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IEP Lunch Debate with Rainer Wieland: “Europe Before the Elections”

Rainer Wieland, MEP, Vicepres­ident of the European Parliament and President of the Europa-Union Deutschland gave a presen­tation on “Europe Before the Elections” at the Repre­sen­tation of the Land Sachsen-Anhalt in Berlin on 23 April 2014. Prof. Dr. Mathias Jopp, director of the Institut für Europäische Politik, moderated the event.

Rainer Wieland, Vice President of the European Parliament, highlighted the ongoing democ­ra­ti­zation process of the European Union (EU) fostered by the nomination of top candi­dates prior to the elections. He pointed out, however, that many citizens still know little about the EU. Wieland criti­cized that societal elites are unaware of current devel­op­ments and accord­ingly have diffi­culties explaining them.

Rainer Wieland, MEP, Vice President of the European Parliament and President of the Europa-Union Deutschland held a lecture on “Europe before the Elections” at the Repre­sen­tation of the Land of Saxony-Anhalt in Berlin. State Secretary Dr. Michael Schneider, Repre­sen­tative of the Land of Saxony-Anhalt to the Federal Government, held a short welcoming speech. Prof. Dr. Mathias Jopp, Director of the Institut für Europäische Politik, moderated the debate. The Lunch Debate was part of a series leading up to the 2014 European elections.
Wieland talked about oppor­tu­nities for the further democ­ra­ti­zation of the European Union as a result of the top candidate nomination process. According to Wieland, this process offers signif­icant prospects for a further parla­men­ta­rization and person­al­ization of European politics. To take this oppor­tunity, it is necessary that the European Parliament ensures after the elections that only one of the top candi­dates becomes the new president of the European Commission, Wieland said. The president of the Commission could then gain more leverage, while the European Council could lose some of its influence. Wieland endorses this devel­opment. He would prefer a restriction of the Council’s influence in the selection process of the president of the European Commission to a rather repre­sen­tative role. Wieland pointed to the chances for more intra-party democracy in the European party families triggered by the candidate nomination process, as parties have voted on their top candi­dates prior to the elections.

Wieland opposes one other devel­opment of the voting modal­ities, namely the abolishment of the three percent threshold in Germany by the German Federal Consti­tu­tional Court. He labeled this an “erroneous devel­opment” which may lead to a high fragmen­tation and diver­si­fi­cation of the Parliament. It remains to be seen which influence this has on the formation of parlia­mentary factions.

Although Wieland predicts some changes, he expects several factors to remain constant after the elections in May. He criti­cized that it is still difficult for certain societal elites such as teachers and journalists to explain current devel­op­ments in European politics to students and citizens. For instance, the myth of the democ­ratic deficit of the European Union is often repro­duced without taking recent improve­ments into account. Wieland thus demands more courage to tell stories about Europe in an easily compre­hen­sible language. Regarding the current Eurosceptic and anti-European movement, Wieland empha­sized that it is especially important for well-informed elites to spread fact-based infor­mation about the European Union.

By Helen Müller