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2004-06-15

What does the result of the EU election mean? 

In the aggregate results for the parliament, little has changed, the conservative (37%) and social-democratic (27%) fractions have stayed almost exactly where they were, the liberals (9%) have gained one percent, and the greens (6%) and communists (6%) have lost in the same order of magnitude. So is the EU politically conservative, and should it adopt conservative policies across the spectrum of issues? I believe that would be an absurd conclusion in political reality, although one could argue for it on an abstract level. But in practice, the national votes are what was and is perceived by voters, and on that level there is large diversity, under the headline that most governments lost votes, never mind whether they are left or right.

What do you do when you have conservative, anti-federalist majorities in some countries, but social-democratic, federalist majorities in others? Obviously it would be dangerous, on such a result, to ignore anti-federalist sentiment and to proceed with an agenda of economic harmonisation and deeper political integration against the majority will of some member countries. This would strengthen secessionist tendencies - and a single country where secession becomes a serious possibility would be a disaster for the EU. In that light, a small majority for the conservatives may be better for the EU in the long term than if there was a small social-democratic majority, quite regardless of which side one favours personally.

It seems rather unlikely that political trends across an area as large and diverse as the EU25 will become more uniform in the future. Therefore I believe that a working EU must be 'diversity-proof' - it should leave room for member countries with different political majorities regarding EU-issues. This implies that the idea of an EU that must 'deepen' substantially before it contemplates further extension (Balkans, Turkey, and beyond) is misguided if one imagines by a 'deep' EU an area in political and economic harmony with itself. That will never come about.

On the other hand, there is no reason why some members should not integrate further in the sense of a core EU, if they have stable and strong majorities that support such a project. Could the anti-federalists be provoked by such a process, if they are free to stay outside?

If the strongest integrationists, like France, Germany, and the Benelux countries, could come to terms with such a diversity-analysis of the EU election results, then this would pave the way for a less crisis-ridden EU. The EU would be able to digest the upcoming big extension steps like Turkey, and it would profit from the resulting economic and political benefits without suffering from the disruption of an illusionary European homogeneity.


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