Mobilization through cross-national campaigns
Various observers see great potential for civic participation in the fact that the next election will have a more direct impact on the choice of the president of the Commission, with the main European political families having designated candidates or planning primaries.
Aggregation is taking place among populist, anti-system parties too, notably with the announced alliance between the French Front National and the Dutch Partij voor Vrijheid (both polling at around 20-25%). Other potential allies include Austria’s Freedom Party, Italy’s Northern League, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, the Swedish Democrats. The Danish People’s Party and UKIP have declined Wilder’s offer to cooperate.
Despite the varying configurations, eurosceptic MEPs of various tendencies have consistently accounted for around 20% of the EP. The impact of a possible much larger share of eurosceptic MEPs on EU proceedings is uncertain. Recent research has seen the current eurosceptic MEPs oscillating between the prototypes of the ‘orator’, seeking to delegitimize the institution using all possible opportunities for public speech; the ‘absentee’, with limited involvement in the EP and a focus on the national arena; the ‘pragmatist’, more involved in the daily work of the EP, with a need to achieve results and a tendency to respect the rules. Research on the ITS group in the previous parliamentary term suggests that an East/West divide and different degrees of nationalism are obstacles to structural cooperation between radical right parties in the EP.
Does information help?
Analyzing data from the Spring 2013, TNS notes that European elections are the least-mentioned topic about which Europeans would like more information in 24 of the 27 Member States. Ireland, Italy and Portugal are the only exceptions; but, even in these countries, less than 12% of citizens would like to be more informed about European elections. The effectiveness of so-called ‘cognitive mobilization’, i.e. the fact that more informed citizens would be able and willing to engage with a remote political community, had already been questioned in research since it was first posited in the Seventies.
Burson-Marsteller and Votewatch Europe have announced a tool monitoring the polling levels of parties ahead of the EU elections, to begin in early 2014: http://europedecides.eu/analysis/pollwatch.
BRACK, Nathalie. (2013), Euroscepticism at the Supranational Level: The Case of the ‘Untidy Right’ in the European Parliament. JCMS: Journal of Common Market Studies, 51: 85–104. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-5965.2012.02303.x/abstract.
ROTH, Felix; NOWAK-LEHMANN D., Felicitas; OTTER, Thomas. Crisis and trust in national and European Union institutions: panel evidence for the EU, 1999 to 2012. EUDO Working Paper. http://hdl.handle.net/1814/26975.
STARTIN, Nicholas. Where to for the Radical Right in the European Parliament? The Rise and Fall of Transnational Political Cooperation. Perspectives on European Politics and Society, 11:4, 429-449, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/15705854.2010.524402
STRATULAT, Corina; EMMANOUILIDIS, Janis A. The European Parliament elections 2014 Watershed or, again, washed out?. EPC Discussion Paper. http://www.epc.eu/documents/uploads/pub_3699_ep_elections_2014.pdf.
(this post is the third and – for now – final in a series that looks at public opinion in Europe ahead of the European Elections in 2014)