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You are here: Home > Diritto di Voto / EU, Italy, Turin > EP2024_002: Preparing - #European #Parliament #elections

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Published on 2024-04-19 07:00:00 | words: 2221


Building a coalition as well as generating consensus requires knowing where each group of interests stands.

Obviously, in politics as well as in business, everybody will talk about higher purposes, a wonderful future, etc.

Nonetheless, as I have been part of many negotiations since the 1980s (including first political negotiations as an observer when I was still a teenager, as well as commercial negotiations), the "preparation" phase is where assessing of relative weights, interests, and the overall context matters.

Whenever in this phase, part of the constraints is what the "rules of the game" allow.

Sometimes, announces of joint efforts to get past the election threshold actually generate attrition, i.e. the "coalition" or "joint-venture" generates less value (votes, in this case) than the sum of its parts.

Therefore, the first point of order is not just presenting a list, but presenting a list that attracts enough votes to get past the threshold.

This might result in posturing (more about this also at a later stage) to attract a specific audience, or joining forces, whenever political parties have too small a following, with the specific purpose of getting a slice of the seats.

An often repeated consideration is that the European Union is not the USA- but actually the current way the votes are "weighted" after the election to allocate roles at the European Union level is closer to the USA Presidential electoral college approach.

European Parliament elections are carried out at the national level, but then weighted by "families".

In the USA, it is a routine that the electoral college follows the will of the voters, albeit some Presidents, through the electoral college system, have been elected while actually having won a smaller slice of the popular vote than their opponent (e.g. Bush 2000, Trump 2016), due to the way the system works.

Anyway, the so-called "faithless" or "unpledged" electors could choose otherwise, and there is a also a possibility, if none of the candidates got a majority, to have a vote to sort out the issue.

In Europe, the "Spitzenkandidat" approach was supposed to have each "family" choose who would they appoint, should they get a majority of the seats.

In reality, in 2019 within the European Union our European Parliament Members sidelined the "Spitzenkandidaten" that had presented to voters before the elections, and appointed a compromise candidate as President of the European Commission.

Or: we had elections with direct proportional democratic vote, but then behaved as if we had elected an electoral college not pledged to any candidate.

Which was yet another case of "Monnet" approach- the usual, ritual approach since the 1950s in Europe to push through solutions (and reforms) when there is not enough consensus.

I know that many will cringe, but to give a quick access to the concept described above, here are three links to Wikipedia:
_ Electoral College
_ Faithless Elector (which discusses also the "unpledged" ones)
_ Spitzenkandidat

In each one of them, you can get through the bibliography to get more information.


Yes, I wrote the "rationale" section really in March 2024, while preparing this series- as all the elements within the first half of the "rationale" for each article in this series.

The concept was to allow using the series as outlined also for other purposes, not just for elections: conceptually, what we are doing at the EU level is not too different from any multi-party coalition activities, be it in politics, business, or at a supranational level.

There is an element that many forget: once you become a candidate, you are "fair game" for those willing to understand better- as well as for muck-racking experts.

In this phase, we are still observing the initial dances to defined who is a candidate, and, more important, what they will do.

I already shared in the past as well as recently my dislike for the concept of having somebody as a "flag candidate" that gets the votes, gets the seat, and then...

... leaves it to somebody else.

It is yet another "Monnet distortion" of the democratic process, but it is quite common in some quarters.

Also, it is an extension of the concept that "political leaders are always right"- part of the characteristics of the Il paese dei leader, as I wrote within an article in 2017 (in Italian- but contains also a link to a follow-up article in both English and Italian).

Anyway, we need a reasonable dose of "Real-Politik".

Whatever is promised now, is for differentiating purposes, also if it is still useful to present the options as ideological choices (of course, "them" are those unreasonable).

While it might still resonate in implementation at the national, Member State level, currently it is not expected that any of the political families will have such a significant lead within the European Parliament to be able to elect its own candidate for the European Commission etc.

Getting candidates elected is the first step- and this could guide into the definition of the list of candidates.

Over the last couple of weeks, there have been some interesting evolutions.

And I am not referring to the usual Italian habit of "shipping to Brussels those that are becoming a nuisance to other leaders" (habit that we are not the only ones within the EU to have).

There is an evolving convergence of interests that is asking for a significant change within the way the EU behaves both internally and externally.

Almost two years ago, shared within an article yet another bit of commentary on the Quirinale Treaty, the one between France and Italy that was following the footsteps of the previous Treaty between France and Germany of few decades back, at the beginning of the European integration journey ( Going practical: contextualizing the #Quirinale #Treaty and sketching a way forward during a government crisis #Italy #France #NextGenerationEU #PNRR #SDG).

Few months ago, France and Germany instead made a more structured proposal on the evolution of the EU- that I commented here and there in few posts and articles.

More modestly, my focus was Accelerating European Union rights integration: from directive- to regulation-based harmonization (with cameos since 1990s), specifically starting from Europe's democratic deficit.

It is yet to be seen which party will actually cover which themes- but this week there was an additional element, reports on what Mario Draghi said.

And, of course, on Tuesday and Wednesday in Italy he was invoked as a potential EU Commission candidate alternative to the incumbent.

I know that many still praise the impact of NextGenerationEU and its associated national plans such as the Italian PNRR.

Often they forget the financial structure and commitments embedded in that initiative- both at the national level, within each EU Member State, and as an aggregate, and that all those buildings and infrastructure developed thanks to those resources will need to be .

It is curious that two potential candidates for the European Commission, both Italian, both former President of the Council of Minister of Italy, were assigned a "research mission" on the future of the EU, from different perspectives.

Anyway, this is what Enrico Letta and Mario Draghi received.

Over the next few weeks, probably themes within the reports from those activities will be useful also to justify developing a convergence after the elections.

Personally, I still am a bit skeptical about tinkering and announces that then, when implemented, result in more "Monnet moments".

If you had read newspapers from EU countries for few days over the last couple of weeks, you could be surprised to see how the EU appears mainly for its weaknesses and its lack of strategic focus.

Even Mario Draghi results were announced focusing on how the EU apparently is unable to find its own way and its own priorities, while USA and China develop their own (where frankly the EU is mainly an aging, shrinking, but still rich target market), and how, just in case, each Member State is apparently pushing through its own external policy agenda.

Formally, the report from Mario Draghi is due in June but, as this week was due the presentation of Enrico Letta report, commentary started going out, and Mario Draghi statements were repeatedly quoted, as in this article:
"Draghi spoke about this today [Tuesday April 16th] at an event in Brussels and explained that it is necessary to intervene soon and in a profound way with 'a radical change,' not least because 'we cannot afford the luxury of waiting for a change in the Treaties.' Letta, a few days ago, also in Brussels at another event, had said that 'my report will convey a dramatic sense of urgency, inaction is no longer an answer, let's avoid taking >>baby steps<<.' The assumptions are on point. So are they when Letta explains that 'we need big players,' while Draghi says that 'fragmentation is holding us back,' so what he proposes in his report 'is a radical change because that is what we need. Ultimately, we will have to achieve the transformation of the entire European economy.' In short, we need to scale up, and the sectors on which both insist are telecommunications, energy, capital, and defence. As Letta puts it, citing the United States to which Draghi also often refers; 'there the single market works, while ours still has difficulties, fragmentation... we have to invent a European industrial policy.' "

If you read the proposals from France and Germany, and listened to those statements this week, you can see expect more distance than actually is there- as also the proposals included suggestions on how to avoid having to really get through the "waiting for a change in the Treaties".

Almost two years ago shared in Let's be serious about European Union integration and its future #NextGenerationEU a list of doubts (hence, the "Let's be serious" part of the title).

As of today, there are 67 articles in this website referencing "industrial policy europe": and in almost each one of them was actually sharing feedback on workshops, conferences, papers, announces on that theme.

Well, so it seems that we Europeans talk a lot about an "industrial policy for Europe", but then prefer to attempt to optimize our national results: be it telecommunications, defences, agriculture, we prefer to spread resources thin across the whole EU, including by introducing social engineering elements to actively promote or impede altering of the balance negotiated at length in Brussels between all the 27 Member States.

It will be even more interesting to see how what Enrico Letta will formally say before the elections, Mario Draghi formally later but informally until the elections...

...will influence the political platforms (and political convergence of the "political families") that will be presented to voters.

For the time being, a positive debate ("what we want to do") is still largely missing- but it is still the time when lists of candidates are built looking with an eye at the news, and with an eye at "sentiment analysis".

I look forward in the next article, in two weeks, to be able to share some feed-back on policy proposals.

For now, we are also waiting to see how the two conflicts in the neighborhood will develop, as both, even if ended by June, could actually become a political battling ground, when it will be time to rebuild Gaza and Ukraine- and preparing the integration of the latter within the European Union.

Actually, in some quarters, probably keeping both on low intensity until after the elections would be easier politically to manage and communicate about than having to discuss before the elections about the real post-conflict costs of both.

As there is no way to escape: geography (and also commitments since both conflicts started) are demanding that the EU take a significant role (and financial footing) in rebuilding both- and this will affect the real, implementation choices after the elections.