Years of public spending cuts and unimpressive economic recovery has not only changed the minds of EU citizens regarding the legitimacy of the whole European Union experiment but also how its leaders try to engage the public in the European project as a whole.
Under the slogan “This time it’s different”, there is an attempt to persuade voters to go to the ballot box this coming May, which EU leaders hope to increase the EU’s legitimacy.
Such inadequacy was expressed recently by the European Commission’s vice president, Maros Sefcovic, stating that the ‘democratic deficiency’ of the Commission’s actions had been regularly raised in the past four years, in a statement to Reuters.
In a statement made in Brussels, Sefcovic expressed that “the recent strengthening of European integration means the Commission is playing more and more a political role and all of Europe needs to boost democratic legitimacy more than ever.”
But more than increasing the democratic deficiency of the EU project, there has been a progressive decrease in electoral participation by the public and overall attitude towards the EU. In a PEW research conducted last May, it showed that positive views of the European Union are at or near their low point in most EU nations, even among the young, the hope for the EU’s future.”
The research blamed the public distaste on prolonged economic crisis which “has created centrifugal forces that are pulling European public opinion apart.”
Also reasoned is the general disillusionment toward elected leaders, where Europeans “are losing faith in the capacity of their own national leaders to cope” with economic woes, including the inability of leaders to address the lack of employment opportunities in the continent.
As for the coming elections itself, some observers caution that “if any political party is looking forward to the EU election, it has to be the hard right, anti-EU National Front”, as exemplified in France these days. The general mood there is that “France has lost its sovereignty since the EU was created.” Polls show that the French public has lost their ‘faith’ in the ability of the EU to solve the country’s economic crisis.
In Britain, Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, said the mood in France is shared by Southern ‘peripheral’ economies, which are at the receiving end of the financial bailouts.
In Germany, feelings of burdensome tax payer bailouts to help ailing economies across Europe stem from factors including lack of transparency through to doubts in the merits of the EU-US free trade agreement (TIPP).
Indeed, it will be exciting to see how the decision to include the election of the Commission President in the ballots will turn out this May.