Preparation for the European elections is now actively underway on the part of the 27 Member States.
During the French Presidency of the European Union Nicolas Sarkozy implemented an extremely political approach to Europe that was both the source of interest and praise.
Will this momentum continue until the elections between 4th and 7th June next when 736 MEPs will be appointed? Will national issues still be the focus of attention or will European politics finally be addressed as it appears the citizens want them to be?
In all likelihood it will be a mix of the two. In a Democracy any election is an opportunity to convey a message to the government and as the economic crisis rages we might suppose that expectations will be lively and high.
Winning the European elections will be equivalent to offering the citizens the occasion to express their opinion with regard to the direction the European Union should take.
Will citizens be provided with real protection given the economic and financial crisis? What form will this take? Will our jobs be protected? Will we be able to face up to the insecurity of an increasingly insecure world?
What kind of economic and social model and what kind of a society are we now creating? What room is there for individual and collective freedom whilst imperatives with regard to security increasingly confine us? What place is there for women and for religion? How far are we prepared to go to defend this model and to promote it across the world?
If these questions are not raised then the results will be a foregone conclusion: votes will be national and almost probably they will be in protest against those in office.
In Germany, Portugal, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, as well as in Hungary and the UK these elections precede national general elections. In France, Finland, Estonia, Greece and Latvia they will truly be mid-term elections, an opportunity to judge the governments in place. In Romania, Austria, Spain and Lithuania we shall witness the third round of recently held general elections.
This choice would be suicidal for the European political community. Governments already in office would be punished and the European election would emerge as yet another democratic means to vent popular frustration. In the European Parliament, the power of which is growing, we would simply find a heteroclite coalition of extreme right and leftwing rebels, regional barons reputed to be popular or fashionable people, idealistic or slightly ethereal Greens and political outcasts who have been included by proportional representation.
The political parties may choose the opposite and ride on the crest of the wave created by the extremely political French presidency to address European policies as a priority. Hence the electoral choice, which never drifts far from domestic issues, must also focus on the way politicians act in Europe and on the way the European institutions are run.
European Parliament would finally earn its position as a mature, responsible democratic assembly. And the governments, apart from having less to worry about; would gain valuable guidelines with regard to future decisions on the European Union.