Written by 14:04 World

European Elections Begin. They’ve Never Mattered More.

It’s tempting to dismiss the European Parliament elections as the most important elections that don’t actually matter.

Hundreds of millions of voters across 27 nations will turn out this weekend to cast their ballots, but the European Parliament is the least powerful of the European Union institutions. It is often derided as a talking shop. Its 720 members have limited powers, and, while a few are ascendant stars, a few are retired politicians, or even criminals.

But, the European Union has never been more important in delivering tangible benefits to its citizens, or to the world in being a force for stability and prosperity, since its inception as an economic alliance nearly seven decades ago. The Parliament that emerges from these elections, weak though it may be, will serve as a brake or accelerator for the crucial policies that will help shape Europe’s immediate future.

In the five years since the last election, the bloc jointly bought Covid-19 vaccines and started a massive economic stimulus program to recover from the pandemic. It sanctioned Russia and paid to arm and reconstruct Ukraine. It ditched Russian energy imports and negotiated new sources of natural gas. It overhauled its migration system. It adopted ambitious climate policies.

But in that time, the E.U. has also been criticized for failing to heed demands for more accountability and transparency, and for pushing policies that favor urban elites over farmers and rural voters. The loss of sovereignty to an obscure center of power in Brussels, manned by technocrats, doesn’t sit well with many Europeans either.

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Last modified: 8 June 2024
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