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Monday, July 13, 2009

Hollow celebrations

Over in Strasbourg this afternoon there are some jolly celebrations going on to celebrate the 30th anniversary of European Parliament elections by direct universal suffrage.

Timetable of the event:
· 15:25 - Arrival of guests
· 15:30 - Opening of ceremony: Giuseppe Verdi: "la Forza del destino" overture played by the Strasbourg Philharmonia
· 15:40 - Raising of the European flag by a Eurocorps detachment
· 15:45 - European anthem, Ludwig van Beethoven: "Ode to Joy", part of the 4th movement from the 9th symphony played by the Strasbourg Philharmonia accompanied by the Petits Chanteurs choir of Strasbourg

And then at 18:00, there will be a "medal presentation ceremony to former MEPs."

Medals? What for exactly?

It's all very grand. An EU flag, an EU anthem, EU medals... Whoever said that removing the reference to EU symbols from the original Constitution (and renaming it the Lisbon Treaty) would actually spell the end of them? In fact they are alive and kicking and out in all their glory.

But what is there to celebrate?

Turnout in the European elections has fallen consistently since the first direct elections in 1979, with only 43% of Europe's population bothering to vote this new tranche of MEPs in.

Not only that but EU politicians - including the majority of MEPs - have deliberately ridden roughshod over democracy time and time again - most recently and dramatically with the French, Dutch and then Irish referendums on the EU Constitution, but also in lesser-known instances such as the European Parliament's outragous decision to ignore the Irish referendum even before it had taken place (see our work on the league table of MEPs).

It's almost embarrasing that the EU sees fit to splash public money on these pompous celebrations when actually, democracy has never been so conspiculously absent. There's something a bit pathetic about the whole thing... not to mention hypocritical.


Julien Frisch said...

If this - ceremonies and symbols - is your biggest problem with the EU democracy, then everything seems to be fine.

But why caring about content when you can talk about superficial and minor stuff...

Open Europe blog team said...

Ha ha - no, ceremonies and symbols are small fry compared with the enormous problems we (and let's face it most people in Europe) have with EU democracy. We would have thought that was obvious from all our other posts and research.

The funny thing is that, as you know, the symbols were what those strange people in charge unilaterally decided was the biggest problem about the EU Constitution, hence their removal from the text and its magical transformation into the Lisbon Treaty. Not sure where they got that from, since none of the polls of 'no' voters in France or the Netherlands said anything about symbols... But hey ho, EU leaders know best eh.

As we've long argued, removing the symbols from the EU Constitution was such a superficial move as to be meaningless (proven yet again by yesteday's celebrations).

If you'd like to know what we think about the content why don't you check out our research page, where you'll see that, unlike many people involved in this debate we are only too happy to discuss in great detail the content of much of what the EU does - not least the EU Constitution/Lisbon Treaty.