Almost 375 million EU citizens will have the right to decide the composition of the European Parliament until 2019 on May 22-25. And Germany, the biggest country member and first economy of the union, will have 96 representatives out of 751 MEPs, compared to 74 from France or 54 from Spain.
These elections are crucial. For the first time, in accordance with the Lisbon Treaty, the President of the EU Commission will be elected by the European Parliament. Moreover, these elections take place in a time of suspicion towards the European project and a rise of left and right EU-skeptic and populist parties. Therefore the big European Political Parties are presenting the best possible frontrunners for these elections.
On the one side, the former Luxembourg Prime Minister, Jean-Claude Juncker is presenting for the centre-right European People’s Party group to hold the post of President of the EU Commission. In the other side, the European Parliament President Martin Schulz will be the Party of European Socialists’ candidate for the Commission Presidency. Both candidates represent the two counterparts of the German Coalition Government and count with the support and background of their German Family Parties.
The EPP’s candidate Jean-Claude Juncker started the campaign in a Congress of the Christian and Democratic Party in Germany, where he was backed by Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Which in a way will make him to a certain extent dependent; giving the scenario that he will become the Commission’s President, he certainly would have to take into account the German influence,” says Julian Rappold, political analyst at the German Council of Foreign Relations.
“If I become European Commission president, there will be no eurobonds. There can’t be eurobonds because the conditions for covering even a small portion of the debt are not fulfilled,” declared Jean-Claude Juncker in the past CDU Congress. A clear opinion that contradicts what he declared during his Eurogroup Presidency in 2011, when he proposed that the countries of the European Union issued joint bonds to combat the debt crisis.
Regarding to the candidate of European Socialists, Martin Schulz is also a known person in Brussels and in Berlin, where he recently negotiated with the conservatives the German Coalition agreement. However “he has clearly stated that there is no deal between him and Angela Merkel. It is likely what he will put forward his own ideas sharply and will look for the confrontation. This is what will become important in the election’s campaign, showing the differences between the socialists and the conservatives,” Rappold explains.
Both candidates know that they have to appeal the citizens from all over Europe, but they also have to serve the interests of their Party families and try to please to the domestic context in Germany, where “both parties form a common government and basically agree on foreign and EU-policy issues. Both also pride themselves of being very much ‘pro-European’.
Therefore, a real dispute on EU-related issues (such as austerity, Eurobonds, Ukraine, banking-union) is very unlikely to unfold; the common positions are very much fixed in the coalition-agreement. In short: both major parties have no real debate on European issues on offer; but hope to find voters’ confirmation of their domestic policies”, explains Michael Wohlgemuth, director of think-tank Open Europe Berlin.
However, Europeans have to decide and vote the composition of the European Parliament. An increasingly co-legislator institution with a busy agenda: adopt or reject the trade and investment agreement with the US; MEPs will have to review the long-term budget for 2014-2021; to adopt measures to stimulate job creation; and to improve the democratic policy decisions in the EU.
But Europeans continue losing interest, something that is being used by Europe-Skeptic Parties to get more votes. Even 6 weeks before the elections, according to the Forschungsgruppe Wahlen polling institute, only a 28 percent of Germans declare to have a strong interest in voting, while 72 percent express to have a low or no interest in these elections.
“Until now, there are no great hopes or fears of Germans arising from the EP elections. Honestly: until now, Germans do not really care,” reports Michael Wohlgemuth.
Meanwhile, none of the main candidates seem to have a vision of future for the entire Europe and they keep selling in this campaign the short-term decisions and measures that Europeans have been listening to during the last years without any firm and lasting solution to their problems.