So long 2009! Welcome 2010!
Jan 10th, 2010

A couple of days ago, I took part in the recording of the podcast Chasing Brussels. We were asked what we thought the highlights of 2009 were and what those of 2010 may be.

2009 has been a year of great renewal for me. For the first time, I got very involved in a European elections campaign, which was a fascinating experience. We have seen the premises of true European political campaigning at the Party of European Socialists. However the campaign in-country remained nationally focused, which was a great disappointment for European activists. In the end, the European Parliament is even more right-wing than before, and Barroso will be at the head of the European Commission for 5 more years. This status quo is quite depressing. On a more positive note, 2009 was also the year where I started to blog, tweet, and more generally use all kinds of social media tools avidly. I got involved in exciting projects such as bloggingportal.eu -the EU blog aggregator- and the Gender Balanced Commission Campaign. I’ve had the chance to meet many Eurobloggers in person or virtually on skype, chats, and Google Wave.

I don’t know if 2010 will be interesting in terms of European politics. There is no highest point in political life than the elections. After that, it’s more or less business as usual. Don’t get me wrong, lots of interesting stuff is happening in European policy-making all the time but I’m afraid it’s mostly ignored by mainstream media. Let’s see if in the 4 years to come our growing community of Eurobloggers can change this dynamic!

For now, if you have a little time, I invite you to follow the hearings of the European Commissioners-designate by the members of the European Parliament. They will take place from the 11th to the 19th of January. You can find the agenda here and view the hearings in live streaming here. I’ll be live-tweeting about it here.

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The best of the web: the Conservatives are victims of cybersquatting
Oct 5th, 2009

If you take a look at the European Parliament’s page on political groups, it seems that four months after the European elections, the Tory-led European Conservatives and Reformists Group still does not have a website, and neither does the even more Eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group.

Yet if you search on Google for “European Conservatives and Reformists Group” you will see that THERE IS a temporary website for the group called ecrg.info. The page provides an email address where you can contact the ECR group. In a recent blogpost, the social-democrat blogger Jon Worth reveals that he is the owner of the ecrg.info domain name. He has received all sorts of queries regarding the ECR group through the contact email address, and has replied “informing them that they are victims of cybersquatting and asking the valid question: how can any political organisation that has gone three months without a web presence be taken at all seriously?” Very good question, indeed.

Click to read the full story on Jon Worth’s website.

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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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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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A relevant, comprehensive and synthetic analysis of the European elections
Jun 28th, 2009

I have found on the FEPS think-tank’s website an analysis of the European elections that I think is quite relevant, relatively comprehensive, and remarkably synthetic, which is always a plus point. Click here to access the FEPS analysis.

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Something of a déjà-vu: from the 2002 presidential election to the 2009 European elections
Jun 17th, 2009

The European elections left me with a bitter taste of déjà-vu. After reading the terms some commentators are using to describe the disappointing scores of the European socialists –debacle, collapse, rout, disarray- another expression comes back to my mind… an expression I got familiar with 7 years ago under painful circumstances: ‘like a clap of thunder’. That was the title of a documentary on the then serving French PM Lionel Jospin while he was running for President. Reporters followed him during the last six weeks of his campaign, until the final clap of thunder: centre-right RPR Jacques Chirac was first, extreme-right FN Jean-Marie Le Pen was second with almost 20% of the votes, thus eliminating centre-left PS Lionel Jospin who only got 17.4% of the ballot. The French presidential election is in two rounds, only the two best candidates have access to the second round. This unfortunate event has been more of an electric shock than a clap of thunder to me, as it has been for a whole generation of young French people. I was studying political sciences in Grenoble back then. Like many, I didn’t vote. I was far away from my polling station in Paris. My parents were on holiday. They didn’t vote either, nor did my brother. For the very first time, none of my family members had voted, although we are a very civic family. We always vote. It is a matter of duty for us. Yes, I remember, it was holiday time. The Parisians had deserted the city. They figured they would come back to vote for the second round, which usually opposes the main centre-right candidate of the RPR/UDF to the main centre-left candidate of the PS. But that time so many of us assumed it would happen the usual way that the unthinkable actually occurred. The PS got dismissed. Even worse, the extreme-right overtook the PS. As millions of left-wingers, that terrified me. That’s when I decided to commit myself to politics.

Let’s see why the 2009 European elections remind me so much of the bitter memory of the 2002 French presidential election:

1. A favourable trend for the left. Jospin had done a good job. As a PM for 5 years – a record in France – he implemented significant progressive reforms such as the 35-hour week and the universal health insurance scheme. He was rather popular. The PS was strong, had a good track-record, and as such had quite a wide range of opportunity ahead of it, just as the PES member parties did this year. In the current context of economic crisis -when most European governments are right-wing led while the ones that used to vehemently advocate for free and undistorted markets are now using social-democratic recipes- centre-left parties should have been the front-runners of these elections. Newsweek ‘s headline even said « We Are All Socialists Now ». Yet most PES member parties suffered from a heavy defeat at the European elections.

2. Low turnout that mainly affects the left. It was holiday time in 2002. In 2009, the European elections took place during a bank holiday. The weather was nice. The result: record low turnout rates in both cases. In both cases too, there was a problem of clarity of what was at stake, and many actually wondered if there was a point in voting. In 2002, many thought it did not really matter to vote at the first round, as things were only getting serious at the second round anyway. As for the European elections, it is a well-known fact that what is at stake is not clearly visible. Voters don’t really understand what these elections are about. Moreover, low turnout rates have a more negative effect on the left than they do on the right. Right-wing voters are more disciplined and loyal. The elders, who always vote, tend to vote more for right-wing candidates while youngsters, who vote much less often, tend to vote for left-wing candidates.

3. A divided left-wing camp. In 2002 as in 2009, many left-wing voters voted for the Greens. Traditionally, at the first round of the presidential election, a significant fringe of PS voters are tempted to vote for the Greens, the Communist party or even further left, for some because the rhetoric of these parties is more attractive to them, for others because they want to send indications to the PS on what political line it should follow. First round, you vote as you please. Second round, you vote for the best realistic alternative. The European elections are like the first round of the French presidential election: the left-vote is divided. In 2002 as in 2009, left-wing parties preferred to attack each other, rather than attacking right-wing parties.

Lack of visibility of what was at stake, record low turnout levels, division of the left: like recipe like result, a tremendous defeat for the Socialist parties to the benefit of smaller left-wing formations. That’s just one way of looking at things, I know. It is not a comprehensive one. There are many other ways of analysing these elections. I plan on using different perspectives. After all, there is so much to say about these European elections.

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Jun 10th, 2009

Yes, hungover. There is no other word to describe the way I have been feeling like since that terrible Sunday evening. There is so much to say. As usual, everybody has already started to analyse what happened and give their own explanation of the situation. Everybody thinks they’re right, that their explanation is the right one. The truth is there is no simple reason, nor is there one single easily identifiable culprit. I have my own ideas on the reasons for this defeat, of course. Too many ideas, actually. I need to step back, recover from this hangover, and sort things out a little, so I can see the bigger picture. I will then analyse those reasons one by one, the ones that I instinctively feel are right, and the ones that others think are right. There is a lot of work to be done. But my motivation remains intact.
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it’s super Sunday!
Jun 7th, 2009

Today 18 EU countries are voting to elect their representatives at the European Parliament. Tonight at 10, we will get the results from all 27 EU countries, and finally know what the European Parliament will look like for the next 5 years.

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D+2: Cyprus, Italy, Latvia, Malta and Slovakia
Jun 6th, 2009

Today is the third day of the European elections.
Citizens of Cyprus, Italy, Latvia, Malta and Slovakia are to cast their votes.
Good luck to all PES parties!

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Fantastic atmosphere at the French PS final meeting in Lille
Jun 5th, 2009

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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)