to nominate their own candidates for the position of the President of the Commission raised considerable expectations, but it is very unlikely that this change is about to be a sufficient motivation for the European societies to participate in the election or that it would limit significantly the gains of Eurosceptic formations. At the same time, it is far from certain that the heads of states in the European Council will obey the voice of the voters and will nominate the candidate of the winning party for the position of the EC President. Such disobedience would not only greatly weaken the credibility of the entire election to the EP but would also weaken the already low degree of confidence of European citizens in the EU representation.
(The study can be uploaded here:
http://www.ceps.be/book/%E2%80%98personalisation%E2%80%99-european-elections-half-hearted-attempt-increase-turnout-and-democratic-legit)

The EU and 21st Century Security
Emiliano Battisti a David Koczij (Friends of Europe)
The single market indisputably brings a number of advantages but it also often creates opportunities for organized crime groups. Organized crime involves for example money laundering, counterfeiting, production and sale of drugs. For the EU to be able to effectively deal with organized crime, a closer cooperation between the EU Member States and between the EU and third countries is vital. Furthermore, Interpol offices should be created in all EU Member States with a clear focus on this international problem. At the same time, it is also important to adapt legislature so that the results of this international cooperation networks are not lost – the EU should focus on adapting and implementing the existing legislation, rather than creating a new one.
The cyberspace is still a concept that is hard to grasp, and also a phenomenon with whom the international organizations and the countries themselves are struggling. This area is characterized by the absence of boundaries and therefore the only way to regulate it effectively is through cooperation between states and private entities, such as internet providers. It should be noted that regulation does not automatically mean the violation of human rights in cyberspace. The EU is clearly sensitive to human rights abuses and this fact is increasingly transmitted, together with topics such as privacy, to the field of cyberspace as well. The disclosure of activities of the NSA, the US intelligence agency, which grossly violated the rights of EU citizens, plays an important role in this matter.
Among other topics, international terrorism is traditionally one of the highest concerns, which at the moment still constitutes mainly a foreign policy issue for the EU, but within the next few years, there is a risk that, with the arrival of tens of millions of immigrants, this topic will also become a subject of domestic politics. To avoid this undesirable scenario, the main strategy should be to create a functional EU Common Foreign and Security Policy, which would not clearly be possible without the strengthening of the integration process and empowering the EU institutions. In other words, the aim should be to search for causes, not only dealing with the consequences. It is also vital that, in the coming years, the EU focuses on the functionality of its social policies so as it can reduce the risk of terrorist groups causing mayhem in the EU’s territory.
(The study can be uploaded here:
http://www.friendsofeurope.org/Contentnavigation/Publications/Libraryoverview/tabid/1186/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/3735/The-EU-and-21st-Century-Security.aspx)

The EU and Russia: Uncommon Spaces    
Ian Bond (Centre for European Reform)
It’s been 14 years since Vladimir Putin became the first President of the Russian Federation. During this time, the Russian Federation became less democratic, less economically liberal and less reliable. On the other hand, the EU policy towards Russia since the 90s was based on the idea that the country is gradually becoming more „European”. After years of disappointment and deception, the time has come for the Europeans to accept the reality. It is true that the Russians as individuals are becoming “more European “, which can be proved by the number of young, educated and internationally oriented Russians living in London and other European capitals. The Russian government, however, has not only chosen a completely different political and economic direction from the rest of Europe but also actively speaks out against the European values and European Union’s core interests.
This study analyzes EU policy towards Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union and recommends its substantial reformulation in relation to the protection of the EU interests through the lenses of four common spaces defined during the EU-Russia Summit in St. Petersburg in 2003. The four common spaces include: the economic cooperation, space and freedom of Homeland Security, issues of international security and the cooperation in the fields of science, education and culture. The author points out that the EU must give up the hope that the differences between Moscow and Brussels are a result of poor communication. Putin’s government is very well aware of its interests, which will be promoted even if they are incompatible with the interests of the European Union. The EU should do the same. Russian elites do not have to bury the EU but at the same time they do not need it. Moscow’s main objective is, however, to weaken the influence of the Union in the Russian borderlands and to ensure that the European concept of the rule of law and effective multilateral institutions will not expand at the expense of Russia’s preferred power politics.
The EU should treat Russia more as a strategic rival and an occasional tactical ally than as a partner with same values and goals. The author is also aware that this approach will hardly find the internal consistency because the majority of the Member States, including some of the larger ones, will prefer to focus on the good economic relations with Russia rather than compete with Russia politically. Nevertheless, if Europeans want to live in a society based on rules and principles, they cannot allow Russia to undermine the principles of the European Union in its eastern neighborhood while Brussels is concurrently trying to act it a beacon of prosperity and political freedom. The relationship between Russia and the EU must be a relationship of two equals, rather than a relationship between a bear and twenty-eight rabbits.
(The study can be uploaded here:
http://www.cer.org.uk/publications/archive/policy-brief/2014/eu-and-russia-uncommon-spaces)

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