Public Affairs Newsletter - October 2014

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Magnus Ehrenberg, founder and CEO of EHRENBERG Kommunikation, comments on the European elections in May.


Europe has voted – so what?!

Does anybody remember that there have actually been European elections in May? Vaguely? That’s no surprise, because if we are honest - has anything changed? A lot, for sure, but who of the 170 m Europeans that casted their votes really cares which parliamentarian became chairman of which committee in the newly convoked European Parliament?
Also in the year of 2014, more than 50% of the Europeans do not believe that their vote has any impact on their individual or social status quo. The EU is still perceived as a bureaucratic monster far off the single citizen’s reality. But by that, one tends to forget, that the European Parliament is indeed directly influencing everyone’s life.
Let’s take Roaming as an example: After a significant push of the parliamentarians, the fees for cross-border phone calls have been restricted this summer. Even if the debate on the complete abolition of Roaming fees is still on-going, the political signal of the parliament will not remain unheard in the mid-term.
This case is the direct consequence of a societal consensus and a consequent implementation of the free market principle for the good of the majority of the population. It also proves that a minimal political framework is necessary to protect citizens from the negative consequences of too much liberalisation.
At this point the political sceptics will come out and criticise that too strong agitation from interest parties water down much more protective attempts in the decision making process. And they are not completely wrong, the influence of lobbyists in the political sphere is enormous. Still, it is also a sign on how direct democracy functions, by freedom of expression and active participation.
And it makes clear what politicians are elected for as well: to weigh the different interests and to make decisions in the sense of a broad majority. To quote Germany’s minister of the interior, Thomas de Maizière: „I do not know about a single law procedure where there is not tried to massively lobby. But the attempt alone does not mean that it’s successful.“
In that sense, the European Parliament is the best guardian of democratic decision taking. All interests are heard and weighed. And since there are no clear majorities, most decisions are taking on the basis of cross-party compromises. The result of the May elections could strengthen this tendency further, if the moderate political groups close ranks towards the strengthened radical block. And despite all prophecies of doom, this can only be beneficial for a further consolidation of a Europe of 28 member states.

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