Tony Barber

Oh, the magic of democracy! Three European election results have lifted spirits in Brussels: Poland’s parliamentary vote of October 2007, the Serbian presidential ballot of February 3, and the first round of Cyprus’s presidential election last Sunday.

In each case, the winners stood for better relations with the European Union and a co-operative approach to solving European diplomatic problems. The losers were prickly, obstructive nationalists and the opposite of everything the EU likes to think it stands for.Whether these three results will be enough to wipe out the painful memory of the Dutch and French referendums of 2005 that killed off the EU’s experiment in constitution-building remains to be seen. But for many in Brussels, the message from Poland, Serbia and Cyprus is that democracy not only works, but strengthens the EU and the cause of European integration.

In other words, don’t be afraid of the voters – they can be trusted, in the end, to get it right. In Poland, the October election produced a whopping defeat for Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the prime minister who had achieved the reckless feat of simultaneously irritating Germany and Russia, Poland’s far more powerful neighbours. The winner was Donald Tusk and his pro-European, pro-business Civic Platform party.

In Serbia, the pro-European Boris Tadic scored a victory over the ultra-nationalist Tomislav Nikolic that was narrow but just enough to let the EU claim that Serb voters had chosen a European path over the road of darkness.

Most intriguing of all was Sunday’s result in Cyprus. Read more

Tony Barber

As someone with twin brothers of my own, not to mention a few memories of Ronnie and Reggie Kray, the organised crime twins who once terrorised London’s East End, I had mixed feelings about Poland’s Kaczynski twins, Lech and Jaroslaw, right from the start.

But now that Jaroslaw has suffered a crushing defeat in last Sunday’s Polish general election and must give up the premiership, a job he held for just 15 months, only the most heartless of bloggers would crow at his misfortune. Read more