European Elections – Views from MEP Candidates

Strategic Communications

May 15, 2014

Introduction

Europe goes to the polls in just over a week. Significant turnover is expected as the balance of power in Strasbourg is re-defined. FTI Consulting has been looking into different aspects of the elections and institutional changes through a series of snapshots. This sixth edition is the product of interviews with six candidate MEPs representing different parties across Member States. It aims to give a snapshot of the perspectives of new incoming MEPs on key European issues.

The following candidate MEPs were interviewed:

  • Anneliese Dodds, Labour (S&D) – UK: South East
  • Jonathan Fryer, Liberal Democrat (ALDE) – UK: London
  • Jan Keller, Czech Social Democratic Party (S&D) – CZ
  • Luděk Niedermayer, TOP09 (EPP) – CZ
  • Terry Reintke, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen (Greens/EFA) – DE
  • Beatrix von Storch, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) – DE

Main Points

  • Candidates are expecting a busy next legislature.
  • The debate between “widening” vs. “deepening” the EU has shifted to become one between “deepening” vs. “loosening”. Enlargement is not a priority for any party (almost1 all opposed the entry of Turkey in the short term).
  • Reforming the EU is endorsed by all candidates, although for different reasons and with diverging aims.
  • Issue specific debates (environmental targets; financial legislation; energy regulation) are likely to divide the new EP along similar party lines as the outgoing legislature but the shift of power is likely to force parties into new alliances.
  • Some Eurosceptic parties such as the AfD express interest in constructively participating in debates provided the issue discussed falls clearly under EU competency, a good sign for the efficiency of the future legislature.
  • Most interviewees would like the seat of the EP to Brussels.

Reforming Europe, Addressing the Democratic Deficit

The role of Europe has arguably never been as contested as it is in the run up to the 2014 elections. The financial and debt crisis and the subsequent re-structuring of southern European economies, rising unemployment and stagnating growth have laid bare the disparities between Member States. As dire economic conditions fuel resentment against “Brussels” in parts of the electorate, eurosceptics are expected to make substantial gains in the new parliament.

In light of the growing abstention in EU elections and the perceived “democratic deficit”, candidate MEPs tended to agree that the EU needed “reform” but disagreed on what this would entail. UK Liberal Democrats and Labour candidates aligned in rejecting the modus operandi of the current conservative government “re-negotiations” calling it a “nationalistic and self-defeating way of going about things” and arguing that it would lead to the “worst of all worlds” by reducing the UK’s influence in the EU. Expected disparities between AfD and the German Greens were made evident with the former suggesting that returning powers back to Member States should be a key priority for the next parliament while the latter argued that the parliament should have the right to initiate legislation.


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