by Nassos Stylianou and John Burn-Murdoch
Between May 22 and 25, some 400 million people will be eligible to vote in the European Parliament elections. But how many of them will actually turn up at the ballot box?
Following 2009 treaty changes, the European Parliament will for the first time have a more direct role in electing the president of the European Commission , the EU’s executive arm, giving May’s election added significance.
Despite the increasing influence of the European Parliament, the percentage of those voting to elect its members has fallen in every election, from 62 per cent in 1979’s inaugural direct elections through to 43 per cent in 2009.
At the last European elections five years ago, less than half of those eligible voted in 18 of the 27 member states. In six countries, the turnout was below 30 per cent. In one country, Slovakia, less than one in five of those eligible voted.
Turnout in Germany, France and Italy – founding members of the common market – has eroded by more than 20 percentage points since then. In the UK, turnout was already low at 32.3 per cent in 1979 and levels have remained consistently below 40 per cent ever since.
However, several of the newer member states such as Estonia, Latvia and Bulgaria recorded a surge in turnout in 2009.
Elena is a 26 year old Italian woman with a degree in child psychology who has been working in London as a nursery teacher for nearly a year. She moved to the UK after months spent looking in vain for a job in Tuscany, a region where the unemployment rate, at 7.9%, is well below the Italian average of 11.3%.
But Elena is not counted among more than 16,000 Italians that moved to the UK, according to official statistics updated for the FT by the Italian Ministry of Interior. These numbers are based on the registry of Italians living abroad (AIRE). Elena has a vague knowledge of this register but decided not to sign up for fear of losing important rights and services (including healthcare) in her home country. Read more
Croatia today becomes latest nation to enter the European Union. This itself is a remarkable achievement as less than 20 years ago, Croatia was a party to a fratricidal war that tried to break the former Yugoslavia into ethnically pure geographic regions and included the mass murder of civilians of other ethnic groups.
Although it is now long over, the EU’s newest member still faces considerable economic and demographic challenges to bring it in line with EU norms. Life expectancy at birth for men, for example, lags the rest of the EU by nearly four years and its GDP per capita is only 61 per cent of the EU average.
Moreover, it cannot count on a growing population to boost its economic output; its fertility rate at 1.4 per woman is not only below the level needed to keep population stable, it is lower than the EU average of 1.57 births per woman.
Source: Thomson Reuters Datastream Read more
Following on from 10 charts (part 1), which included the first five challenges facing the next Italian government, here are the next five as we head towards Italy’s general election.
Corruption is a plight for the country that together with bureaucracy prevents an efficient allocation of resources and discourages investment. Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index ranked Italy 72nd out of 182 countries evaluated in 2012, three positions lower than the previous year. The perception of corruption of Italians is particularly high for the political system, which is one of the main reasons for the country’s political instability and poor governability.
Italy goes to the polls on February 24 and 25, after Mario Monti, the country’s technocratic prime minister, announced his resignation in December. He is attempting to safeguard his legacy by standing as a campaigning politician, but Mr Monti faces strong competition.
This interactive graphic shows Italy’s economic standing and its regional disparities and what the newly elected government will have to grapple with once it comes to power.
The UK Department for Transport is under fire over the cancellation of a deal to award a rail franchise, because of “technical flaws” in the bidding process.
The incident brings the British railway system back into the headlines, where it has often been because of contested fare rises. Complaints about the railways may be something of a national sport, but according to a survey published last month by Eurobarometer, the European Commission body that analyses public opinion, people in the UK are more satisfied with their national and regional rail system than most of their European counterparts. Read more