Already some months before the European elections from 22 to 25 May 2014, the sentence “these European elections will be different” were heard everywhere. And indeed the elections were different for several reasons, mainly because the vote of citizens counts more than ever, and every citizen could choose not only our representatives in the European Parliament, but also, indirectly, our candidate for the presidency of the European Commission.
The candidates of the main European political families to chair the Commission undertook to comply with the results of the elections. So they did it. After long post-electoral negotiations, Jean-Claude Juncker, the candidate of the European People’s Party, the political formation which reached the majority of Members of the EP in the elections, was proposed by the European Council to be voted in the Parliament. As a consequence of that, he was elected as the new President of the European Commission. As a result, the vote of EU citizens today counts more in the European Union.
Thanks to these changes, the image that citizens had of the European Union has improved. The first results of the last Eurobarometer (EB81), carried out during the first two weeks of June, show this positive trend.
According to this survey to the European public opinion, the EU has a very positive image for 35% of citizens, and it is only perceived negatively by 25%. However, it is noteworthy that exactly one year ago the same percentages were 30% and 29% respectively. Moreover, it is important to stress that the number of European citizens who think that their voice counts is increasing (42%, and 28% one year ago), whereas the figure of citizens who think the contrary drops to 52% (67% in spring 2013). Therefore, the perspectives are positive.
How is the European Union perceived by Spaniards compared to the rest of EU citizens? Only 28% of Spanish citizens think that their voice counts in the EU. There are just six countries which rank after Spain: Italians and Latvians consider to a lesser extent that their voice is heard in the EU (19%). On the other hand, Swedes (78%) and Danes (75%) show more confidence in the EU. Regarding the future, the 49% of Spaniards see positively the future of Europe, whereas the EU average stands at 56%.
In negative terms, 44% of Spanish citizens show pessimism in relation to the future of the EU, while only 38% of Europeans show a similar attitude. Nevertheless, trends present clearly a greater optimism than in the last years regarding the future of Europe in the Member States.
In relation to the perception of citizens towards the economic situation, even if the economy has still a way to go to achieve a similar assessment than before the crisis, trends are positive, and the optimistic vision of Europeans regarding economy has increased 8% in one year in spite of the fact that the gap North-South still exists, and Southern countries are still reluctant to judge positively the economic situation of their States. While 55% of Europeans approve the monetary union (60%), only 36% do not like it.
The political and economic situation of the EU affects to the identification of citizens with the EU and its institutions, but there is a difference between Member States. Although the European average of those who feel citizens of the EU stands at 65%, citizens from Malta (87%) and Luxembourg (85%) are those who identify most with the EU, whereas Italians (47%) and Bulgarians (46%) the least. Spaniards rank above the European average: 71% of Spanish people feel citizens of the European Union.
There is still much work to do not only to increase the participation of citizens in the European elections, but also so that EU citizens, in addition of feeling citizens of their respective countries, recognize at the same time their European identity. Positive steps forward are being made. The changes that took place to have “different elections” are a proof of that. After the 2014 European elections, the EU is more democratic, more transparent and the voice of every citizen counts more in the European Union.
Author: Rubén Ruiz Calleja
Source of the images: Audiovisual Services of the European Parliament (http://audiovisual.europarl.europa.eu/Default.aspx) and of the European Commission (http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/index.cfm?sitelang=en).