For a few days Europe will be under the spell of the EU Parliamentary elections. Polls, analyses, hot debates, a frenzy in the name of democracy. But are these elections even relevant and worth bothering ourselves about? In this paper I will shortly analyse the parties involved, the political programs, the historical significance of direct elections by EU citizens, and finally the institutional context of the EU Parliament. This will be presented from the perspective of culture, history and institutionalism.
The first thing we want to do is identify the main category involved in the electoral process, which are the European parties and their political platforms. It is essential to keep in mind that these parties are inspired and created/shaped by the public’s needs and interests.
Parties are not in this sense objective material objects but they reflect subjective worldviews, they are expressions of ideas. There is a relatively long list of diversified EU parties involved in this election but one thing that unites them is them having culturally relevant names. We have most parties calling themselves European versus some national ones, parties claiming themselves to be liberal, free and democratic versus others who are more conservative, reformists, socialist, or even Christian. Without going into detail into their manifestos, we notice they all share common values which we like to call European.
Considering names there does not seem to be any deviation from the mainstream political culture, except the nationalist case and the European Green Party which brings a ‘green’ approach to politics. Green tends to get cultural and political connotations. It brings to mind the idea of a positive future by being associated with a clean, safe environment. Politicians understand the power of colours and most parties are associated with one: the red socialists, the yellow liberals or the blue conservatives. The importance of names and colours that these parties choose are fundamental for the cultural approach which makes high use of symbol analysis.
Going into more detail, identity-related differences appear. I will exemplify with the three main parties. ALDE points on open EU market, stronger integration and further enlargement. They promote a federalist identity. PES promotes the socialist movement that economically asks for more state-sponsored schemes for unemployment and higher living standards through living wages. Finally, EPP brings a conservative identity with solidarity, autonomy, responsibility and Christian values. All three main EU parties offer voters different cultural packages, namely a federalist one, a socialist one and a conservative one. The rise of Euroscepticism promotes another kind of culture, a nationalist one which talks of sovereignty and anti-federalization.
To conclude the cultural analysis of the parties, we can observe an underlying common European identity that revolves around concepts like democracy, liberalism or Christianity. However, this common identity diversifies at deeper levels. We observe paths that focus more on values like unity, openness and progress, others on solidarity, responsibility and moderation or other even socialism and scepticism or sovereignty. The cultural approach provides us in this sense with a rich palette of potential futures for Europe.
Historical and institutional analysis
We might take for granted today that the EU has an elected parliament and that it is our inalienable right both to vote and to be a candidate. However, it was not like this until the first elections of 1979, when for the first time the previously appointed Members of the EU Parliament were replaced by directly elected ones. The importance of this opportunity is even further revealed when we understand the idea that lies behind the current institutional configuration of the EU and behind the purpose of this EU Parliament.
The main EU institutions are the Commission which is independent of the Member States and represents the interests of the EU as a whole, the Council of the EU which embodies the interests of the Member States and the EU Parliament that represents the interests of EU citizens. As it is clear, citizens do already have a say in EU affairs indirectly through their elected national leaders that form the Council but what the parliamentary elections provide is a direct saying of who gets to represent them. It is the idea of direct democracy that lies under such institutional configuration.
Moreover, another historical factor that influences the EU Parliament and the elections is the violent past attributed to nationalism. If we analyse any EU party, we observe that they are mainly a large grouping of national parties that share the same political view. Even if citizens usually elect representatives of their own national parties, the cross-national structure of EU parties disarms nationalistic impulses. EU parties sit in political groups. In addition to this, in order to prepare for the plenary meeting, MEPs organize in committees that reflect specific issues. This sitting and working structure makes sure that national belonging will not interfere with the interests of EU citizens and will not create nationalistic antagonism.
As we could observe in the previous cultural analysis, there are specific European values that are also behind the EU structure, EU parties and the EU election process. It is democracy, meaning freedom of choice, association and expression. It is also republicanism as institutional control over authorities, if we analyse how the EU institutions relate to one another. However, if we consider the Eurosceptic parties, there is also the presence of the memories of a Europe with bloody history where suspicion among European states was something normal. It is this dark part of history that fuels citizens’ mistrust in Brussels and in the EU project as a whole.
Hopefully, it will be the same bloody history to guide both voters and EU parties to maintain institutions, norms and practices that manage to keep peace on the continent and to develop the EU project with this very aim. If coalitions will be made with far-leaning EU parties, hopefully it will be with the aim to bring effectiveness in decision-making and to ease the deliberative process. No big political concessions should be promised and given to attempts that aim to bring the EU back on the isolationist path.
In conclusion, the upcoming EU elections are the manifestation of a historically induced idea, that of democratic cooperation among European peoples with the purpose of stability, prosperity and eventually peace. The mechanisms inside the EU Parliament require cross-national tackling of obstacles and should put more emphasis on the democratic control of the other institutions.
Brexit: Three Logistics Concerns for Businesses
After the vote on 23rd June 2016, for many businesses, it seemed there was ample time to prepare for Brexit. However, the UK is now one year away from leaving the EU and naturally, many business owners are becoming increasingly concerned about its impact.
A recent study showed that 94% of UK SMEs feel that the government is failing to listen to their Brexit concerns. There are also fears that HMRC’s new customs system will not be ready by the Brexit deadline.
For businesses, it is clear that there remains a lot of uncertainty about Brexit, including what trades deals may be formed and how they will affect British businesses. This is particularly true for logistics, where these three concerns are growing.
For many companies, their number one concern is cost. In order to offset, businesses facing an increase in operating and logistics costs may have to pass this onto their customers, resulting in higher product prices – this is especially worrying for logistics companies like Tuffnells. This could result in a lower sales volume, making a dent in their bottom line.
This additional spend could come from several areas, including:
- Taxes and tariffs: after leaving the single market, exporting or importing goods may be subject to new charges and restrictions, which could result in higher logistics costs
- Fuel: The exchange rate of the pound dropped after the Brexit vote and it could fluctuate further after the deadline, resulting in increased fuel and transport prices
Coming out of the EU’s single market – where British businesses currently trade tax-free – presents more issues than cost alone. This includes implementing new business systems.
While HMRC are putting their own customs systems in place, businesses also face the same challenge. Staff will require training on new tariffs and customs, logistics procedures will have to be revised, and businesses will have to find systems and methods to deal with these new processes. All of this will eat into business hours and cost companies further money.
The introduction of new border controls will have several affects on British businesses, including cost, delays and further administrative processes. But leaving the EU will limit companies in another way: freedom of movement.
Pre-Brexit, EU workers had the freedom to move and work in any member state, but this will no longer apply to the UK. This means hiring workers from within the EU could be more difficult, time-consuming and expensive. With many British companies hiring migrant drivers to cover the UK shortage, this could severely impact transport.
The announcement of Brexit brought about uncertainty among UK businesses. Unfortunately, only speculation is possible until all trade deals have been announced and Brexit takes effect in 2019. However, if businesses prepare in these areas, it could help to minimise impact.
The Future of the UK Used Car Market
It is an intriguing time in the UK auto market in 2018 with a range of political, economic and social factors influencing the industry. New car sales continue to fall for the 11th consecutive month with diesel taking the brunt of the slide. It is thought that this decline is due to the uncertainty over the Government’s clean air plans (including the 2040 ban on petrol and diesel), but also the economic climate and uncertainty over Brexit.
Sale of AFVs
Although new car sales continue to fall overall, there is evidence that the 2040 ban is influencing consumers with the sales of alternatively-fuelled vehicles (AFVs) rising steadily over the last 11 months, including a 7.2% rise in February compared to last year. Although this is unable to offset the free-falling diesel sector, it does show that motorists are beginning to prepare for the green car revolution. Motorists are also aware that there are many incentives for making the switch, plus there is now a wide range of excellent electric cars on the market.
Used Car Market
So, what does all this mean for used car dealerships? Sales have managed to maintain stability amidst the turbulence in the industry with a drop of just 1.1% in 2017 compared to 2016. This was largely thanks to the sale of used electric cars, which saw an increase of a staggering 77.1% in 2017. Hybrids were also up 22.2%. This goes to show that motorists are preparing for the future and still have the need to change automobiles, with the used car market being a much safer place to do this as it is a much smaller investment.
It is easy to see reputable used car dealerships like Shelbourne Motors performing well in 2018 and beyond as more and more second-hand electric cars become available. An increasing number of cities are imposing their own bans ahead of the 2040 ban, plus it is expected that there will be more clarity on the ban and the electric vehicle infrastructure will continue to grow. Additionally, the landscape of a post-Brexit UK will be clearer soon and this could encourage motorists to shop in the used car market.
The future of the used car market in the UK looks healthy despite the fact that there has been a great deal of uncertainty in the UK over the past year. Provided that dealerships are able to provide motorists with a range of second-hand electric automobiles, it is easy to see motorists opting to buy used as opposed to new as this can allow for big savings which is important in the current economic climate. The green car revolution is fully underway and this is what has managed to keep the used car market afloat during a challenging period.
All Steam Ahead as Europe Goes Green
Red, amber, green: and Europe is off on its big green venture. Yep, it’s true, Europe is finally on the right track in regards to future-proofing against climate change. To see just how it is doing this and what it is doing in regards to this, make sure to read on.
The abolition of fossil fuels by 2050
Some of Europe’s biggest countries are seeking to go fossil fuel free by 2050, and it’s brilliant. Denmark, a country widely regarded as being a leader in the struggle for a green future, is one such country seeking to do this. Yes, it might be ambitious. And yes, Danish officials openly admit that it is an ambitious venture. But, this old Nordic country is going full steam ahead with its ‘Energy Strategy 2050’ enterprise anyway in the hopes that within 32 years the whole country will be completely dependant on things that do not hurt our world. In fact, Denmark is even seeking to go one step further and go completely cashless. Well done, Denmark!
Cities are building green infrastructures
It appears that many European cities have seen the light in regards to what they need to do to save our planet and are now building green infrastructures to hold themselves up in the future. Yep, many cities around this famous old continent are changing the habit of a lifetime and going against a grain that has been in place for thousands upon thousands of years by swapping out their old, harmful infrastructures and ushering in new, safer ones to replace them. Bratislava, Slovakia is one such example: it has had a complete overhaul of its transport system and only runs low-emission buses, tree planting has become a serious occupation, roofs around the city have been made green and rainwater retention facilities have popped up everywhere. Yep, the Slovakian capital really has built a green infrastructure, despite a tight budget, and many other European cities are following suit.
Many big cities are clambering for green funding
Speaking of tight budgets, there seemingly is one across the whole of Europe when it comes to going green because many cities within the continent are having to clamber for funding in regards to it. But, thankfully, having to do all of this isn’t stopping these cities from doing so and going as green as they can. Yep, cities across the European continent are using a combination of EEA grants, municipal funding, crowdfunding and green bonds in order to go green: Copenhagen has done so and used its funding to upgrade is floodwater management and lighting systems to make them more eco-friendly, Paris has done so and used its funding to plant in excess of 20,000 trees and Essen, Germany has done so and used its funding to be named European Green Capital for 2017.
So, as you can see, the historic old continent of Europe is more than willing to embrace the future and, more specifically, the future needs of our planet. Let’s just hope that the rest of the world and its leaders *cough* Trump *cough* follow suit before it’s all too late.
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