Thu Apr 23rd, 2009 at 09:06:19 AM EST
The EU Profiler is now live. This is an interactive 'electoral compass' that works by posing you a set of questions and comparing them to the proposals of the national parties you can elect in the European Parliament elections (hat-tip to Nomad in today's Salon)
Using these compasses has become popular in many European countries because people can't be bothered to closely follow the campaign, and extrapolating wildly from anecdotal evidence, I can say that they often have a decisive impact on the voting behaviour of young people.
Like Nomad and DoDo, I ran the test, in my case, on Germany, and I was struck by the set of questions I was posed. Only 10 out of 30 questions explicitly relate to the European Union, and even less deal with issues that can be meaningfully influenced by the European Parliament.
In the absence of a prominent pan-European dialogue on the issues that matter in the European Election, we are seeing a repeat of the 2004 elections, that is, the elections are used by people to register their feeling about issues other than those on the ballot.
This is perfectly normal behaviour on the part of the voters, who have to deal with the information they can receive, and with the issues they can influence. The political parties are trying to gather that information in a top-down form, which as a collective they are not working out so well - at least, that is the picture that emerges from the EU Profiler.
In the German case, for instance, there is no question on the issue of genetically modified organisms, even though that arguably is a European issue that can be influenced to some extent by the European Parliament. It has also emerged as an early issue in the campaign for the European elections in Germany (see DoDo's comment in the Salon on the 11th of April and our exchange yesterday). The minister for agriculture from the conservative Bavarian party CSU has decided to ban the only GMO crop allowed in Germany, Mon 810 maize, because of pressure on the CSU in the European elections.
To map that: this is a federal decision in Germany taken by a member of an essentially regional party because of pressure in the European elections on an issue that is European insofar as a technocratic body instated on the European level has approved the product and the European Commission is putting pressure on Member States to allow it, following pressure from the World Trade Organisation on the EU to instate more liberal GMO rules (in the social sciences we call this multilevel governance ;-)).
This too is an issue the European Parliament can't influence directly, but at least it does have some influence and the issue is European. Other prominent European issues that are ignored include intellectual property. The Pirate Party is not represented, although its German branch is participating in the elections.
The lack of a pan-European dialogue is aggravated by the essential lack of pan-European parties. Sure, there are parties, they do have their manifestos, and sometimes there are party line votes in the EP. But none of the parties are anywhere near unified. They are an outgrowth of the national organisations and mostly serve those. To clearly demonstrate that, see my position in the EU political landscape according to the EU Profiler.
|Colour code: Black=Wingers; Blue=Conservatives; Light Blue= Nationalists/sceptics; Gray=Other; Green=Greens; Light Red=Socialists/Social Democrats; Dark Red=Communists/Left Parties; Yolk=Liberals|
... the 'European' parties are all over the map.