European Union: To Vote Know How It Works

European Elections 2014 Banner (Source: Google Images)

Next weekend, European citizens will go to the polls to elect Members of the European Parliament.

This economic crisis revealed an embarrassing truth: Euro-citizens know very little about the EU and how it works. Even I knew very little about it, but since I wanted to understand why the European Union takes such unfathomable Foreign Policy positions, I set myself out to study it more.
First, I learned the EU has Founding Fathers (Konrad Adenauer, Joseph Bech, Johan Willem Beyen, Winston Churchill, Alcide de Gasperi, Walter Hallstein, Sicco Manshott, Jean Monnet, Robert Schuman, Paul-Henri Spaak and Altiero Spinelli); then I learned that if Europe is united is because Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands had a dream (of Prosperity & Peace). But we are not going to discuss that for now.

As Euro-voters we need to know the basics about the European Union and how it functions, so that we are fully conscious of what we are doing when we cast our votes. Therefore, we primarily need to know that the EU is administered by three basic bodies:

1. The European Commission: the executive body responsible for the proposing and implementing EU laws, monitoring the treaties and the day-to-day running of the EU (as per Article 17 of the TEU).

2. The European Parliament: the only directly elected EU body. It represents the EU's 500 million inhabitants and it plays a key role in electing the President of the European Commission. It shares power over EU budget and legislation with the Council of the EU (as per Article 14 of the TEU).

3. Council of the European Union: a body composed by government ministers of member states who share budgetary and legislative power with the European Parliament (as per Article 16 of the TEU).

If we look at the three above structures of the EU, it should be easy to realise the importance of electing the proper MEPs. Furthermore, by voting in the European Parliament elections, we (as euro-citizens) have the chance to shape a politically harmonious team to serve our interests in Brussels.
Building a politically harmonious European team involves a bit of calculation and for that all we need to do is to picture the European Union as a family. Visualise your family with all the complexities of the coexistence between its members - when you need to forge alliances to achieve a certain goal, which relatives do you select to form your group? This formula is applicable to politics.

The council of the EU is composed of government ministers: is your government behaving or misbehaving (do try to make a cold analysis of the facts)? If it is being successful then you need to elect MEPs more or less from the same ideology (for instance, Portugal has 22 seats in the European Parliament; since our government successfully took us out of the economic mess we were in, it is convenient that the majority of those seats be filled with right wingers for two reasons: 1- they will be able to continue the mandate of the Portuguese people at European level; 2- in case this present government loses the 2015 elections, the MEPs will be able to balance the socialist lack of vision for Portugal and for the Portuguese, at European level); if your government is misbehaving (like the French one) then you definitely need to elect MEPs from a different ideology, to keep the council on their tip toes.

The European Commission is composed by 28 commissioners representing each member state. Those commissioners are proposed by the council (i.e. the government ministers of each member state) and then elected by the Euro-Parliament (that you elect directly). If there is a lack of harmony between your country's representatives at the council and the parliament, the election of the commissioners and the president of the commission will be made difficult and in the end the result may not reflect the best choice for you (since the commission is the body that proposes EU laws to be passed by both the Parliament and the Council).

In sum, when you go to the ballots, next Sunday, be conscious of the responsibility your vote bears. Set your emotions, your partisanship, aside and make the proper calculations. Don't be automatic: don't just vote for the sake of voting.
We want to change the European Union to be more effective for the people, and the first step towards that direction is to cast a responsible vote.
The future of Europe is in your hands.



Comments

  1. Such a simplified version of how things really work in the EU, Max. I was going to slam you for it but then I reconsidered cause it's true that for direct suffrage only the parliament really matters and how it relates with the main bodies. So yeah, good job. I am still undecided, I don't know for whom to vote for but I will make my calculations, rest assured ;-)

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    1. Hi Ana :D!

      lol you can "slam" me whenever you wish, you know that. But know that I am going to fight back ;)
      66% of abstention rates in Portugal: the Portuguese never learn and the right wing is shameful. Mi fanno veramente schifo, sai?

      Ana, thank you very much for your comment :D.

      Cheers

      Delete
  2. If we exclude the lobbies that help shaping EU's policy in Brussels, yes it is important to vote next Sunday!
    I want Europe to have a future but I don't know if it will have one. The people do not know what the EU is all about and they won't do that job for themselves, they won't look for the information by themselves: so what does the EU do for the people exactly when it fails to give them the most basic of informations about itself? No wonder there is euro skepticism!

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    1. Hi Celeste :D!

      Good point: the lobbies seem to have more power than the bodies. And now that socialists won more seats (in the Portuguese case, I mean), I am finding the lobbyists more and more appealing lol ;).
      You are right, absolutely right. And the governments do not give that information either: why?

      Celeste, thank you so much for your comment :D.

      Cheers

      Delete
  3. The European Union in many aspects serves as a scapegoat for the incompetence of individual member states. I am not saying the union is the best thing it has happened to Europe but I'm not sure it is the evil that everybody paints it either! Just my two cents.

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    1. Hi Anon :D!

      True. Well, your comment reflects my idea about the EU: citizens do not know what it is and what it is there for. And if so then how can they be sure that they are being represented at EU level? But I will continue to dig. Stay tuned.

      Anon, thank you so much for your comment. I appreciated it :D.

      Cheers

      Delete
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    1. Hi Looney :D!

      LOL LOL that is funny.
      Thank you for having dropped by :D

      Cheers

      Delete
  5. Oh lass, I am voting for the UKIP hoping to balance things a bit. I want also to see what they are going to do next if they win as many seats as they're planning to. They are Euro-sceptics but what will they do once they get the seats: will they try to implode the EU from within or will they give a different shape to the place? You may accuse me of gambling, lass, and perhaps I am but I am calling their bluff before the 2015 elections here in the UK.

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    1. Hi Joe :D!

      Isn't that a dangerous game, old chap? Nevertheless, I understand your position...

      My friend, thank you so much for your comment :D

      Cheers

      Delete
  6. I'm with Joe, the UKIP seems a bloody good alternative to all the tossers who sit at the EU. That and I want to know how far goes their scepticism, don't I? Are they all talk or do they mean business?

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    1. Hi Anon :D!

      Good questions. We need a good result next year in Britain, in order to keep the balance of things.

      Anon, thank you so much for your comment :D.

      Cheers

      Delete
  7. What have I been missing? I never understood the EU and I don't think I ever will, not when I look at the problems that it has created and keeps creating for ordinary people. Who runs the show? Germany, France, UK, who?
    About your thought of the week: Russia plays an old fashioned game. But as it worked in the past, some of the aspects of that game can still work today and that's what worries me. For example, they suspect all NGOs cause they potentially spy on them and seek to change the political demographics in Russia, this is a cold war mindset but are they wrong? No, cause even in countries like Israel NGOs do that. My point is, Russia seems crazy but there are things we could learn from them. What do you think, Max?

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    1. Hi Carl,

      You are not alone. The turnout was 43% (+/-) meaning that the majority didn't go to the polls, why? Because they do not understand the EU and they don't understand what it does for them. Who to blame? Governments and the EU itself for not informing the people.
      You ask who runs the show? On paper, the EU parliament and the Council of the European Union; in reality, probably the big powers of Europe (Germany, France, UK, Italy and Spain).

      I see where you are coming from. No, they are not totally wrong about NGOs.
      I agree: there are things that we could learn from the Russians (one of them is that agreements are not to be complied after all and that there is little the world can do under certain circumstances)..

      Carl, thank you so much for your comment :D.

      Cheers

      Delete

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