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June 13, 2004
European Union A Flop?

The European Union held an election this weekend, the first since ten former Eastern Bloc nations have been added to the confederation. However, Europeans sent a message to the EU, as even those in the new countries could hardly be bothered to vote:

Europe's voters have delivered a massive vote of no confidence in their governments in European Parliament elections, both by hammering ruling parties and by staying away in record numbers. The biggest transnational election in history, staged just six weeks after the European Union expanded from 15 to 25 states with 450 million citizens, highlighted public indifference toward remote EU institutions. ...

Only the recently elected Spanish and Greek governments escaped the voters' wrath, amplifying their national victories. A mere 44.2 percent of nearly 350 million eligible voters bothered to cast ballots in the four-day exercise, the lowest turnout since direct elections for the Strasbourg-based assembly began in 1979.

In an irony of history, voter participation was even weaker in the 10 new, mainly ex-communist east European member states, where it averaged just 26 percent, apparently due to voter fatigue after referendums last year on joining the EU.

Not only does Europe have little confidence in the multinational organization, but the profound lack of enthusiasm from the newest members should worry EU boosters. These are the same countries that have embraced democracy but with a decidedly nationalist outlook, completely understandable after decades of Soviet oppression and insistence on colorless socialism. Now that they have the opportunity to once again take pride in themselves as independent Poles, Slovaks, and Hungarians, they don't seem too keen on giving their sovereignty right back to the Western Europeans.

And while the AP seems keen on looking at the results in Britain, Italy, and Denmark as a backlash against supporting the US-led war in Iraq, the Europeans delivered bad news to the core of European opposition to Saddam's removal as well:

In Britain and Poland, hardline Euroskeptics made stunning gains, sending strident new voices of hostility to European integration to sit in the increasingly powerful EU legislature.

The UK Independence Party, which won its first three seats in 1999, was on course to grab 15 this time, while Poland's populist League of Catholic Families beat the ruling Socialists into fourth place.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats crashed to their worst result since World War II while French President Jacques Chirac's center-right UMP party suffered its second electoral defeat in three months.

What the vote indicates is a deep dissatisfaction with the direction of the EU, whether its entire existence or just its status as a supergovernment that sucks up even more of European tax dollars in order to support an entirely new bureaucracy. For Britain and other countries debating the adoption of the Euro as their currency, today's results have to give pause to proponents of the change. If the EU vote generates this much ennui, what effect would a currency switch have on their electorates?

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 13, 2004 11:23 PM

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» This Has Gotta Hurt..... from Cranial Cavity
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, charter member of COAM, [Coalition of Appeasment Monkeys] and his Social Democrat Party suffered their worst result in 50 years on Sunday as voters across the continent used European Parliament elections to register protes... [Read More]

Tracked on June 14, 2004 3:56 AM

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