Category: How does it work?

The 2014 european elections

The 2014 european elections

Critical issues:


Indeed, this parliament shares the legislative power of the Union with the European Council.

It is currently composed of 766 MEPs (members of parliament). The next parliament will be run by only 751 deputies. These elections will be held through direct universal suffrage and proportional representation. The EU countries have a number of seats proportionally to the size of their population. The fact that voters directly elect their deputies makes the parliament a very powerful institution. MEPs will be responsible for approving -or not- the candidate for the European Commission presidency who’s responsibility is the executive power of the Union.


The main question: abstention 


The European elections have always been known for having a higher abstention rate than the average…


Abstention rate from 1979 to 2009 :


European elections could unfortunately reach a new abstention record in 2014.



We can notice that, for the first time, the extreme right wing party, the National Front (FN), could get a better score than the two traditional parties : the socialist party (PS) and the traditional right wing party (UMP).


The results of this election will be announced on May 25.

Voting is not only a right, it is a civic duty.

“To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.” 

– Louis L’Amour



The president of the commission is named by the European council which represents the 28 countries of the EU. The appointment must be approved by the European parliament which also approves of the 26 other commissioners. The president is elected for 5 years, which are renewable.
Since the creation of the treaty of Lisbon, the European council has had to propose to the parliament a president taking into account the election in the European parliament.
For the European election of 2014, the parliament decided that each political group could present an only candidate.
Currently and since 2004, José Manuel Barroso has been the president of the commission.
So, there are representatives of each party to the election:
José Bové :

Has been chosen to represent the « greens » in this election for the president of the commission. He is currently the vice-president of the agriculture commission and of sustainable development in the parliament.
Jean-Claude Juncker :

He is applying for the presidency and he represents the PPE, a right wing party. He was the first president of the euro-group during 8 years and he was the first minister of the Luxembourg for more than 20 years.
Franziska Zeller:

Born on November 22nd, 1981 in Wilhelm Pieck-Stadt-Guben (Brandenburg), in the former East Germany, Franziska Keller is a MEP of the Green Party (Die Grünen). After the primary organized by his party, Keller is selected (and her partner José Bové) as a candidate of the party for the presidency of the European Commission.
Franziska Keller was elected to Parliament in 2009 on the list of the German Greens (Die Grünen). At the age of 28, “Ska Keller” entered the Strasbourg assembly room where she became a member of the Committee on International Trade and the Delegation to the Parliamentary Committee EU-Turkey.

Martin Schulz:

Martin Schulz is the President of the European Parliament and the European Socialist Party candidate in 2014 as President of the European Commission.
He was born on December 20th, 1955. From the age of 19 he joined the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). Ten years later in 1984, he was elected to City Council Würselen, then mayor of the city at the age of 31, a position he held until 1998.
His European career began in 1994 when he was elected as an MEP (Member of the European Parliament). Since then, he has constantly been re-elected, and is gaining importance within the institution. He continues his career following the same idea :” Parliament should be the same level as the Commission and the European Council debating and controlling their proposals”
Martin Schulz wants to politicize the choice of the President of the Commission, and allow citizens to choose “between a European center-right and center-left Europe, a liberal and a socialist Europe, to help its democratization.”

Alexis Tsipras
Alexis Tspiras

He was born in Athens in 1974. He began his political career as an Activist of the Communist Youth during the years of college and high school. Two years later, in 2006, he was a candidate in the municipal election in Athens. He came in third with a score of 10.5%.
Finally he became president of SYNASPISMOS between 2008 and for the first time he entered the national parliament the following year. In 2009, at the age of 35, he became head of the left coalition SYRIZA.
It was during the general elections in May 2012 that the name Alexis Tsipras became familiar to the ears of Europeans. With 16.78% of the votes (and 52 Members of the Greek Parliament), SYRIZA became the first left force. The Greek president asked him to make a coalition government but nor New Democracy or SYRIZA or the other succeed. In June 2012, new election, 26.89% of the vote, for a total of 71 representatives in parliament in Athens.
On December 15th, 2013 Alexis Tsipras was named candidate of the European Left to the Presidency of the European Commission. His most important priorities are to save Greece from the economic crisis and a moratorium concerning debt service.

Guy Verhofstadt – Belgian


Guy Verhofstadt has been a MEP since 2009. Jurist by training, he was nicknamed “Baby Thatcher” because of his age and his radical positions. He is the former Belgian Prime Minister candidate in 2014 for the post of President of the European Commission.
He was the favourite to succeed Romano Prodi in 2004 and was competing in front of José Manuel Barroso in 2010 He was supported by the French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder But he was faced with a british refusal because of his opposition concerning the war in Iraq. European Personality leading, he campaigned for a federal Europe.
His commitment to Europe was noticed when he launched in 2001 in Laeken, under the Belgian Presidency of the EU, the process leading to the Constitutional Treaty.

For the first time in the history of the EU, it is the voters who will nominate, through the elected parliamentarians, the future President of the Commission, who will come from the European party winning won the election … The heads of State and Government will take into account the proposals of parliament but it will always be the ones who appoint, after lengthy negotiations, the successor to the Portuguese conservative Jose Manuel Barroso.
Currently, Jean-Claude Juncker seems to be the favourite .

The European District in Brussels


The European district in Brussels is a former residential area but historical houses have been destroyed and replaced by glass-covered buildings since the member states chose Brussels as the primary seat of the European Institutions in 1997. Indeed, the city gathers in one district most of the European Institutions. It’s in this district that all the decisions about Europe are made by the politicians. Around the Schuman roundabout, the buildings shelter offices for politicians and assembly rooms for their meetings.
The Schuman roundabout and the Schuman Avenue are the heart of the European district in Brussels, but the district stretches around Leopold Park and Cinquantenaire Park (East of the Schuman roundabout)

We visited this area on our first day in Brussels, on a sunny Monday afternoon after our long trip from Dijon.
We met our guide at the Schuman roundabout and had a walk in the district.

First, we saw the Council of the European Union (which we mustn’t mix with the Council of Europe which is in Strasbourg) : this building is the one where the European summits take place. For every decision, ministers gather during the Council of ministers and then diplomats make decisions.
For the anecdote, the top floor of the building is a gastronomic restaurant : there are 28 cooks and each one of them represents one country of the European Union. The top chef changes every six months as the president of the Council.
On the opposite side of the roundabout, the Berlaymont building rises. The Berlaymont houses the headquarters of the European commission. The goal of the European Commission is to draft proposals for laws for the Union. The proposals are discussed and approved (or not) by the Council of Ministers and the European parliament. Then, the European Commission makes sure that the member states implement these policies.
This place used to be occupied by a elite school for girls only. The new building of the European Commission was completed in 1969 after five years of construction. Then, the building was renovated : the works lasted for 12 years and cost a lot to Belgium ; that’s why the building was nicknamed « Berlaymonster ».
Next to Leopold Park is the European Parliament whose goal is to accept or not the laws proposed by the Commission. Every five years, representatives of member states are elected by all the citizens of the European Union. The building is also called « Caprice des Dieux » because of its oval shape that alludes to the French cheese but also because of the huge cost of its construction.
In the district, infrastructures are being built in a European architecture style : one with wooden windows from different countries, it is a kind of patchwork on the building. Moreover, we noticed an old religious building with an old face art. but we learnt that inside, it is all new and in concrete (that cannot be seen from outside) : it is called façadism. The Museum of the European Union history which is in construction will also be in façadism style.
The European district also gathers embassies of the member states : for instance, we saw the ones of Netherlands, Austria … Moreover, around the institutions, the flags of all the member states are lined up in the alphabetic order in the language of the country and are flapping in the wind.
The European District 4

The European Directives.


What are the European Union directives ?

A directive is a legal act decided by the Council of the European Union, Commission and Parliament.

The EU directives lay down some results that must be achieved in every Member State. The national authorities have to adapt their laws to reach these goals, but are free to decide how to do so. The directives may concern one or more Member States, or all of them.

Each directive specifies the date by which the national laws must be adapted – giving national authorities enough freedom to act according to the various national situations.
The directives are used to bring different national laws into line with each other, and are particularly common in matters affecting the operations concerning the single market.

The not-transposition of a directive can be the object of a procedure of failure before the Court of justice of the European Union. The Member States must inform the Commission of the measures taken for the implementation of the directive.

In order to avoid that, the directives are published in the Official journal of the European Union under the title “Acts whose publication is not a condition of their applicability”. 

The Directives come into effect on the set date or 20 days after their publications.

The directives are often used to help enforce free trade, free movement and competition rules across the EU. They can also be used to establish common social policies, and thus can affect employment issues, labour laws, working conditions,  health and safety. They can therefore  affect businesses significantly.



For example, the Waste Water Directive sets out minimum standards for the treatment of water and sewage, but member states can, and often do, apply higher standards than those minimum requirements set out in the directive. Since the signature of the Treaty of Rome, more than 3,500 directives have been adopted by the European institutions.






The European Council (referred to as a European Summit) is the highest political body of the European Union. It is made of all the heads of state or government of the Union’s member states presided by the President of the European Commission. The country which holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union also leads its assemblies.

The Council has no formal executive or legislative powers. It is an institution that deals with very important issues and any decisions made are “a major impetus in defining the general political guidelines of the European Union”. The Council meets at least twice a year; usually in the Justus Lipsius building, the district of the Council of the European Union (Consilium) of Brussels

Currently, the president of the European Council is Herman Van Rompuy.

The Council of the European Union (sometimes just called the Council and sometimes still referred to as the Council of Ministers) is the third of the seven institutions of the European Union as listed in the Treaty on the European Union.

It is part of the essentially bicameral EU legislature, representing the executives of the EU member states, the other legislative body being the European Parliament. The Council is composed of several configurations of twenty-eight national ministers (one per state). The exact membership of the configuration depends upon the topic; for example, when discussing agricultural policy the Council is formed by the twenty-eight national ministers whose portfolio includes this policy area (with the related European Commissioner contributing but not voting).

The Presidency of the Council rotates every six months among the governments of EU member states, with the relevant ministers of the respective country holding the Presidency at any given time ensuring the smooth running of the meetings and setting the daily agenda. The continuity between presidencies is provided by an arrangement under which three successive presidencies, known as Presidency trios, share common political programmes. The Foreign Affairs Council (national foreign ministers) is however chaired by the Union’s High Representative. The Council is administered by the Council’s General Secretary.

Its decisions are made by qualified majority voting in most areas, unanimity in others. Usually when it operates unanimously, it only needs to consult the Parliament. However, in most areas the ordinary legislative procedure applies meaning both Council and Parliament share legislative and budgetary powers equally, meaning both have to agree for a proposal to be passed. In a few limited areas the Council may initiate new EU law itself.





As the European Union seeks to pull through the economic crisis and EU leaders reflect on what direction to take in future, these are the most important European elections to date.


They do not only allow voters to pass judgment on EU leaders’ efforts to tackle the eurozone crisis and to express their views on plans for closer economic and political integration; they are also the first elections since the Lisbon Treaty of 2009 that give the European Parliament quite a few important new powers.


One major new development introduced by the Treaty is that, when the EU member states nominate the next president of the European Commission to succeed José Manuel Barroso in autumn 2014, they will – for the first time – have to take into account the European election results. The new Parliament must endorse this candidate: it ‘elects’ the Commission president, in the words of the Treaty. This means voters now have a clear say in who takes over the head of EU government.


The new political majority that will emerge from the elections will also shape the European legislation over the next five years in areas ranging from the single market to civil liberties, trade to foreign affairs. The Parliament – the only directly elected EU institution – is now a linchpin of the European decision-making system and has an equal say with national governments on nearly all EU laws.


To be clearer, in daily life, these elections will have an impact on agriculture, fishing, economy or ecology.


We have to take into account the high rate of euroscepticism before the elections: many people might not vote because they don’t believe the EU is a good idea.







MEPS TO BE ELECTED IN 2014: the number of MEP’s depends on the number of inhabitants in each country.

  • 550,000km²


  • 65.6million



In France, the list of MEP’s shall not be affiliated with some political party. The European Parliament has its own. (7 parties).

  • The European Parliament


A bit of history…

On May 9th, 1950, Robert Schuman, the French minister of Foreign Affairs, proposed to the European countries to pool their productions of coal and steel in order to establish a continent governed by peace. From that moment, Europe began to move towards integration. After the creation of the EEC in 1957, the European institutions shared their power into : the Commission (supranational element), the Council of Ministers who represented the members of the European Union,  and the Parliamentary Assembly who only had an advisory role. But, with the single European Act in 1986 and lately, with the treaty of Lisbon in 2007,  the power of the European Parliament increased. The goal was to make the mechanisms of the European Union more efficient and transparent.

What’s the role of the Parliament ?

Let’s sum up shortly what the role of the European Parliament is, and why it is such an important institution. The European Parliament represents the citizens of the different countries of  European Union. The 766 deputies are elected by the citizens through direct universal suffrage. Once they are elected, they are in charge of the adoption of laws and budget for five years with the 27 ministers of the Council of Union. But, in case of non-agreement for the no compulsory expenditures, the European Parliament has the last word.

In the Parliament, there are different groups. All of them have different ideas and they try to establish laws which correspond to their views of the European Union. The majority of the deputies come from Germany, France, Italy and the United-Kingdom. Moreover, the deputies approve of the president and of the composition of the Commission. It can force the latter to resign with the motion of censure. It was the case with the « Santer Commission » in March 1999. But, the European Parliament has limits : it is not in charge of the economic and tax policies in the Euro area and of the European  security and defence policy. The European Parliament  lies in Strasbourg. That’s where the monthly plenary sessions takes place. Commissions and the other sessions take place in Bruxelles.

What were the main projects directed by the European Parliament ?

Through its veto, the European Parliament could reject the « Patentability of biotechnological » inventions in 1995 and the « Directive on port services » in 2003 and 2005. There were a lot of actions like these directed by the European Parliament.

To put it in a nutshell, we can say that the European Parliament is important because it is the representation of the citizens of the European Union and each citizen ought to vote in order to support  a European Union with a budget and laws which correspond to his expectations. Unfortunately, we can notice that the elections of the European deputies seem to be less and less important to the electors because the abstention rate keeps on increasing year after year.


  • The Eurodeputies

Today, the European Parliament is composed of 766 eurodeputies elected by direct universal suffrage for  five year in the 28 Member States of European Union. But after the next election, which will take place the 25th of may,  thye will be only 751 to be elected.

How are allocated the seats in the European Parliament ?

The number of seats allocated by country depend of its number of inhabitants.. The countries with the most important population elect more deputies than the others.  So, Germany, the most populous country of European Union will send 96 deputies to the European  Parlement after the elections of 2014, the France will send 74 deputies, UK and Italia 73 each one. Conversely, the less populous  countries, like Cyprus, Estonia, Luxembourg and Malta, will send only 6 deputies to the parliament.

The importance of political groups :

In the hemicycle, deputies don’t sit randomly. They are, in the most of cases, attached to multinational organizations called : Political groups. It’s through the membership of a political groupe, that is organized the work of a deputy. Even if a little part of them, in the most of cases from extreme right, sit as non-registered because they did’nt form a group.

But the membership to a political group don’t prevent the deputies to vote individually and to express his own opinion.

The main role of the deputy :

His goal is to vote the law propositions of the European commision, and, if it necessary, to propose some amendments. According to his political groups, his personal convictions, his country membership, each eurodeputy approves or rejects the amendments or the whole law proposition.  The deputies can also propose an initiative report (they suggest to the European commission to legislate one subject), or ask for a consultation (the Parliament give its opinion about the legislative propositions that it can’t vote before that the council adopt it).

But the most qualified and experimented deputies can access to most important functions in the parliament like group president,  president of parliamentary committee, coordinator… Martin Schulz was the president of the group of socialist democrats before being president of the European Parliament.


To complete his mission, the eurodeputy has to both be present in his district, sit in commission at Bruxelles and to go to Strabourg, one or two times a month, for plenary sessions. All the deputies are at least member  of one commission. There is 20 commissions in European Parliament which gather from 24 to 76 deputies and got its own office and secretariat, each one is specialized in a particular domain.

  • The political groups

The system can work in spite of the big diversity of opinions and nationalities which characterizes it, members of parliament always got organized in ” political transnational groups “, each of them consisting of members of parliament stemming from various countries, but having similar political convictions. To cooperate closely with members of parliament of the other countries sharing almost the same political beliefs as them is, for the European Members, the best way to reach their goals at the European level.

The European Parliament counts nowadays seven political groups, have to consist of at least 25 members of parliament elected in at least a quarter of Member states, covering all the political trends and representing more than 160 national parties.

The groups take on a crucial importance for the activities of the Parliament. Their role is essential when it is a question of releasing majorities of vote concerning the legislation, the budget and the other questions. They establish the agenda of the Parliament and play a decisive role in the election of the President of the Parliament and the other holders of mandate.

It never happened, in the history of the Parliament, that a single group holds the absolute majority. That is why, to adopt the legislation of the Union and to approve the budget, the groups have to try hard to obtain the necessary majority by negotiation and compromise. The mutual concessions between the groups are essential, knowing obviously that the weight of a group depends on its size. It is the day of the European elections that the voters will decide on the balance of power between the groups, essentially by the 8 big European countries.

The Composition of the European parliament until May 2014:

–              EPP-ED : Group of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and European Democrats, 265 seats

–              PES : Group of the Party of European Socialists, 184 seats

–              ALDE : Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, 84 seats

–              GREENS/EFA : Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, 55 seats

–              ECR : European Conservatives and Reformists Group, 54 seats

–              GUE/NGL : Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left, 35 seats

–              EFD : Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group, 32 seats

–              NI : Non-attached, 27 seats



More explanations about some parties :


The European People’s Party (EPP) is the largest and most influential group in the European parliament with 265 deputies. They want to continue to build the achievement of the European Union and make a continue effort to foster good relations with European’s voices is heard throughout the world. Their priorities are:

–              Protecting the euro: push for more financial governance in Europe, obliging member states to either keep strict budget discipline, or else to be sanctioned. And advocate more pooling of financial resources among the member states.

–              A free but responsible financial market which operate within a clear legal framework.

–              A learning Europe to challenge competitors: educating and training are crucial, and Europe’s education system must be state of the art, from primary education right up to universities and beyond.

–              Cheaper flights : transparent prices, introduce rules obliging carriers to take the shortest available route, while making air traffic control and air navigation systems more efficient to short travel time and decrease fuel consumption

–              A travelling healthcare scheme

–              New rights for online consumers
–              A fast and secure internet connection with a right to privacy guaranted


               The Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) is the third largest political group in the European Parliament, with 76 deputies. They seek to create a strong and secure European Union with high standards of public health, consumer protection and human rights. Their aim is to build and safeguard a free, fair and open society. Their ambition lies in a political Europe that people can understand and which responds to their needs, a Europe that does not follow others, but takes the lead. Their priorities for the next 5 years are : fighting discrimination, promoting equality; taking responsibility about currency, defending democracy, leading in the world; greening our economy; preserving our planet; tackling recession, generating new jobs.


The European United Left and the Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) is a green group, with 35 deputies. It fights to ensure European Union decisions will make real difference in stopping global warming and climate change. Their priorities are:

–              Ending the crisis : calls for policies that protect our social services ans help to create new jobs

–              Job creation : works for a new direction in EU jobs policy and fight policies that attack workers’ rights, pay and working conditions

–              Equal opportunities for everyone

–              Nuclear disarmament, both inside and outside Europe

–              Data protection and freedom : fight shady and unfair data collection attempts by governments for “law enforcement” purposes

–              Free health care

The European Commission

The European Commission is, with the Council of the European Union , the European Parliament and the European Council , one of the main institutions of the European Union. The European Commission was created in 1958 with the Treaty of Rome and it is one of the most important European institutions because it’s a permanent representation of the member states.

Its president is designated by the Council of Europe and approved by the Parliament. The other member states propose their candidates and the president has to choose one candidate per country to work in a specific domain. Currently there are 28 commissioners representing the member states of the Union: 27 members and the president. The five-year-mandate of the current Commission, whose chairman is the Portuguese José Manuel Barroso, will end on October, 31st  2014.

The Commission gathers every week and each meeting is based on the Commission work program.

It is the executive body of the EU. It represents the interests of the Union as a whole ( and not the special interests of EU countries ).

Its headquarters are in Brussels in the Berlaymont building, Belgium. It also has offices in Luxembourg and “representations” in each EU Member State. ▪ 23,000 people work at the Commission , in services and Directorates-General ( DG ) . Each DG is responsible for an area of ​​action and is under the responsibility of an executive director, himself placed under the direct authority of the President of the Commission. The DG develops legislative proposals to be adopted by the college of Commissioners at their weekly meeting. The Commission also manages a number of executive agencies. Furthermore, there are several parties which are the communist party (35 seats) the socialist and democrat party (195 seats), the green free alliance party (58 seats) the liberal democrat party (84 seats) the European popular party (274 seats) the European conservative and reformist party (56 seats) and the European freedoms and democracy party (33 seats). There are also 33 seats which belong to the non-attached persons.


The main functions of the Commission are to propose and implement Community policies. But it also deals with other important tasks such as:

– managing and implementing EU policies and the budget;

– defining the objectives and priorities for EU action;

– representing the EU on the international scene (negotiating trade agreements between the EU and other countries)

– submitting legislative proposals to the Parliament and to the Council

– ensuring the implementation of EU legislation (with the European Court of Justice). Moreover, the commission has to protect the union’s general interest, take initiative, try to make life fairer & insure that companies respect the rules. For instance it tries to reduce the rate of unemployment in Europe and to build infrastructures. In addition it develops humanitarian aid, climate and immigration policies. In fact, The Commission tries to give to the 500 000 000 European people a better life.


There are 2 important principles which are based on proportionality and subsidiarity. It means that the UE act at the Union scales and not at States scale. The role is to achieve common objectives. That’s why the members have to respect the principles of impartiality and transparency by taking distance from their nationality & their political ideas. The Commission is like a team in which, efficiency is very important to reach goals, so the countries have to work together and to check that all the States implement the decisions taken.

The president chooses the commissioners ( and defines their areas of expertise ) among the candidates nominated by the Member States . The list of Commissioners dépends on the approval of the Council of Ministers and the Parliament. If the Parliament approves of the list , the new Commission is formally appointed by the Board.

The principle of collective responsibility (which is represented by the College of Commissioners, which is collectively responsible before the Parliament) rests upon decisions which are made collectively. So the president has a very important role because he is the one who guides the decisions: he defines the policy guidance, assigns a portfolio to each Commissioner (internal market, regional policy, transport, environment, agriculture, trade, etc. . .) and may  modify their function at any time.

To take these decisions, all the commissioners have to give their opinion; but they must take distance from their own political ideas, and they have to accept to share political responsibility.


The Commissioners submit proposals to the College of Commissioners, which is collectively responsible before the Parliament , and which deliberates usually by consensus. The college can also make a vote on the request of a commissioner. In this case , decisions are made with a simple majority .

Collegiality guarantees:

⁃the quality of the decisions, since all the commissioners need to be consulted for each proposal;

⁃the independence of the institution, since its decisions are adopted without partisan pressures;

⁃ the sharing of political responsibility by all commissioners , even when decisions are made by the majority.
The commissioners meet once a week, usually on Wednesdays in Brussels. They may also meet in Strasbourg during the plenary session of the Parliament. The agenda for the meetings is prepared according to the   work program of the Commission . Each agenda item is introduced by the Commissioner responsible for the area concerned. Then the college makes a collective decision. These meetings and debates are not open to the public, but orders of the day and reports are published. Indeed, there are 900 accredited journalists.
The Commission also meets when emergencies or major issues are discussed by the Council of Ministers.


To conclude, the European Commission is the one which gives the impulsion and which enforces the rules. It’s like the starting and the ending point of every decision. Besides, what is discussed in the European Commission today is very important because it is what will happen later : all the décisions made can change many lives and that’s why it is essential not to forget the importance of the European Commission.

However it’s sometimes too long to make decisions and it’s a problem for the efficiency of the institutions because they’re all linked!