From 22 to 25 May, European citizens headed to the polls in order to elect a new European Parliament, which – over the course of the next five years – will influence legislation coming from Brussels.
Provisional results are as follows: 213 MEPs for the Group of the European People's Party (EPP), 191 for the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), 64 for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), 52 for The Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA), 46 for the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), 42 for the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL), 41 non-attached members, 38 for the Europe of freedom and democracy Group (EFD) and 64 newly elected Members not allied to any of the political groups set up in the outgoing Parliament. Full results are accessible here.
Voter turnout was estimated at 43.09%, slightly better than 43% in 2009. There was a relatively low turnout in Central and Eastern European countries. While Bulgaria scored well above 40% and Lithuania ended with nearly 38%, the biggest regional player, Poland, scored a weak 24% and Slovakia only around 13%, the latter being the lowest turnout of the elections. Despite a very dynamic pro-vote campaigning by national governments, eligible voters from the region showed their disinterest in European politics. Commentators suggest that a lack of first-hand EU knowledge, low presence of European Parliamentarians in national media and the general perception of EU politics as dull and dry are the key reasons for the low turnout in Central and Eastern Europe. Also, it's been said that these unsatisfactory voting numbers can be attributed to a steadily growing standard of living experienced by many Central and Eastern Europeans, a majority of which enjoying better life standards and therefore less interested in political struggle between traditional political parties, both national and European.
This year, for the first time in history, the nomination of the new President of the European Commission (to take place in mid-July) will also depend on the political majority in the European Parliament. Considering that the Commission holds the right to initiate legislation in Europe and prepares the first draft, whether its president is a Socialist or a Conservative can make a real difference. Further to the election results, Jean-Claude Juncker (EPP) staked his claim as the first man in line to claim the European Commission presidency.
Why do the European elections matter for public transport?
Since the 1990s, the European Parliament has consistently gained more power and established itself as a genuine co-legislator in most policy areas – including transport, as well as climate, environmental, industrial, regional, energy and trade policy, which all affect our sector as well. For every European law in the field of public transport, the Parliament can choose to adopt, reject or amend it. Depending on the majorities in the Parliament, the end result will be more or less progressive, making it easier or harder for public transport companies to exist, supporting one or other mode of transport. In other words, the European Parliament – together with the European Commission and the Council – sets the framework, in which public transport authorities, operators and industry operate.
Unsurprisingly, most political parties have put employment and economic development at the top of their electoral programmes. In that context, investment in public transport can make a major contribution to local employment and wealth creation. As you know, the UITP European Department asked the political parties about their vision for urban mobility in light of the European elections. Their answers are available here.
Stay in touch!
UITP is organising a high-level European conference on mobility entitled “Getting ahead of change!” which will take place in Paris on 11-12 June 2014, in conjunction with Transports Publics 2014, the European Mobility Exhibition. The aim of this conference is to provide participants with critical perspectives on the future European environment, including new business models that will help formulate plans to capture opportunities and prepare for emerging threats. The new Eurobarometer on Europeans’ satisfaction with public transport will also be officially unveiled for this occasion. More details are available here.
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