Although on the rise, popular engagement with EU politics is still a poor reflection on European democracy. International coverage maintains a narrow focus, despite important and uneven developments in national politics throughout the Union. Eurozine’s series on the EP elections addresses this deficit.
In the desperate attempts to raise interest in the workings of the European Parliament, a number of classic arguments repeatedly appear: that Europe lacks a common vision, that European politics is organised around national interests, and that the 21st-century everyman does not know enough about the European Union to care about it.
It is a recurring point in Eurozine’s Mood of the Union report series that low voter turnout, especially in eastern and southern European countries, corresponds to the sense of having little influence on the Union in the first place.
This year Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and Croatia showed the least interest in voting in the European elections, followed by Portugal, Bulgaria and Latvia. But these figures mark much higher involvement than four years ago: the 22.74 per cent turnout in Slovakia was more than nine per cent higher than last time; total turnout rose from 42 to 51 per cent this year. Still, this is depressingly low for a global power that claims to conduct itself democratically.
Eurozine’s network editors have collaborated in mapping public sentiment in each EU member state and in the neighbourhoods most affected: the accession states in the western Balkans and the Nordic EEA members.
After all, there is no such thing as an average country anyway.
And yet the focus of international news tends to be narrow: in the 2000s Slovakia was the cautionary tale, now it’s Hungary and Poland, leaving little room for the political lunatics in Estonia or the convicted criminals holding office in Finland to get their fair share of the spotlight.
While many discuss how ‘Auntie Merkel’ should deal with the self-appointed strongmen of the Visegrád club, few know about the social turmoil in Romania, or recognize other leaders from the Union’s periphery who prefer ‘peasant guile’ over clear-cut aggression. But not only in the periphery do issues get lost: despite the record 88 per cent voter turnout, tensions in Belgium between the Flemish and Francophone populations continue to grow.
To understand the underlying imbalances and inertias that hinder fair representation, Eurozine is returning to 1989. This year, the annual European Meeting of Cultural Journals convenes in Berlin to recall the promise of democratisation and European unification. We invite you, our readers to join us for the anniversary conference.
Réka Kinga Papp
Published 22 August 2019
Original in English
First published by Eurozine