The 2014 Elections in Italy for the European Parliament: An Italian Affair?

By Soare, Sorina | Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review, July 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

The 2014 Elections in Italy for the European Parliament: An Italian Affair?


Soare, Sorina, Studia Politica; Romanian Political Science Review


In the run up to the 2014 European Parliament (EP) election, pundits, politicians and scholars suggested that the standard theory of EP elections as mid-term contests in which voters cast their votes primarily to punish governing parties should be amended. The first aspect considered was an increased legitimacy and credibility of the EP, given the changed institutional dynamics at the European level. As observed by Corbett, "the EP is in fact now incontournable in EU decision-taking [...] This is not a 'rubber stamp' Parliament with an acquiescent 'governing majority' whose members automatically vote for a proposal by 'their' government, as is so often the case in national parliaments"1. Secondly, in line with the provision of the Lisbon treaty (art. 17(7) TEU)1 2 and the EP resolution of 22 November 2012, for the first time, European political parties were asked to nominate candidates for the Presidency of the Commission, with the explicit aim of "reinforcing the political legitimacy of both Parliament and the Commission by connecting their respective elections more directly to the choice of the voters"3. This strategic investment was supposed to "personalise and Europeanise the elections, raise the salience and stakes of the EP vote, and thus reverse the familiar pattern of low turnouts"4. Last but not least, among the potential consequences ofEurope's recent economic and financial crisis, EU issues were supposed to be become more relevant as voting choices, with direct impact not only on the structure of national party competition, but also on party competition in the EP* * 5.

Despite these optimistic premises, in the aftermath of the May 2014 elections, the vulnerability of the European project was once again epitomized not only by the average turnout (below the 2009 EU-27 level of 43%, with a decrease of 0.46%)6, but also by the number of seats for extremist platforms both on the far right and far left.

Based on the above, this paper aims to look closely at the empirical evidence from the Italian case. As one of the six founding members of the European Economic Community, the contemporary history of Italy has regularly intersected with the history of the European arena. Significantly, as early as 1941, Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi described their federalist projects in a symbolic Manifesto. A decade after the end of WWII, in Messina, in 1995, and in Venice one year later, decisive inputs to the European project were brought to the political agenda in view of the signature in Rome of the two treaties establishing the EEC and the European Atomic Energy Community. Significant Italian contributions were further linked to the foundation of European agricultural policy in 1962, as well as to the setting-up of the Regional Development Fund (ERDF) in 1975. By the beginning of the 1980s, the so-called Spinelli Plan was to be adopted in the EP, providing a solid basis for EEC institutional reform under the Single European Act (1986), and the Treaty of Maastricht (1992). Note also that the careers of major Italian political and technical figures such as Romano Prodi (president of the European Commission and former prime-minister from 1996-1998, and from 2006-2008), Mario Monti (European commissioner and future prime-minister from 20112013), Mario Draghi (president of the European Central Bank) and Federica Mogherini (new high representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy) have marked the Brussels' scene. Last but not least, for almost four decades, Italy was renowned as a rather Euro-enthusiastic country, though an emerging decrease in public support for European integration has spread in parallel with a deep disaffection with politics and increasingly visible Euroscepticist and anti-establishment parties and movements such as the Northern League (LN) or the Five Star Movement (M5S).

Given the above, this article aims to analyze how the EU affected party politics in the 2014 elections for the European Parliament, particularly the discourse used by parties and the positions they adopted. …

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