Politics and Institutions

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04 August 2014

The Spitzenkandidaten experiment has been at the centre of a heated debate for several months now, prompting much speculation as to the changes it will bring to the balance of power between the EU institutions. But the real coup d’état has been directed against the old process of appointing the European Commission President behind closed doors.

31 July 2014

The political balance in Sweden was upset in this year’s elections to the European Parliament (EP). The far-right ‘Sweden Democrats’ almost tripled their vote-share and the Greens gained enough votes to become the second-largest Swedish party in the EP after the Social Democrats. Support for the current government incumbents, the Moderates, fell beyond expectation. The party will not recover in time for the national elections in September, whereas both the Greens and the Sweden Democrats are likely to repeat their EP election success.

16 July 2014

Based on his speech to the European Parliament on July 15th, following his election as President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker has clearly opted for ‘more Union’ during his five-year term, offering up an ambitious agenda that raises a host of expectations. In this CEPS Commentary, Karel Lannoo outlines the most salient items on Juncker’s agenda, focusing on the most laudable and those that will pose the greatest challenges.

Karel Lannoo is Chief Executive Officer and Senior Research Fellow at CEPS.

03 July 2014

Expectations of the Greek presidency were not high: the budget was limited, the legislative term was drawing to a close and the European Parliament dissolved in mid-April for the elections. However, Greece made the most of its resources to progress on some very important dossiers and brought about a satisfactory close to the Trio presidency previously held by Ireland and Lithuania.

01 July 2014

In his reflections on the intervening century since the start of the First World War, Erwan Fouéré acknowledges that the EU has brought enormous benefits to its citizens by extending the frontiers of peace and security to include 28 member countries. At the same time, however, he warns that the voices of populism are trying to destroy its very foundations and calls upon the European Union to work much harder at showing that the integration project is both vital and necessary for continued peace and prosperity in Europe.

27 June 2014

Given that the new European Parliament will be more Eurosceptical, radical and fragmented than its predecessors, Sonia Piedrafita and Karel Lannoo warn that it will face even tougher constraints in building the necessary majorities to pass legislation and adopt decisions. They argue in this new Commentary that this grave situation calls for a serious debate on the governability of the EP.

Sonia Piedrafita is Research Fellow in the Politics and Institutions research unit at CEPS. Karel Lannoo is Chief Executive Officer and Senior Research Fellow at CEPS.

26 June 2014

While many Eurosceptic parties in Europe achieved historical successes in this year’s EP elections, Finland’s populist Finns Party was unable to fulfil its own high expectations. With the eurozone crisis at least temporarily subsiding and Finland’s own economy struggling, the party has been unable to find a new electoral trump card. Facing a changed political climate and stiffer competition, the party is currently toning down its criticism of the EU, as indicated by its recent decision to join the British Tories in the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group.

06 June 2014

In this new commentary, CEPS Fellow Marco Incerti argues that the so-called technical and legal arguments that are being advanced against the lead candidates’ (Spitzenkandidaten) selection process actually boil down to political choices − choices that are set against the increasingly confrontational climate between the European Council and European Parliament that has characterised their dealings in recent years. 

06 June 2014

Despite the fact that anti-establishment, mostly euro-sceptic parties won about one-fifth of the vote in the European Parliament elections last month, Daniel Gros insists that it is not quite accurate (or fair) to characterise the result as a rejection of Europe. He argues that the deeper roots of the surge of euro-sceptic and other protest parties originate with the general dissatisfaction with the state of the economy and dysfunctional national political systems.

02 June 2014

The British government has undertaken further reviews of EU policies: this second round yet again reveals the huge contradiction between the evidence collected from independent stakeholders and the arguments put forward by Eurosceptic populists.

23 May 2014

Much commentary on the EP elections has followed the line that the European Parliament somehow has less democratic legitimacy because the participation rate is low, and that these elections are taken less seriously because people’s trust in the EU institutions in general and the European Parliament in particular is low. Both arguments lose much of their validity if the numbers are judged in a wider context, however, especially if one compares participation rates in mid-term congressional elections in the United States.

21 May 2014

The power of the European Parliament in EU trade policy has increased significantly with the Lisbon Treaty. Even though it had already acquired a greater informal role, the codification of its involvement enables the EP to have a stronger say in trade policy. Against the background of increased legal competences granted by the Treaty of Lisbon to the European Parliament in EU trade policy, this CEPS Special Report addresses two important questions.

20 May 2014

This EPIN study brings together contributions from a ​broad selection of member states ​and ​provid​es ​insightful analysis ​into the 2014 elections to the European Parliament on the ground. The report reveals the different factors that impede the development of genuine European elections and the consequences of the ballot in the member states covered by the study​, namely Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Spain and the UK​,​ and at EU level. 

The report finds that:

29 April 2014

With less than a month to go to the European Parliament (EP) elections, campaigning has barely begun in the Netherlands. Whether the campaign will address concrete EU policies or the future of the European Union remains to be seen, but this author argues that the outcomes will probably have less to with the parties’ stance on Europe than with the unpopularity of the incumbent parties and the ‘second order’ character of EP elections.

15 April 2014

Ever since Prime Minister David Cameron made his major speech on Europe on 23 January 2013, in which he argued for some kind of new deal between the UK and the EU, the rest of the EU as well as the British public have been wondering what he would actually propose in operational terms. On 15 March 2014, the Prime Minister offered at least an interim reply to these questions in an article in the Daily Telegraph newspaper. This paper extracts from the Daily Telegraph article the main ideas that the Prime Minister advances.

11 April 2014

On May 22nd to the 25th, elections to the European Parliament are taking place throughout the European Union. Following a recent EP initiative, most of the European political parties have selected top candidates for the position of Commission President, who are to lead an EU-wide campaign, with the objective of increasing citizens’ interest in the elections and reinforcing their European dimension. This paper analyses the main weaknesses in the process of selecting the lead candidates and how they are approaching the campaign.

08 April 2014

In a new CEPS Essay, Michael Emerson assesses the initiatives taken by the UK and Dutch governments to cut out excessive EU regulatory intrusion, namely in the form of the ongoing British Balance of Competences Review and the Dutch list of 54 items of EU regulation that they would like to see repealed or reformed.

08 April 2014

On 23 January 2014, a group of 73 member states’ officials and representatives from the European institutions and academia gathered at Clingendael Park in The Hague for a day-long seminar co-organised by the Netherlands Institute of International Relations and CEPS for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The seminar’s aim was to discuss whether subsidiarity can offer a way forward that reconciles the need for better EU governance with concerns about legitimacy.

02 April 2014

Despite the emergence of a critical debate against the EU-imposed austerity measures both at the level of the political elites and on the street, this EPIN Commentary by two Spanish political scientists based in Barcelona finds no sign that the upcoming European elections will have a more European focus than any of the previous ones. While there is no anti-European discourse among the Spanish mainstream political parties, they report that public trust in the European institutions is plummeting and Spanish turnout in European elections has been dropping in the last few years.

19 March 2014

To contribute to the important debate on EU institutional reform in the run-up to the European Parliament elections and the start of a new Commission, CEPS formed a High-Level Group on EU Institutional Reform under the leadership of Danuta Hübner MEP and member of the CEPS Board of Directors. The report of this distinguished group of MEPs, former and current EU institutional members and leading scholars on EU law and institutional affairs focuses on reforms that could be taken within the framework of the current treaties to build a more responsive and accountable Union.

28 February 2014

Surveying the landscape following the Swiss referendum on February 9th, Adam Łazowski observes that once Swiss voters are deprived of the benefits of the EU internal market, they may come to appreciate that their days of cherry-picking from among EU policies are over. This might present the EU with a golden opportunity to press for a comprehensive framework agreement with Switzerland that would simplify the existing regime and provide for a uniform institutional set-up.

14 February 2014

The Greek government would like to promote the idea that the country is an equal partner in the EU system of governance, despite the country's economic, political, and social implosion. This presidency is characterised by poor leadership and a lack of vision. It is being called upon to coordinate a presidential agenda without being substantially involved in its drafting; it simply mediates between European institutions.

06 February 2014

Despite the probable shift towards European rather than national issues in the European election campaign in France, the combined effects of the economic crisis and the unpopularity of political leaders could crystallise a ‘protest’ vote for both national and European leaders, and for the EU as a whole, explain the authors in this EPIN Commentary.

24 January 2014

To counteract the powerful anti-Europe sentiments swirling throughout the EU today and to motivate EU citizens to vote in a constructive spirit in the upcoming European elections, Karel Lannoo argues in this commentary that the functioning of the EU institutions needs to be openly discussed and proposals need to be aired for improving the decision-making process to render it more transparent and democratic.

22 January 2014

Lithuania assumed its maiden term running the rotating Presidency of the Council in the 2nd half of 2013 under difficult constraints: the country’s modest administrative capacities and the enormous time pressures brought on by the urgency of certain dossiers and the abbreviated term of the current Parliament, which ends in mid-April. Nevertheless, as assessed by Sonia Piedrafita and Vilde Renman in this new CEPS Commentary, substantial progress was made thanks to the perseverance and strenuous efforts by the Lithuanians.

06 January 2014

In this new CEPS Commentary, John Bruton considers some likely consequences of the UK’s renegotiation of its membership of the EU, in terms of the UK’s own national interest, its relations with its European neighbours and the future effectiveness of a ‘revised’ EU.

John Bruton is Former Prime Minister of Ireland and a member of CEPS Board of Directors.

20 December 2013

In previous European elections, Polish political parties were not able to draw a large number of voters to the polling stations. Poland stood out in the European Union mainly by its extremely low turnout. In light of the current situation in the Polish political scene, this EPIN Commentary predicts that the chances are that the 2014 electoral campaign will also be lacklustre, focused on domestic issues, resulting yet again in a disappointing turnout.

17 December 2013

The EU has recently been pushing for legislation to strengthen the gender balance on company boards in its member states and indeed, the principle of gender equality is enshrined in the European treaties. Yet, as Vilde Renman points out, women are clearly underrepresented in top positions within EU institutions themselves. The upcoming European Parliament elections are an opportunity for the EU to appoint more women at the highest levels of administration and legislature, thereby setting an example for companies, member states and citizens alike.

03 December 2013

A new Commentary published by the European Policy Institutes Network (EPIN) offers an interesting piece of advice to the UK if it is to succeed in winning over Germany on EU reform, The author, Almut Möller, asserts that the UK needs to understand how Germany’s federal system, with its intricate balance of competences between the various levels, is an integral part of modern Germany and key to the country’s thinking on Europe.

25 November 2013

The role of national parliaments in the EU has been at the centre of a long debate. Since the Maastricht treaty, new powers to the EU level have been accompanied not only by an increasing role of the European Parliament (EP) in the legislative process, but also by a number of declarations and protocols to ensure that national parliaments received the information and documents required to effectively monitor their governments in EU affairs. The Lisbon Treaty extended the guarantees and also included new modes of direct participation.