Europe at the crossroads: the importance of the elections to the European Parliament

European elections 2019 text with European Union flag

by Carlos Botelho Moniz, Chairman - Portuguese European Law Association
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European Union citizens will be called to the ballot boxes between 23 and 26 May 2019 to elect the members of the European Parliament for a new 5-year term that will last until 2024. It will be the ninth time, since the first direct election in 1979, that the members of the European Parliament are directly elected by citizens through universal suffrage, in elections held during the same time period in all the Member States of the European Union.

It is the largest example of transnational democracy at work in the world, involving hundreds of millions of voters and its mere occurrence on a continent that over the centuries, particularly in the 20th Century, was plunged into devastating conflicts between the States that today comprise the EU, is a powerful reminder of the strength of democratic ideals and the fundamental importance of the European Union to guarantee peace, security, justice and a balanced, sustainable economic development of our continent. ​
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Editorial of September 2016

Pepper Police @ Dresden Nazi Frei

by Mariana Canotilho, Editor
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Democracy at the crossroads

A little over one month ago, the European Commission advanced its disciplinary procedure against Poland, after accusing Warsaw of failing to address concerns over democracy and the rule of law in the country. The Polish government reacted harshly, stating that this is not the kind of presence in the EU they have agreed on, and affirming that the procedure goes beyond the Treaties and the Commission’s competences.

The situation in Poland is serious but it is not unique. Hungary was the precursor in the authoritarian drift. The Tavares report on the country, published in 2013, denounces the weakening of checks and balances, especially the actions against the Constitutional Court, the Parliament and the Data Protection Authority, the undermining of the independence of the judiciary, the restrictions to the rights of persons belonging to minorities and the interference with the media and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The Union has strong reasons to fear the dissolution of the rule of law in the East. But the process of re-engagement with it is long, difficult and complex. One of the more obvious difficulties, from a constitutional law point of view, is that the EU’s own track record concerning democracy and the rule of law during the last ‘crisis years’ is at least fuzzy.

The ongoing crisis has been used to contest the steps taken during the last 15 years towards the parliamentarisation of the EU. In fact, there is a remarkable institutional change within the Union – both at national and European levels – promoted in the framework of an ‘emergency politics’ that tends to enhance the powers of executive authorities and of informal, non-accountable, decision mechanisms, in detriment of democratic representative institutions.

Furthermore, the EU has promoted necessity over democratic consent and effectiveness over deliberative reason as decision’s criteria. It has allowed, justified and sometimes even actively furthered the weakening of constitutional mechanisms that control and limit the exercise of power. This has clearly limited the space for well-minded critics, for alternative proposals, for self-reflection and correction of mistakes. Paradoxically, it has also, as the cases of Hungary and Poland sadly demonstrate, opened the floor for the true enemies of European integration and European democratic values. Will the Union still be able – and willing – to save them?

Picture credits: Pepper Police  by MonteCruz Foto.

On the world of yesterday, witches and ghosts

 

by Professor Alessandra Silveira, Editor

(text in the memory of Jo Cox, British MP, 41, upholder of refugees’ rights and the continuation of United Kingdom in the EU, who was appallingly killed on 16th June).

Jo Cox’s murder was a senseless attack on democracy itself“, via The Telegraph.

Jo Cox MP death: David Cameron and Jeremy Corbyn unite in tributes“, via BBC.

Jo Cox death: ‘The well of hatred killed her,’ Corbyn says – latest updates“, via The Guardian.

Jo Cox’s tragic death may halt pro-Brexit momentum, analysts say“, via CNBC.

The price of caring“, via The Economist blog.

Jo Cox’s death should make us reflect on our polluted, abusive politics“, via Mirror.

After Jo Cox’s Killing (…)“, via The Wall Street Journal.

Before the adversities we have been facing in Europe lately – financial speculation, migratory boom, terrorism, Euroscepticism, populism, intolerance, Brexit, etc. – sometimes it seems it could not get worse. A sort of perfect storm, as it is said. But it can always get worse. In fact, it was worse in the past. We can acknowledge that by simply reading Stefan Zweig’s memoirs, The World of Yesterday. In it the author gives us a nostalgic picture of a missing world, the one of Europe pre-1914 which is opposed to heinous period of the wars, interleaved by a short time of peace and hope in the European renaissance. It was during the exile in England, and then Brazil, where the Jewish Austrian wrote his memories – as well as the iconic Brazil, land of the future, in deep demonstration of gratitude to the country that hosted him.

At this time of profound consternation due to the harrowing assassination of Jo Cox, this “world of yesterday” described by a war refugee in the end of the 1930s proves that there is still space for a normative approach of the European integration process, inclined to create solutions that help neutralize the fragmentation forces against which the Union is being confronted, and mobilize its cohesion forces.

Continue reading “On the world of yesterday, witches and ghosts”