EM Netherlands: The elections: a battle between pro and anti-Europe? Column by Thomas von der Dunk
How democratic do European politicians actually want the European Union to be? This question is once again topical, with the European elections imminent, which the pro-Europeans among them have declared to be the most important in decades, because the Eurosceptic populists are on the rise everywhere. According to some, it is either over or under – but whether this awareness is also present among voters to such an extent that it promotes the steadily declining turnout that has been going on for years, is debatable.
For decades, the campaigns of the largest parties were very similar in character: the people on the list behaved not so much as politicians who clearly distinguished themselves from one another, but as competent administrators who together came to inform the voters about the importance of Europe. The voters who subscribed to this had already seen the light of day, while those who did not had simply not yet fully understood it. Differences between the parties snowed under. Fortunately, two factors have now changed this to some extent for the better.
The first factor is that of the Spitzen candidates. On the one hand, this brings the national members of the European party families closer together: it reinforces the European character of the elections, where they used to be more the sum total of national opinion polls – while, for example, in the previous one in 2014, the Liberals in the Netherlands scored well, they were completely wiped out in the United Kingdom and Germany. Not because the voters were (un)satisfied with their European course, but because that was the case for the individual national governments. It is an illusion to think that this will no longer be the case, but it is a shift in emphasis in the right direction: because European elections must be about European issues – and not about national ones, no matter how many and which issues should be European.
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