And the winner is… abstention!
Sep 29th, 2009

German Christian-Democrats and Portuguese Socialists are happy. They won the elections. It is true that in terms of percentage of votes, they did much better than their competitors. However I can’t help but think that the real winner of these elections is abstention. And if abstention is the big winner, then it means that democracy is the big looser.

Turnout rate at Sunday’s German elections: 70.8% (source Euronews), the lowest since 1949 thus confirming the clear trend towards a decline of turnout rates since the 1970s, where they peaked at 90%.

Turnout rate evolution at the German general electins (source International IDEA)

Evolution of the turnout rate at the German general elections (source International IDEA)

Abstention rate at Sunday’s Portuguese elections: 40% (source Euronews), ” an abolute record for legislative elections since the accession of Portugal to democracy in 1974″, reminds touteleurope.fr

Turnout rate evolution at the Portuguese elections (source International IDEA)

Evolution of the turnout rate at the Portuguese elections (source International IDEA)

And the worst is that Germany and Portugal don’t have the exclusivity on this phenomenon. On the contrary, this is a pan-European trend, as shown by the steady decline in turnout rates at the European elections since the 1970s.

Evolution of turnout rates at the European elections (source: European Parliament)

Evolution of turnout rates at the European elections (source: European Parliament)

The roof is on fire. Less and less citizens use their voting right. The legitimacy of our democracies is based on elections. Will our democracies still be legitimate when less than 50% of citizens vote? Will we be waiting until we reach this point to react? Looking at the smile on the winners’ face of Sunday’s elections and last June’s European elections, I am afraid so.

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Quote of the week: Gavin Hewitt
Sep 28th, 2009

“Last year, I covered the Obama campaign. It was marked by its confidence and boldness – by the overpowering sense of the tide of history changing. The sense of purpose in Europe, at first sight, seems less clear.”

Gavin Hewitt, The capital of Europe?

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Quote of the week: Richard Laming
Sep 23rd, 2009

Berlaymont - the European Commission Headquarters

“You can tell a lot about a political system from the buildings it erects to house its decision-makers.”

Richard Laming, Building European Democracy, seen on euobserver.com

Reading the first sentence of this column, the image of the European Commission headquarters immediately popped into my mind, see on the right… What does it make you think of?

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Fine, he is reelected… what now?
Sep 21st, 2009

This week, I felt there was actually much ado about nothing.

It all started with the results of the European elections on June, 7th . We had been campaigning for months. There was a huge window of opportunity for the left within the context of neo-liberal crisis. All that for…  a conservative-eurosceptic-liberal grand coalition at the European Parliament. Business, as usual. All is for the best in the best of all worlds.

Shortly after, the 27 heads of state of the European Union unanimously nominated Barroso as their intended candidate to head the European Commission, despite the wide majority of commentators -journalists and bloggers alike- saying that Barroso should leave. The contrast was striking.

Anyone But Barroso campaign

Anyone But Barroso campaign

In the beginning of September, Barroso presented his political guidelines for the five years to come to the European Parliament: a 50-page long document, which is 95% copy-paste of proposals or programmes that already exist. To make it clear: if Barroso were a student and had written a paper for school, the teachers would have accused him of plagiarism, and then, at  worst, he would have been expelled from university, or at best, given a chance to rewrite his paper. But here again, despite the commentators’ criticisms, he got away with it.

On September, 16th, Barroso was reelected as President of the European Commission by an absolute majority of the Members of the European Parliament. There is nothing to complain about: Council unanimity, Parliament majority, his reelection is democratic, and unquestionable.

So business, as usual, will be ruling for five more years. Obviously, there is something wrong about all this. Does this mean trying to change things is worthless?

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The best of the blogosphere: Being a black girl in a white world
Sep 20th, 2009

A beautiful testimony on how it feels to look different, to be a black girl in a white world. Read here. The post was written by Lady and published on Writing for y(EU), the blog of the European Parliament’s web communication team. The EU affairs world -just like any other power centre- is still missing a little variety, which is precisely why equality policies and positive discrimination are necessary. To read more on this topic, consult the report I wrote on the PES activists forum workshop “Championning equality for all”.

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PES activists forum 2009: video summary
Sep 17th, 2009

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Quote of the week: James Larkin
Sep 17th, 2009
James Larkin's statue in Dublin

James Larkin's statue in Dublin

“The great only appear great because we are on our knees. Let us arise!”

James Larkin, trade unionist and co-founder of the Irish Labour Party

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PES activists forum 2009: championing equality for all
Sep 12th, 2009

At the PES activist forum this afternoon, I attended a workshop entitled “Towards a fair society – Championing equality for all”. The session was refreshingly interactive, giving the audience the opportunity to interact directly with the speaker panel right from the beginning. No long speech, just discussion. The panel included Rhonda Donaghey (SIPTU, Ireland), Lisa Pelling (FEPS Research Group), Michael Leiblfinger (Rainbow Rose) and Niall Crowly (Former CEO Irish Equality Authority).

PES balloons at the Trinity college

PES balloons floating over Trinity college

Niall said that in this time of economic difficulties, governments unfortunately tend to cut funding for equality programmes, which are too often considered as the kind of secondary policy you can only afford in more positive times. However, according to Niall, an “equality crisis” preceded and led the economic crisis we are going through. Studies show that not only do the most vulnerable groups benefit from equality policies, but the society also does, for a more equal society is a more peaceful, healthier, and happier one. Therefore we should focus on putting equality at the core of the public debate in Europe, and protect the infrastructure that is in place to implement it.

Addressing the issue of discrimination against immigrants, Lisa Pelling suggested we change the way we look at immigration. We need immigration as our societies are aging and our population is shrinking. Therefore immigration is a chance for us, and we should even be proud that so many people choose to migrate to Europe. Building up on Lisa’s ideas, a participant said we should reaffirm that any citizen has the right to find their freedom and well-being anywhere in the world. He added that we should also be very strong in stating that countries that do not respect LGTB rights are simply breaching human rights.

As for people with disabilities, Niall points out that we haven’t yet moved in a position where it is part of our common sense to accommodate difference. It should become common sense and only positive action will enable us to move towards more equal societies. Rhonda closed the workshop calling upon the participants to act daily against all kinds of discrimination so that in five years from now we can see a more diverse European Parliament, free of extreme-right parties.

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Blogging from the PES activists forum 2009
Sep 11th, 2009

This weekend I will be blogging from the PES activist forum in Dublin. Co-organised by the PES, the FEPS and the Irish Labour Party, the event is gathering around 300 activists to brainstorm over “the next left for the future of Europe”. Tonight we will meet at the Leinster House -the Irish Parliament- for the opening session. Two days of workshops will follow in the premises of the 400-year-old Trinity College campus. Workshop themes include: a European social and employment pact, a recovery plan for Europe and a new global deal, championing gender equality for all, and safeguarding environment for future generations.

Interested in getting to know more about PES activists? Click here!

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Eurosocialist has migrated
Sep 7th, 2009

The Eurosocialist blog has migrated from Blogger to WordPress. The Eurosocialist blog has also a new address: www.eurosocialist.eu. However, the French part of the blog is keeping the same address: www.eurosocialiste.eu. Both blogs are still under contruction so please forgive the bugs you might encounter during this period. Comments and suggestions are welcome!

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© Eurosocialiste 2010. Everything posted on this blog is my personal opinion and does not necessarily represent the views of my employer or its clients. The content of this blog has been revised by Fabtrad (fabtrad @ gmail.com)