This is the leading theme of the conference that FEPS together with Italiani Europei and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Büro in Rome are holding together on Monday, 7th April 2014 in the capital of Italy. The event is expected to gather academics, representatives of civil society and politicians; and as such, it is already the second activity of the common cycle “Democratic Legitimacy and Political Leadership in the European Union”, which feeds in the deliberations on EU-democracy and europarties one of the pillars of the FEPS Next Left Research Programme.
With less than a hundred days remaining till the European citizens will go to the polling stations, there are many prognoses fueling the political debates. On one side, there is a strong feeling that the voters will demand a change of direction for Europe; on the other there is a fear that they will potentially turn to protest and populist forces. Hence there are many speculations regarding the possible result, as also potential for any eventual future coalition within the context of the European Parliaments and subsequently while completing the election for the President of the European Commission. This position carries now more than an institutional meaning. It is symbolic – not only in terms of mirroring an eventual shift in terms of political leadership, but also (depending on the negotiations’ outcome) offering a blueprint for a new balance between the intergovernmental and federal pillars of the EU.
The elections themselves will constitute the first chance for the citizens take the position on how to resume the European integration trajectory while still most evidently searching the ways out of the crisis. They are also the first ones during which, as hinted before, Lisbon Treaty will be used to a greater extent. There is therefore a hope that it will be an opportunity for the europarties to assume their new position, entering actively into the campaigns. With personalisation related already presented top candidates one hand, and more financial and structural support them on the other, the europarties may hope to assume more of political leadership in that context. The clearer cleavages in between pan-European visions can be a factor in politicising Europe and making the participation in them more meaningful to the voters. Empowered with their mandate, the europarties may stand a chance to enter into a new stage of development and in parallel transform the vote from the 2nd order election onto another level.
These are all the hopes, which stand a chance to be fulfilled – however the electoral map still looks truly complicated. The progressives, who identify themselves as a pro-European movement, face therefore a very difficult task. They need to convey a message of change, while at the same time not leaving a space for the anti-Europeanism that flourish currently on the wave of the criticism of the Union. They need to formulate a strong agenda, while not giving in the rhetoric of “TINA” (There is No Alternative). And then they also need to claim ownership of the policy issue, while enforcing a different style of policy making and politicizing the European political sphere herewith.
These themes frame the programme, which will feature two panels and a closing, political session. The two debating rounds will be based on papers drafted respectively by Dr. Eleonora Poli, Research Fellow at IAI and Dr. Ania Skrzypek, FEPS Senior Research Fellow. These two contributions will be opening the discussions, within which the first respondents are respectively two FEPS Next Left Working Group Members: Dr. André Krouwel, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Free University of Amsterdam and Dr. David Bailey, Lecturer at the Department of Political Science and International Studies School of Government and Society of University of Birmingham.
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