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EU Elections: Cultural, Historical and Institutional Analysis

Claudiu Sonda

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© European Union 2014 – European Parliament

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.

Cultural analysis

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.

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Source: European People’s [email protected]

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.

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Source: Alberto [email protected]

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.

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Source: PES [email protected]

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.

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Source: Keith [email protected]

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.

Passionate student of IR and European politics with an interest in developing a high-level expertise in International Security and geopolitics.

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Europe

Unforgettable trip in Malaga, Spain

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Malaga Spain

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If you are wondering what is the best option to spend your next holidays the answer you are looking for is Marbella. The Spanish Costa del Sol, with its 320 sunny days and an average temperature of 19 degrees throughout the whole year, has everything you could ever need to have the most spectacular holidays.

Marbella is a destiny that has much to offer, it’s where sun, beach, party and luxury meet to give you the best experiences. If you want your Marbella holidays to be unforgettable you can’t miss these activities.

Sun, Sea and Beach Parties in Malaga

Yacht charter in Malaga:  If you are in Costa del Sol you can’t miss the experience of renting a boat to enjoy the bay, from motorboats to luxury yachts. The sea is the perfect way to spend the day. There are many options to choose from and packs to meet your needs.

Party is a synonym of Marbella but there is nothing like a Costa del Sol boat party to enjoy with your friends and have the time of your life.

Beach day: No matter what time of the year you visit Marbella you can always count on a beach day. One of the most attractive features of Costa del Sol is its amazing beaches, awarded with the blue flag, which represent the gold standard for hygiene and public facilities, you can have a great day in one of its many beaches weather is having a drink at one of the typical chiringuitos or practicing different water sports like paddle surf, windsurf or diving in the Mediterranean the beaches in Costa del Sol are always a great option.

Party in Puerto Banus: from the famous Nikki Beach club to the many nightclubs in Marbella, there is no excuse not to party. And if you want to have a different experience you can always spice things up with a special guest, in Marbella, cheeky butler parties are always a fun way to spend the night or to celebrate a bachelorette party. It’s a different experience and you don’t have to worry about anything except enjoying yourself.

Cultural Options in Malaga

Enjoy the historic centre: If you are looking for a more relaxing way to spend your time, Marbella’s old town is an excellent option for you. Get lost in the city and discover all the magical places this typical Andalusian town has to offer.

From Dalí’s art display to its many restaurants there are many ways you can make the most of your time in Costa del Sol. Visit Marbella’s many beautiful squares, and its Alameda park or even take a quick field trip to Torremolinos. Whatever you choose Costa del Sol will never let you down.

Sports in Malaga

Practice your swing: Costa del Sol, also known as Costa del Golf has more than 70 golf courses almost all of them located next to the ocean which adds a beautiful scenery while you practice that swing.

These and many more are the activities are waiting for you to discover, so don’t wait any longer and visit Costa del Sol

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Europe

UK Attempts To Bypass European Commission On Brexit Blocked By Brussels

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Via geographos

As the UK and EU draw deeper and deeper into uncharted waters, Brexit negotiations are becoming increasingly erratic. As negotiators from both states met this week to discuss items such as the Northern Ireland Border, the rights of EU citizens currently residing in the UK and the notorious ‘divorce bill’, there have been numerous reports of frustration within the British camp.

Frustration

Recently it was revealed that Prime Minister Theresa May, believing talks to be at an impasse, intended to go over the heads of the EU’s Brexit negotiators and appeal directly to world leaders such as Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron. When questioned about this, however, Brussels officials close to the negotiations intimated that Mrs May would not be able to circumvent the negotiations process.

The officials pointed out that both French and German leaders had agreed prior to the talks that negotiations would come “as a single package” where “individual items cannot be settled separately” and that no member state would abstain from negotiations in favour of individual agreements.

One year on…

It has been over a year now since the UK referendum in which the country voted (at a rate of 52% to 48%) to leave the European Union in an unprecedented political and economic chain of events, the repercussions of which will take years to fully realise but which the world glibly knows as Brexit. It’s a small name for such a political leviathan. Many of the world’s leading bankers and economists still aren’t sure what to make of. Recently CEO Lloyds Bank Antonio Horta-Osorio (who has been lauded for restoring the bank’s profits to pre-financial crisis levels) expressed doubt and uncertainty over the long term economic effects of Brexit. It’s somewhat telling that former Prime Minister David Cameron resigned shortly after the vote, claiming that his involvement in the ‘Remain’ campaign put him at odds with the will of the people but it’s possible that he had the prescience to realise that he had no hope of taming this wily and unpredictable beast. One year on, the beast only seems to have become further enraged by the negotiating process.

Difficult negotiations

Theresa May has gone into Brexit negotiations with some questionably aggressive negotiating tactics. The first round of talks were mired by her strangely audacious assertion that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. The frustration has clearly been felt on both sides with chief negotiator Michel Barnier urging Mrs May to begin negotiating “seriously”. The French government also demonstrated an unwillingness to circumvent negotiations earlier this week, stating that it “fully supports, on the substance as well as on the method, Michel Barnier’s negotiating mandate” and asserting that claims that Mrs May can somehow bypass the procedure “are founded on absolutely nothing and do not reflect reality”. Brexit Minister David Davis, however, retains an optimistic tone, stating;

“Our goal remains the same: we want to agree a deal that works in the best interests for both the European Union and the United Kingdom and people and businesses right across Europe. We’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get back to work once more…”.

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Economy

The EU Commission seeks to ban cash: A cashless democratic sham?

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Cashless economy demonetization india

Belgium, Denmark, France, Canada, the UK, Sweden and many other countries from the Eurozone and Western world are amongst the most prominent countries to move away from cash, namely due to the large availability of other types of payment. And yet, the EU Commission continues to push towards even less cash and fantasizes on killing it completely off. Why the obstinacy? Is cash giving governmental agencies an itch because it escapes their control?

In the Netherlands, 85% of transactions are cashless: transfers, debit, e-payment, etc. take the cake. It doesn’t result from a ban on cash, but a country where 98% of citizens have debit cards is bound to take it easy on currency. In Sweden, cashless transactions amount to even more. The cashless world champion is Belgium, where only 7% of transactions are carried out in cash. Cashless-support Robert Colville recently published (1) an OpEd in which he wrote: “it’s about not just cash but credit cards themselves disappearing – about paying for whatever we like with the wave of a phone or the blink of a biometrically-verified eye. That future is coming sooner than we think”. As more options opened up to the public to make their payments, the more digitally developed populations slowly adopted them, reducing gradually the use of cash. Much to their government’s delight.

India violently pushed the envelope in the end of 2016, when the Prime Minister announced overnight that almost all banknotes would be null and void within a few weeks. The BBC announced (2): “In an unscheduled televised address on 8 November Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the nation just four hours notice that 500 ($7.30; £6) and 1,000 rupee notes would no longer be legal tender. People were told they could deposit or change their old notes in banks until 30 December and new 500 and 2,000 rupee notes would be issued.”. This set off an earthquake in a country where a large share of the population has no debit card, cell phone or even access to a nearby bank.

The Indian PM announced the move was intended to fight corruption, crime, terrorism, as well as to modernize the country. However, the reason simpler, yet more complex. The Indian government, like just about any other government in the world, is trying to force its citizens under more of its control. From a governmental point of view, complete control means more taxation earnings, more powerful means to tackle crime, and better population control.

National governments, international governmental bodies and interstate agencies all want to kill cash, so as to close the loop on their control over populations. Because cash is the only true peer-to-peer payment vector, killing cash means a citizen has nowhere to hide from governmental control. This explains why, as the cash-killing pressure grows from governments, alternate currencies such as bitcoins continue to develop: citizens who see governmental hyper-power as a threat to their liberties move to the only place where they can be left alone. Bitcoin News published a 1999 interview (3) of economist Milton Friedman, broaching the question of civil liberties: “The Internet is going to be one of the major forces for reducing the role of government. The one thing that is missing, but will soon be developed, is a reliable e-cash: a method by which on the Internet you can transfer funds from an A to B without A knowing B or B knowing A. The way in which I can take a $20 and hand it over to you and there is no record of where it came from”.  Many people today see crypto-currency not as a way to commit crimes, but as a way to fight back on government control.

In all parts of the world, states struggle to acquire more control. Many Asian, South American and African states, sometimes dubbed “failed states” by the West, have very limited or non-existent control over their citizens and territory. Greece has no cadaster, many African countries have no civil registries, and almost half the world has only an approximate idea of the size of their own population. But in the West, a State knows each of its citizens and residents by name, where they live, where they work, what they drive, the names of their children, the size of their house, etc. To that existing data repository, States can add potential data: data which can be easily accessed through online investigation: whom they call (with phone registers), whom they do business with (with banking registers), where they go (cell phone tracking), etc.

But cash eludes their control, because it doesn’t rely on banks or any other intermediary. Killing cash will be the ultimate step of state control. Payment-method specialized website LTP reports (4): “Increasingly, government agencies are also feeling the need to shift to modern payment processing tools and techniques and leave the traditional formats behind. A number of companies are fulfilling the government’s needs through their payment rails”.

Public entities claim to be fighting cash, in order to better protect their citizens, but there is far more to it.  If the advantages and disadvantages of cash are weighed from a citizen’s point of view, maintaining the existence of cash is obviously preferable: while other types of payment can be practical according to circumstances, why deprive oneself of an option which we use every day? But that same balance from a state’s or superstate’s perspective is very different. Be it fiscal agencies, or law enforcement, or cyber-surveillance, governmental bodies yearn to reign every citizen in the world -not just their own – into the electronic world, where national borders no longer exist and civil rights to privacy can be easily and discretely hacked into. They will apply to the 0.01 % of people who use cash for criminal and terrorist activities, and for the 99.99% of law-abiding citizens who don’t.

1) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/04/19/cash-is-dying-and-wont-be-missed/

2) http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-37983834

3) https://news.bitcoin.com/bitcoin-bill-rights/

4) https://letstalkpayments.com/payment-processing-companies-serving-the-government/

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