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