Interest in and turnout for elections is in pretty much direct proportion to how important and likely to have an impact the public perceive them to be. So European election campaigners should be discussing why the elections matter – and come up with some convincing arguments along those lines, because I haven’t heard any yet.
The majority of people don’t know what MEPs actually do, or what influence they can actually have. For most people, the answer to the latter (and probably the former, thanks to all those stories about MEPs turning up to sign the register and then buggering off again) is “very little”.
In return, EU citizens should be demanding that the EP has more power to influence legislation – and to propose it.
In any case, let’s face it, the shape of the next Commission is going to have a far larger impact on the way the EU is going to work over the next few years… Once the machinations around those appointments start kicking off, then I start getting interested again. (Unless it’s Barroso again, in which case I start screaming in frustration…)
My complaint’s primarily with the process and institutions. I don’t feel that the European Parliament has enough influence, but my major gripe is the UK’s system for electing MEPs (multi-member constituencies on a party list system, meaning you can only vote for a party, not a candidate).
To be honest, because of that I couldn’t care less about the policies of the various parties/groups. Their policies don’t matter – they’re only MEPs. The real decisions are taken by the national governments in Council and elsewhere, and the real policies drawn up by the civil servants of national governments before being passed to the Commission.
The EP has only a small part to play in the way the EU impacts on our lives – a more important one than many believe, but still not important enough to get overly excited about, as far as I’m concerned.
I’m quite happy to be convinced otherwise, if anyone wants to try.
This post is made up of parts of a comment I left at the bottom of this post, if it seems familiar…