International Information Programs
Office of Research Issue Focus Foreign Media Reaction

June 17, 2004

June 17, 2004





**  European voters "punished" their governments for mostly local grievances.


**  The "dispiriting" record low turnout reflects the voters' growing alienation from Brussels.


**  Euroskeptics are heartened by vote's "striking evidence" of growing anti-EU sentiment.




'A setback for Europe'--  Europeans registered a "massive vote of no confidence" in incumbent governments in last week's EU elections, European analysts stated.  The tally was not that of "a European people voting on their future," said France's left-of-center Le Monde, but "25  societies, focusing on their domestic problems," and deciding to "castigate their national governments."  Echoing the theme, Italy's centrist La Stampa suggested the EU elections were "becoming ever more" akin to mid-term elections in the U.S., with voters casting ballots for or against "what their respective governments have done up to that moment."  Among the wounded, dailies asserted, was Britain's Tony Blair.  UK papers on both the right and left labeled him "the biggest loser" following the "collapse of support" for Labor in both the EU and local elections.


Voters have 'more and more doubts'--  Commentators judged that record low turnout--the lowest in half a century--"must be a real concern for EU leaders" who were to meet in Brussels this week to conclude negotiations on an EU constitutional treaty.  EU citizens' apathy "will dampen the European ambitions of their political leaders," according to Germany's center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung.  Addressing the fact that turnout was particularly low in most of the newly admitted, formerly communist states, a center-left Czech daily wryly quipped:  "No one explained to voters...what the European Parliament is actually good for."  The image of Brussels as a "quagmire of bureaucracy, nepotism, and corruption is still prevalent," one writer noted.  A common but paradoxical conclusion, as expressed by a leftist French outlet, was that "the greater the powers of the Strasbourg parliament...the smaller is the voters' interest in it."  A Spanish editorial observed that it is "evident that the EU is growing apart from its citizens."


Europhiles 'have their work cut out for them'--  Euroskeptics detected a "groundswell of public protest" against further EU integration, including in so-called "New Europe" countries like Poland and the Czech Republic.  Britain's right-of-center tabloid Daily Sun demanded the government take note of the results, proclaiming that Britons "do not want to travel one inch further down the slippery slope of European integration."  A number of analysts attributed Europe's "sour mood" to "stagnant" economies, arguing that the "idea of integration" will not gain voters' enthusiasm "if it stands only for slow growth and high unemployment." 

While not all papers were convinced that "Europe's twilight" was on the horizon, some held it would now be appropriate to "stop the clock" on the EU Constitution "to reflect upon the Europe that we are constructing."


EDITOR:  Steven Wangsness


EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on  60 reports from 22 countries June 11 - 16, 2004.  Editorial excerpts from each country are listed from the most recent date.




BRITAIN:  "Face It -- Europe Isn't Working"


Economics editor Larry Elliott took this view in the left-of-center Guardian (6/16):  "Skepticism about the European Union is inevitable and long overdue, particularly on the left....  There can be a left-wing critique:  Europe has a strong manufacturing base and an impressive stock of human and physical capital, but needs to grow faster and relocalize power.  Or there can be a right-wing critique:  it needs a solid dose of Thatcherism to buck its ideas up.  The status quo is not an option, because clearly Europe isn't working.  Those who pretend it is are in category-one denial."  


"Economic Policy Should Not Be A Popularity Contest"


Chief economics commentator Martin Wolf opined in the independent Financial Times opined (6/16):  "The to get the European economy working.  Nobody will take continental Europe seriously so long as its core economies remain stagnant.  Nor will the idea of integration lift the hearts of voters if it stands only for slow growth and high unemployment.  'It's the economy, stupid.'  At least that is where improvement must start....  Avoid populist stupidities proposed by the opportunistic political dwarves who now run Germany and France....  If the European economy continues to wilt, the EU's relevance, perhaps even its existence, will come into question.  Europe's leaders should dare to be unpopular for doing the right thing rather than nothing.  History, if not their electorates, will approve."


"Poll Reflects The EU's Sour Mood"


The independent Financial Times took this view (6/15):  "The European election deserves to be more than just another date in national political calendars.  For the European parliament acts as a vital democratic control on the EU Council of Ministers, where the system of majority voting can reduce a national parliament to impotence when its own government is outvoted....  It is certainly dispiriting to see turnout at European elections declining as the parliament's powers have increased.  The answer is not to give MEPs more powers but to ensure their powers are more clearly defined.  That is the way for EU constitution writers, gathering in Brussels this week, to connect the parliament with the people."


"Europe Speaks"


The conservative Times editorialized (6/15):  "The best possible result now would be a collective recognition of the need to return to the drawing board.  This should be done honestly and openly and not through a process of bluff or misrepresentation....  What is obvious to all but the most myopic Europhiles is the need to overhaul the European Parliament and the European Commission.  The reformers have spoken, but they are still not being heard."


"The Trust Problem"


The left-of-center Guardian editorialized (6/15):  "The past seven years have been marked by a gradual erosion of trust--from the early, cynical obsession with media manipulation to all the twists and evasions over the defeat and occupation of Iraq.  This has inevitably led to what, in the commercial world, would be recognized as brand contamination....  Thus many people, who have otherwise admired much of what the prime minister has achieved at home and even abroad, begin wondering aloud whether a change of leader is the only way to break the current vicious circle in which Mr. Blair finds himself trapped....  Whichever path he chooses, Mr. Blair has a relatively short time in which to demonstrate that he understands the nature of the disappointment and mistrust which so many evidently feel."


"Mr. Blair Is The Biggest Loser"


The conservative tabloid Daily Mail held (6/15):  "For years, those voters have been patronized, ignored and derided as xenophobes if they dared to voice a Euroskeptic thought.  But these results show how far from the national mood the politicians have strayed....  The biggest loser in this debacle is a prime minister determined to take Britain to the heart of Europe."


"Election Results Leave PM With No Option But To Argue The Case For Europe"


The center-left Independent stated (6/15):  "Across the continent, Europeans have registered a massive vote of no confidence in governments they themselves elected, sometimes only a matter of months ago....They saw their votes less as a contribution to democracy in Europe than as a chance to fire a warning across the bows of their own government....  The prime minister now finds himself caught in a double trap of his own making, which entwines the vexed question of Europe and his own prospects at the next general election....  Such a time calls for boldness.  Mr. Blair needs to throw caution to the wind and fight....  There are votes out there going begging.  If he summoned up all his old gifts of persuasion, Mr. Blair could yet realize his ambition to reconcile Britain with Europe."


"Taking Heed"


The right-of-center tabloid Sun declared (6/15):  "It would be an unwise prime minister who did not pay heed to a groundswell of public protest....  We wish to remain an independent, sovereign state.  We do not want to travel one inch further down the slippery slope of European integration."


"UKIP Gives The Big Three Something To Think About"


The conservative Daily Telegraph noted (6/14):  "The three traditional parties need to think hard about what has just happened.  Politicians never find reflection easy: it is human nature to try to make new developments fit our existing prejudices.  But it will not do to dismiss yesterday's result as a one-off venting of saloon bar patriotism."


"Europhiles Must Come Out Fighting"


The center-left tabloid Daily Mirror opined (6/14):  "Labor and the Conservatives were big losers in the European elections.  But the biggest loser of all was Britain....  If those who believe that our future lies in Europe don't come out fighting the very future of this country is threatened.  That cannot be the legacy Tony Blair wants to leave."


"After The Elections, Is Blair Dead In The Water?"


Columnist and former editor, William Rees-Mogg commented in the conservative Times (6/14):  "Is Tony Blair now becoming yet another prime minister who is dead in the water?...  The collapse of Labor support in the local elections of the past three years is as bad as the collapse of Conservative support in the early 1990s....  Recklessness is a serious offense in a prime minister who is taking his country to war....  Things have changed, but the Conservatives are again serious contenders for power."


"The Failing That Could Prove Lethal"


Former deputy leader of the Labor party, Roy Hattersley remarked in the left-of-center Guardian (6/14):  "To win elections it is necessary to contest them and Labor's national EU campaign was virtually non-existent.  Nothing would do more for the prime minister's reputation than passionate engagement in a battle that he cannot win--unless it is abandoning the habit of saying what sounds good at the time without considering the long-term consequences....  The disastrous decision to follow George Bush to war--and to justify the folly with fake evidence about WMD--is now regarded as no more than an example of Blair's shortcomings."


FRANCE:  "Europhobes Achieve Spectacular Breakthrough In Britain"


Jean-Pierre Langellier observed in left-of-center Le Monde (Internet version, 6/15):  "For Tony Blair, the expected fiasco was no surprise....   These European elections are disastrous for Labor....  In almost all regions, it was defeated by the Tories....  Nevertheless the Conservatives have no reason to congratulate themselves too much on Labor's defeat, because their own victory leaves them with a bitter taste.  They have lost nine points since 1999....  For the first time, Britain's two major parties have failed to secure, between them, half the votes cast.  This terrible combined result says a great deal about voters' disaffection and mistrust of the political class, a popular feeling that the UKIP succeeded perfectly in exploiting, by dint of populist slogans....  The Liberal Democratic Party is the only one of the traditional parties to have improved (by over three points,) but not as much as it had hoped....  In the very short-term, the increased hostility to Europe will help M. Blair to defend his 'red lines' at the next European summit in Brussels."


"European Democratic Setback"


Arnaud Leparmentier commented in left-of-center Le Monde (Internet version, 6/15):  "Europe suffered a democratic setback....  Europe's citizens did not use their freedom--so recently gained, for many of them--and did not vote....  The second cause for concern has to do with the voters:  it was not a European people voting on their future.  It was 25 societies, focusing on their domestic problems, that decided to castigate their national governments.  This happened both on the left and on the right....  The political classes, confining themselves to their own national context, discussed only domestic politics, in chorus with the broadcast media....  The third problem is that Europe is experiencing a serious split between the 'new Europe,' so dear to U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's heart, and the 'old Europe.'  The former will be sending vehemently anti-European representatives to Strasbourg.  Suddenly Britain's Conservatives, their heirs to Margaret Thatcher, will look like federalists compared to the contingent of secessionists of the UKIP [UK Independence Party....  The Poles and Czechs, too, elected several anti-European deputies, which will undermine the EU's life....  In the short term, the European Parliament is in danger of exhausting itself in formal disputes, while the democratic mistrust expressed by voters will exacerbate Europe's malaise a little further.  The heads of state will hardly be encouraged to take account of the balances within a parliament elected under such unfavorable conditions before proposing their candidates to the Commission presidency.  The Brussels executive can only emerge still further weakened."


"Europe Sanctioned"


Serge July wrote in left-of-center Liberation (6/15):  “These elections prove the extent of the crisis in Europe....  The proof lies in the record number of voter abstentions and in the vote in favor of populist, anti-European currents....  Europe’s construction is at a standstill for lack of leaders able to represent Europe’s ambitions....  In France, our official’s double language, turning Europe into ‘greater France,’ has robbed the European project of its credibility....  These poor results will negatively influence the negotiations on the European Constitution.  Once again it might have been better to conclude these negotiations before Europe’s enlargement.  This is another example of Europe’s proverbial ‘putting the cart before the horse.’  And so the voters have opted to sanction a politically weak Europe.”


"A European Catharsis"


Baudoin Bollaert opined in right-of-center Le Figaro (6/15):  “After the sanction vote against most governments in power and the record number of abstentions, the task awaiting most government leaders at the end of the week in Brussels will be a delicate one....  During their campaign, most candidates carefully avoided speaking about the European Constitution and so most voters reacted essentially to national issues and sanctioned the governments in power....  Now that their backs are against the wall, these leaders may well surprise everyone and reach an agreement at the end of the week, not only on Prodi’s successor but also on the European Constitution....  But there are those who would prefer a true European crisis to halfway compromises.  Indeed a real crisis would be cathartic for Europe, thus liberating it from its inertia.”


"A Disappointment For Europe"


Left-of-center Le Nouvel Observateur stated (6/14):  "The second electoral slap in the face for the Raffarin government in three months."


"Another Disappointment"


Left-of-center Liberation commented (6/14):  "Yet another disappointment for Europe....  The greater the powers of the Strasbourg parliament...the smaller is the voters' interest in it.  [The parliament's] already fragile legitimacy...[has been] further damaged by these record low turnouts."


GERMANY:  "Unpopular Vote"


Guenther Nonnenmacher judged in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (6/15):  "There is one difference which the people see in national elections:  there is an alternative.  There are left-wing and right-wing parties, there are conservative, progressive, and liberal forces which exist as parties or sometimes are organized in coalitions.  And even if people do not know the difference, there is always one reference point:  are they satisfied with the current government or do they want to get rid of it?  All this is not true in EP elections.  The people do not vote for or against a government--and as a substitute they orient to the government at home in their electoral decision.  Neither do they have the feeling that their vote will decide the majorities in the EP....  The Europeans would have a real choice only if they could decide the future development of the EU.  But having all citizens vote on this issue will remain a utopia.  The development will painstakingly progress from conference to conference and back.  This is not attractive.  The MEPs are the ones who must be blamed the least, but they are the ones who get a dressing down every five years."


"What Remains Of Europe"


Cornelia Bolesch opined in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (6/15):  "The citizens' apathy will dampen the European ambitions of their political leaders....  For the constitutional project...this means that all sides involved will have agree on the lowest common denominator...and many who had hoped for much more for Europe will now be disappointed.  But die-hard Europeans especially should not close their eyes to reality.  Of what use will it be to adjust the institutions of this union to global competition if the people at home do not support this?  Of what use will it be if the people do not understand how 25 governments can negotiate for months about 'double majorities.'...  Many European enthusiasts will have to swallow the bitter pill:  the pace for reforms in the European Union cannot be sped up any further.  Instead, it is necessary to save what has been achieved so far in Europe and defend it against the hydra of populists and political charlatans.  All available energy of European policy should now concentrate on awakening the curiosity and support of the people for an imperfect but necessary EU....  But all German and European politicians should withstand one temptation:  those who have won a mandate in Europe should not continue the stupid rituals of domestic policy.  In Europe, a different, constructive style is cultivated.  For some politicians who change from Berlin to Brussels, this is a culture shock.  In Brussels, MEPs are not forced to declare their opponents a failure.  If Europe really is to reach the hearts of the people, this must remain so."     


"To Fight For Power"


Thomas Hanke wrote in business daily Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf (6/15):  "The EU has a problem; its parliament that got important authorities over the past years is turning into a representation without people.  If less than half of all registered voters go to the polls, its legitimacy will be in jeopardy.  The MEPs have got used to a comfortable lamentation over a lack of understanding in public.  They must take their fate into their own hands and this means to fight for a place in everyday political business....  Five years ago, the EP got public acknowledgment when it drove along the EU Commission under Jacques Santer for its total failure in the BSE crisis.  But what a contrast to reality:  in two decisive questions, the MEPs allowed the governments to send them into the corner like stupid boys.  They watched how the large members states replaced the Stability Pact with the law of the jungle.  And after good preparations in the EU Conference, they allowed the executive to take the constitution out of their hands.  In such key questions, the EP must be ready to wage conflicts, even though this may lead to a crisis of institutions.  If it is unable to do this, it will soon lose its political legitimacy because the voters no longer go to the polls."


"Europe Still Distant"


Centrist Suedwest Presse of Ulm had this to say (6/15):  "Again it became clear that Europe is far away.  The much-lauded politics for the people--against the background of a declining interest--sounds like mockery.  Now Brussels must wonder why nobody outside gets enthused about Europe.  The image of a quagmire of bureaucracy, nepotism, and corruption is still prevalent.  There is a reason why self-appointed upholders of the right standards were elected to the EP right from the start.  What is implemented in Brussels in favor of the citizens appears much later in national parliaments.  And then the Bundestag parliamentarians get the blame, while the members of the EP remain unknown.  Europe and its institutions must still do much in order to land in the minds of the people."




Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (6/14):  "European politicians must face the fact that the gap between 'Europe' and its citizens has not closed but become wider.  It looks like this rift cannot be overcome, also not by the European constitution.  Those who believe otherwise just show that being in Brussels means being far away from the political and symbolic needs of Europeans.  This means for many European members of parliament that people don’t care for the kernel of their work....  This election was no impetus for the European identity."


"Elections Without A Choice"


Nikolaus Blome opined in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (6/14):  "Germans know what the EU is worth for them:  it has been one of the only coherent elements of their identity after the Second World War.  But people stayed at home because the reward of the European Unity was not voted on and is not a matter of debate.  You might criticize voters for that, because the European parliament does decide on important issues, e.g., the entry of Turkey.  However, most parties were too spineless to make Europe's borders an election issue.  Those who want voters must attract them, and must not present him identical programs.  The European constitution is an historic opportunity:  we must hold a referendum on the constitution if we want to see politicians fighting for Europe and voters making decisions."


ITALY:  "Europe Has Stopped At Electoral Booths"


Adriana Cerretelli commented in leading business daily Il Sole-24 Ore (6/15):  “More than a vote against Europe, last Sunday’s elections were clear and striking evidence of the non-Europe that continues to exist and grow behind the goals, and even the successes, of European integration:  the single market, the euro, expansion and, perhaps in a few days, the European constitution.  Europe grows, and invades more and more the day-to-day and political life of its member nations but, at the same time, it loses support.  The magic of Europe’s beginnings is already archaeology.  In the best hypothesis, what prevails is indifference.  In the worst scenario, it is a declared hostility, an all-out defense of national and local identities, the fear of new, big and far away changes, by focusing attention on one’s local needs.  This happens in eastern and western, northern and southern Europe alike.  Europe is expanding but, at the same time, it is getting smaller, resentful and intractable, showing short-sightedness in the global era....  Unpopular governments, increasingly focused on domestic politics, mean also fewer economic reforms and risks for the stability pact, i.e., an indefinite postponement of the restoration of global competition.  Poor Europe.  This was supposed to be the feast of the 25-member states joining European democracy.  These elections, instead, have opened another window on the dark.”


"Europe Without A Soul"


Ernesto Galli della Loggia opined in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (6/15):  “In general, not even half of European citizens went to vote; and everywhere anti-European parties have gained (sometimes, like in Great Britain, scoring sensational results).  As if that were not enough, both phenomena emerged strongly in the ten new Eastern European member nations, too rashly depicted as impatient with enthusiasm.  What else must happen, I wonder, in order for somebody to begin to suspect that perhaps Europe’s twilight is approaching?  European impotence in the two crucial fields of foreign policy and economic development reflects the impotence of the political forces that christened Europe and that, basically, still dominate Europe:  the Social-Democratic and the Christian-Democratic forces.... Throughout the years, Europeanism has become a profession, often a profitable one:  it is necessary for it to again become the political and intellectual challenge it used to be in its best times.”


"The Impact Of The Euro-Skeptical Party"


Alessandro Corneli remarked pro-government, leading center-right daily Il Giornale (6/15):  "European elections?  It would be more correct to call them the sum of 25 national elections, focusing on purely domestic issues and with a very limited participation of the voters...with some commendable exceptions:  Italy among ‘old’ members and Malta among ‘new’ members....  The success of the Euroskeptic party is not a change, it is a signal that calls for a correction in strategy in order to prevent the obvious indifference towards European institutions from turning into a return to the past....  We need a European strategy that can simplify the lives of ordinary citizens....  Otherwise, national impulses will become nationalistic impulses."


"A Result Not Determined By The War"


Aldo Rizzo editorialized in centrist, influential La Stampa (6/14):  “One had thought that the ‘Iraq factor,’ with all that it implies in terms of policy or emotional feelings, war and peace, Europe and America, might have been a decisive element in this election of the European parliament.  On the contrary, its outcome is contradictory, to say the least.  If the British government and somehow the Italian government, despite being so involved President Bush’s Iraqi initiative, were not successful, other governments, which had distanced themselves from a ‘preventive’ war on Iraq, France and Germany, were not successful either.  Spain is an exception; Zapatero’s decision to immediately withdraw the troops from Iraq...has met de facto approval from voters.  The core question is whether these [EU] elections are becoming ever more something like mid-term the United States....  The European countries mainly look at...their national government, they vote in favor or against what respective governments have done up to that moment, confirming or warning them....  This is, of course, not of any good to Europe.”


"A March Of EU-Skeptics"


Andrea Bonanni commented in the front page of left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (6/14):  "Europe has punished government parties.  However, Europe is mainly punishing itself with an overall voter participation rate below 50 percent, which did not even reach 30 percent in the new member states of Eastern Europe....  With scattered exceptions, including Spain, Greece and Luxembourg, these European elections turned into a national protest vote, which negatively affected governing political forces almost everywhere.  This phenomenon was quite remarkable especially in countries like France, Germany and Poland....  That means that Europeans did not understand the objective importance of this vote.  They either preferred to stay at home or to take advantage of this electoral appointment to express their disapproval of respective government political forces."


"Disappointment For Two"


Paolo Franchi commented on the front-page of centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (6/14):  “Indeed, Forza Italia lost, and the debut of the Prodi ticket was below expectations.  At the same time, all the many small parties did well, very well, especially the UDC....  Beginning today, Berlusconi matters a little less, while Fini and Casini a little more.  But, above all, the center right is no longer an absolute monarchy, but a coalition of parties.”


"A Warning"


Franco Cangini commented in conservative La Nazione (6/14):  “From the Italian polls, we don’t see an overwhelming success for the center left opposition.  But we have a warning for the center right...which has now two options:  to risk everything and ask for early elections, confident that those people who voted differently at the European election would return to the House of Freedom; or to stop relying only on the leader...and work together to make up lost ground.”


RUSSIA:  "Triumph Or Catastrophe?"


Aleksey Ventslovskiy argued in centrist army-run Krasnaya Zvezda (6/16):  "The vote outcome in Eastern Europe came as a big surprise to unification advocates.  The new EU members, so it would seem, must want to integrate with the rich West.  But the turnout in Poland did not exceed 30%.  It looks as if the new members of united Europe don't know yet what the Europarliament is good for.  They must be thinking that the West will prevail, no matter what they say.  Considering the regional factor in the election process, Europe's East has proved more indifferent than the West.  That is likely to hurt the EU itself, according to observers.  Skeptics speak of a 'legitimacy crisis,' with voters showing no respect for a parliament that is supposed to represent their interests in united Europe....  Analysts compare the vote to a striking democratic rebellion against national governments, the European Union, and its first-ever elections."


"No Stability In Sight"


Yevgeniy Grigoryev observed in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (6/16):  "The vote results augur no stability in a united Europe.  There is a promise of more intensive power struggles in many EU countries, primarily the leading ones.  Blair, Schroeder and Berlusconi have confirmed their commitment to the chosen course, and Chirac is not going to fire his prime minister.  The tendencies as revealed by the Eurovote make an early change of leaders likely."


"Election Outcome Lives Up To Worst Expectations"


Nikolai Paklin and Fyodor Lukyanov wrote in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (6/15):  "The election outcome lived up to the worst expectations of the ruling elites in Europe.  The reasons are two:  one, the Europarliament is too remote from the real concerns of Europeans who more often than not have no idea what it does; and two, discontent with the policies of the ruling political parties and coalitions at home."


"The Passing Bell"


Sergey Strokan commented in business-oriented Kommersant (6/15):  "The notion that the longer a political party stays in power the more effective it is may not apply everywhere.  The latest EU election, which looks like a public whipping of political leaders who have been in positions of power far too long, is a quite different type of relationship between society and government, still exotic to us and our close neighbors.  It is different in that government, instead of acting as a strict mentor instructing a docile society, gets instructed by society.  European politicians like German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose images have long been associated with those of their respective countries, have found themselves in the same boat with their party associates.  It only goes to show that the more eminent and experienced the politician the more expectations he gives rise to and the more vulnerable he becomes when he falls short of those."


AUSTRIA:  "The Traitor Stick.  Missed"


Gerfried Sperl remarked in liberal Der Standard (6/14):  "The voter turnout makes you reflect.  Sixty percent did not go to the polls; about 15 percent represent the protest potential.  The parties, as well as the media, instructed Austrians to give politics a new format--not only the European one.  Since Austria demonstrated one of the lowest turnout rates, we have a particular need to act.  That is why analysts should take a close look at the reasons for high voter turnout (for example in Denmark)."


"The Dissatisfied Ones Continued Past"


Martina Salomon held in centrist Die Presse (6/14):  "The Austrian election result does not match the European trend:  although a Europe-critical populist (Hans-Peter Martin) got a boost here as well, only the small governing party was given a full-strength 'warning.'  The principal parties...were not able to capitalize on the mud-slinging of the past weeks as hoped....  So this concludes the paralyzing, constant election campaign this year.  And that is really good!  Because it is completely impossible to implement the pension and health reforms, the financial equalization and the government reform in a hysterically charged atmosphere."


BULGARIA:  "Europe Is Sick"


Georgi Gotev commented in center-left Sega (6/15):  "Nearly everywhere in the EU people used the elections for European Parliament to cast a no-confidence vote in those who rule them.  They employed two methods to do this--by voting against the ruling parties or by staying away from the polls.  Their passivity reinforced at the expense of the traditional parties the positions of the 'Euroskeptics,' the populists, the extreme right, and various adventurers in politics.  Voter turnout...stood at [a] record low....  Surprisingly enough, this...was lower in eight of the newly admitted states....  What the hell is going on with the East Europeans who are supposed to be thirsty for democracy?...  Paradoxically enough, interest in the EU remains stronger in the countries that are not members but are trying to match the EU's living standards."


CZECH REPUBLIC:  "Unimpressive"


The center-left daily Pravo observed (6/14):  "No one explained to voters...what the European Parliament is actually good for."


"European Star Divination"


Patricie Polanska argued in leading business daily Hospodarske Noviny (6/14): "Those who brought the Czech Republic to the European Union and the Euro-optimists have evidently failed to convince a majority of the voters to actually bother and go to the ballot boxes....  The low turnout makes it impossible to draw authoritative conclusions about the mindset of the people and their sympathy or antipathy toward political parties in the future and in future elections.  Except one thing -- the prevailing apathy of those who are not firmly attached to any party."


DENMARK:  "EU Election Strengthens Lykketoft"


Jesper Larsen and Jesper Thobo-Carlsen commented in center-right Berlingske Tidende (Internet version, 6/14):  "Even if, as we know, the prime minister was not up for election on Sunday, his personal credibility and the Liberal Party's key domestic policy issues were in the center of the government party's election campaign to avoid a painful defeat for the party's undistinguished candidate slate for the European Parliament.  That strategy succeeded only more or less.  Even if the election for the European Parliament was about seats in the parliament in Strasbourg, it was simultaneously, the first time since the change of government in 2001 that Anders Fogh Rasmussen was indirectly confronted by the voters.  The outcome was that one-third of the Liberal Party's betrayed the party.  Not good, but it could in fact have gone worse.  It was the campaign's invisible party leader, the Social Democrats' Mogens Lykketoft, who, from the sidelines, became the shadow election's clear winner....  For the first time, the Social Democrats won greater support in a parliamentary election than they are strong in the Folketing.  Decades of internal division over European policy are no longer doing that much harm to the party.  The historic victory doubles not just the support for the Social Democrats in the parliamentary election but also gives the party a proper shot of self-confidence and spirit going into the upcoming Folketing election."


HUNGARY:  "Fidesz Has Won, the Small Ones Are Growing"


Liberal daily Magyar Hirlap editorialized (Internet version, 6/14):  "People saw this voting at its true value:  sympathy voting.  As they do not know exactly what the European Parliament is, what the Hungarians will do there, and why what they do there is good for them--people voted for the party they found most attractive.  Therefore, apart from deciding on 24 positions, this voting is none other than a half-term public opinion poll--with the participation of less than half of the population.  The message these 3 or 4 million people are sending to political players is that both sides have roughly the same number of supporters.  We could call them right and left wing but we would hardly say more with this.  The voters are also sending the message--still a bit hesitantly and uncertainly--that they do not want a two-party system....  We should take this Sunday at its true value.  We have sent 24 people to the European Parliament, the political opponents have scored minor and greater victories or suffered defeats, but no one achieved ultimate triumph, no one reached, gave, or received a knockout punch.  A quarrelsome draw, with a semi-valid goal at the training match.  We have noted it.  Let us watch the European soccer championships."


IRELAND:  "Signals From Euro Elections"


The center-left Irish Times commented (6/15):  “Some 155 million EU citizens out of 350 million eligible to vote in the European elections have returned a parliament of much the same political shape as the outgoing one.  Rejection of candidates representing incumbent governments and those which supported the Iraq war were definite trends across the 25 EU member-states--but they reflected domestic dissatisfactions not EU-wide ones.  This lack of a connection between European politics and citizens in the member-states, together with the low 45.5 per cent turnout, must be a real concern for EU leaders as they meet this week to conclude negotiations on the constitutional treaty.  Yet they are right to persevere with them, since it addresses problems thrown up in the elections and the political processes involved....  There is a clear pattern of anti-government voting in Ireland, Britain, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia--but not in Spain and Greece, where recent elections insulated their governments from mid-term protest.  Where voters had an opportunity to vote against governments supporting the war in Iraq they almost invariably took it.  Although Euroskeptic parties did well in Britain, Sweden and the Czech Republic, they collapsed in Denmark; populist parties which performed well in several other states come from a rather different tradition.”




"Van Buitenen In The Fortuyn Role"


Rene Moerland noted in influential, independent NRC Handelsblad (6/11):  "The national message of [the] European elections was big losses for the CDA [Christian Democratic Appeal], VVD [People's Party for Freedom and Democracy], and D66 [Democrats 66] coalition parties.  The European message had one name:  Paul Van Buitenen.  The former Brussels whistle blower, who in his campaign promised to tackle financial wastage in the EU, got around seven percent of the votes as a newcomer....  But has Euroskepticism really grown?  The party which profiled itself most skeptically toward the European ideal, namely the LPF [Pim Fortuyn List], did not get a single member of the European Parliament with 2.5 percent of the votes.  However, that also fits in with the falling interest in the LPF in the national polls."


POLAND:  "EU Test"


Bronislaw Wildstein wrote in centrist Rzeczpospolita (6/14):  “The low turnout in the EU parliamentary elections should not stir any strong emotions.  Turnout in all European countries was significantly lower than in national elections.  But in Poland the turnout was alarmingly low and can be seen as a warning signal.  It is one more serious indication that citizens are distancing themselves from politics.”


"Europe:   Disaster For The Leaders, Turnout Low"


Liberal Gazeta Wyborcza observed (6/14):  "[The elections failed to arouse the passion of the voters....  The first European parliamentary elections after the Union's enlargement will go down in history on account of the lowest turnout in half a century."


PORTUGAL:  "Reflections On The European Elections"


Foreign affairs editor Teresa de Sousa asserted in influential, moderate-left daily Público (6/15):  "Like what almost always happens in democratic elections, it is not the opposition that wins, but the government that loses.  The results of the European elections in Portugal and in the majority of our European partners essentially reveal this....  The European elections left us with an abundance of things on which to reflect....  It was a sum of national votes explained by domestic reasons, even if these reasons were just one form of looking at European issues....  The political landscape designed by this European vote, including the high level of abstentions, has more to do with the difficulties European democracies have in addressing complex challenges like economic globalization or the increasing diversity of their societies, than they do with the more or less transparent nature in which the EU functions....  What is worrisome is that Europe has stopped being a banner of democratic political forces that were responsible for the creation of the European Union in order to become merely a banner of forces that don’t want Europe and that reject the values that are at the heart of the European Community.  This, perhaps, is the most negative signal that came out of the elections."


ROMANIA:  "Anti-Europeans"


Independent daily Cotidianul noted (6/14):  "The anti-Europeans are in Strasbourg now, and they are going to give a bloody nose to the great and the powerful in Brussels....  [Low turnout] reflects their protest against the terms in which the EU enlargement negotiations have been conducted."


SLOVAKIA:  "Too Early, Too Late"


Lubos Palata commented in Pravda (6/14):  "It is a defeat.  A defeat of the European Union and the European Parliament.  Citizens of new member countries did not turn out in great numbers and vote in their first European election ever.  They thus showed what has been apparent at least since the referendums on entry last year.  The EU does not fill the nations, which have become its members after almost 15 years of waiting, with enthusiasm....  Although the old and new Europe have united, life in the two parts of the now common union is somewhere else.  While concerns persist, the 'new Europeans' have not yet lived to see anything good from the EU.  Although a few bold fellows show their identity cards at borders, everyone takes their passport with them anyway.  No one has noticed EU entry on their pay stubs, nor is it visible on Slovak highways.  The police and courts are as corrupt as they were in April, and mafiosos keep killing each other in downtown Bratislava.  With all this, there comes an election to some kind of faraway parliament, and 90 percent of people do not have a clue what it is good for at all and what the use of the legendary European Union will be for us.  The only thing that can console us is the fact this is also increasingly less clear to people in the countries that have been members of the EU for tens of years.  They, too, have more and more doubts about the direction in which the EU is heading, and half of them sit on the sidelines in European elections.   New Europeans were waiting for their membership too long to bring about the required sort of constructive enthusiasm.  A few weeks after entry is too short a time for them to realize that, despite all the EU's problems, their lives will change for the better."  


SPAIN:  "A Name For Europe"


Left-of-center daily El País stated (6/15):  "The possibility of a Europe at going at various speeds has grown through these elections, which reflect the lack of leadership in this Union that just went through the enlargement process."


"Europe Should Stop The Clock"


Independent El Mundo commented (6/15):  "The EU has become an economic giant, but continues to be a political dwarf since, because the popular indifference about the institutional framework ends up in a profound division among governments on essential questions like defense and security, as we have seen during the Iraq crisis.  There is, moreover, an important lack of leadership by the leaders....  The moment to stop the clock has arrived, although it be only for a few months, to reflect upon the Europe that we are constructing and if it makes sense to continue with a Constitution that, by what was seen in these elections stirs absolutely no enthusiasm among the Europeans....  The EU summit this week is a good time to reflect upon the lack of process and the means by which the drifting Europe could recuperate its course."


"Europe Flees Forward"


Conservative ABC held (6/15):  "The so-called French-German axis is full of rust, but as we have seen in these elections the greatest rustiness is to be found inside the two countries....  Now, in view of the electoral results of  both governments, it can be seen that their respective citizens have a vision quite different from that which Chirac and Schroeder have striven to project in Europe....  After what was said about the election results in Spain on March 14 or in the UK in the Europeans it is surprising how little, according to this thesis, the war in Iraq influenced the elections in France or Germany, a signal that there is more than enough reason to think that in this case the voters have not thought about rewarding the peace efforts of the 'old Europe' as much as punishing both leaders for the incapacity to solve their own problems....  It is evident that the EU is growing apart from its citizens and that community leaders care very little about this outright rejection.  They have handled the constitutional project, that serves the interests of very few, in the same manner."


"Abstention, Punishment Vote And Continuity"


Felipe Sahagun commented in independent El Mundo (6/14):  "A common enemy or threat evidently would mobilize all Europeans.  If this mobilization has not appeared, it means that international terrorism still is not seen in Europe as the same threat it is seen as by the majority of Americans and Spaniards.  In spite of the punishment vote [in the EU elections] given to all parties in the government, independent of their ideological coloring, except in Spain and Greece, immediate crises are not foreseeable....  In Great Britain, Poland, Holland, and Italy, voters punished parties that supported Bush in Iraq, whereas the parties that most vehemently opposed the war--German SPD and French UMP--did not win anything for defending their stance this time....  Through yesterday's elections it is foreseeable that some governments will renounce the referendum for the ratification of the constitutional agreement that could be signed in Dublin in the next few days."


"March 14 Revalidated"


Left-of-center daily El País took this view (6/14):  "It cannot be denied that the first steps of Zapatero, especially the withdrawal of the troops from Iraq, have been reined in by the results [of the EU elections]....  Little has been said about Europe in these elections in which 25 countries participated for the first time.  Along the same lines, ballots were cast more for key national issues than for the functionality of the new political equilibrium in the Eurochamber.  There hasn't just been an 'Iraq effect' against the governments that supported the war like in the case of Blair, Berlusconi, or Durao Barroso.  The punishment vote was much wider in scale.  Schroeder and Chirac opposed the war and that did not save them from suffering an enormous dressing-down....  The result of these elections shows that the problem is not only in Brussels, but in each one of the member states."




Conservative La Razon stated (6/14):  "Like the rest of Europe...the majority of Spaniards have turned their backs on a process which they do not regard as having an important enough bearing on their lives."




CHINA (HONG KONG SAR):  "EU Leaders Should Heed Voters' Wake-Up Call"


The independent English-language South China Morning Post observed (6/15):  "The elections that have just been held in 25 nations from Portugal to Poland were supposed to set the seal on a bold new era for the European Union.  Instead, the results have demonstrated in the clearest terms the tough challenges that lie ahead.  A majority of the 350 million entitled to vote in polls for the European Parliament chose not to bother.  And of those who did, many supported candidates who are opposed to the whole concept of greater political union.  The outcome has rightly been described as a wake-up call for European leaders....  The record low turnout, 45 per cent, shows that the European Parliament continues to be viewed with skepticism by the people who make up the EU nations.  Since it was established in 1979, the parliament has been viewed as a toothless talking-shop--and an expensive one at that.  In fact, the assembly now wields considerable power over EU legislation and its influence is expected to grow as a result of the move to bring in a new constitution.  This message, however, has not been sufficiently conveyed to the public....  However, the elections show that any headlong rush towards greater political union would be a mistake.  This may well be the shape of Europe's future, but it will take time.  And much more must be done to win over the doubters."


JAPAN:  "Parliament And Citizens Divide Over European Unity"


Business-oriented Nihon Keizai editorialized (6/16):  "Low voter turnout and disappointing results of Sunday's European Parliament elections have dampened European leaders' effort to strengthen unity.  The record-low turnout illustrated the indifference of European citizens to the future of the enlarged region.  Despite the election results, EU leaders at their summit meeting on Thursday need to finalize the draft constitution of the parliament.  EU leaders must promote the consolidation of the union because a possible compromise with anti-Europe voters could imperil the future of the community." 


INDONESIA:  "Conscience Talks In Europe"


Muslim intellectual Republika editorialized (6/16):  “European protests were specially aimed at the coalition governments of their countries, not at the European Union.  The meaning is clear, they continue raising their hopes that the European Union will become a vehicle to attain the people’s prosperity based on humane, noble values.  These values should not be sacrificed for the interest of material things, merely to satisfy the greedy desire of a handful of people.  Various justifications could be raised, however, in the end it is the people that decide, and they have decided their position in good conscience.  That colonization is against the very basics of humanity value--one issue that was ignored by President George W. Bush’s administration....  The European people have voiced their consciences; President Bush should listen to the voice:  that the aggression to Iraq is a hypocritical action of a person claiming himself as the champion of democracy. We also wish to hear the voice of the Americans, not only the voice of Bush’s ‘gangs’ with his ‘hawks’, in the next American elections.”




CANADA:  "Europe's Protest Votes"


The leading Globe and Mail commented (6/15):  "If the results of the European parliamentary election show anything beyond the fact that voter anger and apathy are not unique to North America, it is that those who believe fervently in a united Europe have their work cut out for them.  In country after country, voters turned away from governing parties, mostly to show their dismay with the domestic or foreign policies of their own leaders but also to express deep concerns about the European Union and increased integration....  It has been fashionable to dismiss the unwieldy Parliament as a toothless beast that is most attractive to those seeking jobs that come with lucrative tax-free benefits and daily stipends to cover every possible expense.  But while it is true that EU parliamentarians do not introduce legislation, their powers have expanded in line with the evolution of the union itself to include budget approval and influence over a wide range of policies.  Throughout much of Europe, people are increasingly suspicious of the remote bureaucracy in Brussels and of the vast changes under way.  The EU's massive expansion and efforts to reach a deal on a new constitution have only exacerbated nationalist fears that people are losing control over their own destiny.  This is not the time for Europeans to turn their backs on a good idea.  What is needed is a concerted effort by Europe's leaders to persuade the skeptics that greater integration is worth pursuing."


BRAZIL:  "Setbacks"


Center-right O Globo had this to say (6/16):  “Europeans have good reasons to use the vote against their leaders.  The most evident ones are high unemployment rates and sending troops to Iraq.  On one side, that helps to explain the low enthusiasm that elections to the European Parliament generated; on the other, the good electoral performance of ultra-nationalistic, Euroskeptic parties.  The lack of interest of the ten European Union member countries--eight of which have belonged to the Soviet bloc--can be explained by the inexperience and disbelief that the ballot is an instrument of change.  Moreover, in the Continent some European trends prevail in favor of integration, with small peripheral groups capitalizing on the unavoidable discontent of any unification process.”



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