Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Europeans Step Back from Unity European Parliament Elections over the Weekend Prove 'All Politics Is

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Europeans Step Back from Unity European Parliament Elections over the Weekend Prove 'All Politics Is

Article excerpt

On the face of it, European voters chose a new European Parliament last weekend, renewing the only assembly in the world directly elected across national borders. But the poor turnout, and the way that campaigns in the 15 European Union countries focused on domestic issues, robbed the results of much of their overall meaning.

Rather, the vote highlighted once again how wide the gulf has grown between Europe's achievements - a single market, a single currency - and its citizens, many of whom could not care less.

The European Union may be the biggest economic powerhouse in the world, and the biggest market. But the Continent's political leaders have so far failed to give the union a sense beyond that size, a set of values and an identity that European citizens can get behind. "Europe lacks a face and it lacks conviction," said French political commentator Dominique Bromberger yesterday, about the election results. "If people did not go to vote, it is because they are not happy with the way things are being handled in Europe," added Francois Hollande, who headed the French Socialist Party's list of candidates. Only 43 percent of European voters bothered to cast a ballot, a miserably low turnout by European standards, and one that followed a trend: Turnout has fallen at each European election since 63 percent voted in the first such elections in 1979. The campaigns differed widely from country to country, with the results seen as judgments on national governments. Germany's new Social Democratic leader Gerhard Schrder suffered badly, as did British Labour Party Prime Minister Tony Blair. Europe's longest- serving premier, Belgium's Jean-Luc Dehaene, resigned yesterday after voters delivered a stinging rebuke of his government's handling of a contaminated-food scandal. Belgium held elections for both national and European Parliaments. Across the Continent, Social Democratic rulers endured setbacks, with the result that Social Democrats lost control of the European Parliament, dropping from 214 seats to 180, while the center-right Christian Democrats swelled their ranks from 201 to 224 members. …

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