Together with “a sixpence in her shoe”, there are various items that are recommended as part of a bridal outfit, according to an old English rhyme. Humour might hardly be allowed as regards the recent European Parliament elections, given the success of Eurosceptic parties. However, we might comment that the 2014 EP election (expected by many commentators to be the first truly European election) was to some extent blessed by the presence of all such auspicious elements. That this has happened in times of economic crisis and rising Euroscepticism, would – again – not make it different from many weddings celebrated in difficult times, yet leading to long-lasting, successful marriages. But let’s go one step at a time.
First, why did many declare these first “truly European” elections? Before the election there were two principal reasons. First, the increasing centralization of economic policies in the Eurozone following the economic crisis, lead to the reasonable expectation that citizens would better understand the importance of Brussels politics for their everyday lives. Second, the new provision (under the Lisbon Treaty) that the President of the European Commission would be selected by “taking into account” the electoral results. This has led the main EP groups to appoint official presidential candidates, resulting in higher visibility for the EP election campaign.
It is precisely in light of such expectations that, a few weeks before the elections, we decided – at CISE (Italian Centre for Electoral Studies, jointly established between LUISS Rome and the University of Florence) – to build and coordinate a 40-strong team of researchers across Europe, who would prepare concise country reports for all the 28 EU countries, along with in-depth analyses of specific aspects of the EP vote. Such reports were first published on the CISE website several days after the election, and then collected into a unique instant e-book published by CISE. Our overarching interpretation of individual country reports and overall analyses in the book, together with the findings of more recent studies, highlights the four elements, which were hinted at in the title of this blog post. Continue reading