Mon, Jun 10, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Europe’s silent majority used parliamentary polls to speak out

By George Soros

Last month’s elections to the European Parliament produced better results than one could have expected, and for a simple reason: the silent pro-European majority has spoken.

What they said is that they want to preserve the values on which the EU was founded, but that they also want radical changes in the way the EU functions. Their main concern is climate change.

This favors the pro-European parties, especially the Greens. The anti-European parties, which cannot be expected to do anything constructive, failed to make the gains that they expected.

Nor can they form the united front that they would need in order to become more influential.

One of the institutions that needs to be changed is the Spitzenkandidat system. It is supposed to provide a form of indirect selection of the EU leadership.

In fact, as Franklin Dehousse has explained in a brilliant, but pessimistic article in the EU Observer, it is worse than no democratic selection at all.

Each member state has real political parties, but their trans-European combination produces artificial constructs that serve no purpose other than to promote the personal ambitions of their leaders.

This can best be seen in the European People’s Party (EPP), which has managed to capture the presidency of the European Commission since 2004.

The EPP’s current leader, Manfred Weber, who has no experience in a national government, appears willing to enter into practically any compromise in order to remain in the parliamentary majority. T

that includes embracing autocratic Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Orban has posed a serious problem for Weber, because Orban has openly flouted European norms and established what amounts to a mafia state.

Nearly half the national parties constituting the EPP wanted to expel Orban’s party, Fidesz.

However, instead of following through, Weber managed to convince the EPP to make a relatively easy demand on Fidesz: allow the Central European University (CEU, which I founded) to continue functioning freely in Hungary as a US university.

Fidesz failed to comply. Even so, the EPP did not expel Fidesz, but merely suspended it so that it could be counted as part of the EPP when the president of the commission is chosen.

Orban is now trying to reestablish Fidesz as a bona fide member of the EPP. It will be interesting to see if Weber finds a way to accommodate him.

The Spitzenkandidat system is not based on an intergovernmental agreement, so it could easily be changed. It would be much better if the president of the European Commission were directly elected from a carefully selected list of qualified candidates, but that would require treaty changes

The president of the European Council could continue to be elected by a qualified majority of the member states, as the Treaty of Lisbon prescribes.

The reform that would require treaty changes is justified by the increased democratic legitimacy conferred by the European Parliamentary elections.

Turnout in the recent election surpassed 50 percent, up sharply from 42.6 percent in 2014. This is the first time that turnout has increased at all since the first election in 1979, when 62 percent of eligible voters participated.

Strangely enough, on this occasion, the Spitzenkandidat system promises to produce a dream team. French President Emmanuel Macron, who is opposed to the Spitzenkandidat system as a matter of principle, is largely responsible for this development.

This story has been viewed 1692 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top