Yulia Tymoshenko speaking at the EPP conference in Dublin on Thursday night
By Vincent Boland in Dublin
There is something about being a European centre-right politician that appears to attract its own kind of celebrity. The gathering of the European People’s party in Dublin is a good example of this rather eclectic mix of high-profile luminaries.
On Thursday evening, it was the turn of the Ukrainians to wow the audience. Vitali Klitschko, the former boxing champion and front-runner to be Ukraine’s president in a post-revolution election in May, and Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister and prison inmate, both got standing ovations as they arrived on stage to address the congress. Read more
Jean-Claude Trichet, right, with the parliament's economic committee chair, Sharon Bowles
The troika of bailout lenders has not been getting much love at the European Parliament’s ongoing inquiry into its activities in recent weeks. But the criticism is not just coming from MEPs in the throes of election fever. Predictions of the troika’s demise have come from some unexpected quarters, including current and former members of the European Central Bank executive board.
During the hearings, MEPs have particularly criticised the troika — made up of the International Monetary Fund, European Commission and the ECB — for its overly optimistic growth forecasts for bailout countries, which have been repeatedly revised downwards. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they have also suggested that the troika be subject to greater parliamentary oversight.
Hannes Swoboda, the Austrian social democrat who heads the centre-left caucus in the parliament, went further, saying the body is undemocratic, hostile to social rights and that the EU would be better off without it. Read more
It’s hard enough to get 27 member states to agree unanimously on a seven-year, €1,000bn budget – as anyone following the latest EU summit wrestling match can attest. But completing an EU budget deal requires one more thing: the consent of the European parliament.
Martin Schulz, the German social democrat and parliament president, reminded EU leaders and the Brussels press pack of this fact on Thursday evening. In a mildly foreboding press conference, Schulz re-stated his threat that leaders should be prepared for MEPs to block any budget proposal that strays too far from the €1,033bn proposal submitted more than a year ago by the European commission, the EU’s executive arm.
“Yes, we are prepared to make savings, but we are not prepared to have the European Union budget simply amputated,” he said.
Schulz declined to say whether the latest €960bn proposal being considered by Herman Van Rompuy, the European council president, crossed the line from extreme weight loss to amputation. But he was clearly displeased. Read more
Who were the biggest winners and biggest losers of the European Parliament elections?
Top of the winners’ list are surely Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France. Merkel’s Christian Democrats destroyed her Social Democrat coalition partners at the polls, and Sarkozy’s UMP party brushed aside the opposition French socialists. Merkel and Sarkozy will feel vindicated in their approach to the global economic crisis, particularly as regards the need to introduce tougher financial regulation (and to lecture central banks from time to time). Read more
The results are flooding in now, and it looks pretty clear that centre-right parties have won the 2009 European Parliament elections. They seem to have done especially well in the European Union’s six biggest countries: France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and (though official results aren’t out yet) the UK.
But spare a thought for some of the smallest and strangest parties that have also notched up a success or two. One is Sweden’s Pirate Party, which has shot to prominence because of its complaints about a crackdown on computer file-sharing among ordinary users of the internet. The Pirates have raided the Swedish political establishment and look set to carry off at least one seat in the EU parliament. Read more
Oh, dear, oh, dear. The European Parliament has just released its first official estimate of voter turnout in the elections to the legislature, and it’s a bit of a shocker. They reckon that a mere 43.01 per cent of eligible voters took the trouble to cast ballots. If so, that would be the lowest on record and the seventh consecutive decline in turnout since direct elections were introduced to the European Union’s legislature in 1979.
I have sometimes heard it said around Brussels that the EU shouldn’t beat itself up about the low turnout, because the picture is pretty much the same for US mid-term congressional elections, in which voter participation has hovered at the 40 per cent mark for the past 30 years. Does anyone question the legitimacy of US mid-term elections? Read more
It’s election day in Europe, but in certain respects the most important events are taking place outside the voting booths.
According to a RTE/Sunday Independent opinion poll in Ireland, supporters of the European Union’s Lisbon treaty will defeat opponents by a margin of 54 per cent to 28 per cent (with 18 per cent undecided) when the treaty is submitted to a second referendum, probably in October. Such a thumping victory would not only reverse but for all practical purposes bury the memory of Irish voters’ rejection of the treaty in June 2008. Read more