June 17, 2004
EU ELECTIONS A 'WAKE-UP CALL' TO EUROPE'S
** European voters
"punished" their governments for mostly local grievances.
"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
Chief economics commentator Martin Wolf opined
in the independent Financial Times opined (6/16): "The priority...is 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
"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
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."
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
"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
"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."
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."
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."
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."
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
"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
"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
"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 elections...in 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
"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.”
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
RUSSIA: "Triumph Or
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
"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
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."
"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."
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."
"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."
"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
"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
"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."
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."
"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."
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."
"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."
"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
"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
"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."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
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."
"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.”
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."
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