The Commission expresses satisfaction at the way the elections have taken place, mobilising citizens and political forces across the continent in strict compliance with the rules of democracy.
As regards the rate of participation, the elections send two very important signals: first, participation by citizens in the countries that were members of the Union at 1 May is stable, with encouraging signs in some countries (e.g. the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Finland and Italy) where there has been a significant increase in the number of voters. Secondly, these elections reveal a serious problem of participation in a large number of member countries that joined the Union last May. With two clear exceptions (Cyprus and Malta), plus two other cases of countries where the situation can be regarded as acceptable (Latvia and Lithuania), the rate of participation in the new Member States is highly unsatisfactory.
A huge effort to mobilise resources and energy is needed to put Europe back at the centre of political debate in these Member States. This is a responsibility that the European institutions have no intention of shirking. I call on the Governments of these countries to put resources and enthusiasm into this task, which is clearly a top priority for the next five years.
But the main political point is that if Europe does not become the arena where decisions that have a direct impact on the life of Europeans are taken, one can hardly expect to involve people convincingly. In the work before us in the European Council at the end of the week, I expect the Heads of State and Government to take note of this fact and to draw the institutional consequences, which need to be addressed urgently.
Much more than in the past these elections have featured the emergence of groups and parties organised around platforms and slogans that are hostile to European integration.
Despite the excessive media exposure that some of these groups have received, they have succeeded in winning not more than 10% of the seats in the European Parliament. In other words, 90% of the political forces represented in Parliament are distinguished by their support for European integration.
The organisation of these forces and their participation in the democratic process are positive if they bring a clearer democratic debate that involves people more. Such a debate on the role and benefits of the Union for all citizens is something the Commission wants and supports.
The Commission will continue publicly to oppose the distorted views that often lie behind populist, Eurosceptic and anti-European campaigns.
Lastly, the link between the European election results and the national political context is neither negative nor unusual in democracy. This weekend’s results prove that the European elections exert a direct influence on political life in the Member States. The fact that EU politics is not divorced from national politics is a good thing since they are two sides of the same coin.