Those of us who believe in a more integrated Europe have moved too closely and too comfortably to the idea that the best way to fight Euroscepticism is to label it as an anti-European movement operating on the fringes of our societies. Yet the recent surge of anti-EU parties, wishing to turn the time back proves that they are but a marginal force. Eurosceptics may represent a vision for Europe that is backward looking and outdated, but they do represent a vision that is becoming increasingly popular with more and more people. They despise the EU and wish to return to a system of limited cooperation (if any at all) between nation states. Some would say they love Europe but hate the EU. Clearly their vision of Europe does not fit with that of those arguing on behalf of the ever closer union. However, this does not make them the anti-Europeans that we often make them to be. For our own sake and for the sake of the future of the European Union, let us be honest: Eurosceptics are not anti-European. They are just wrong!
British Prime Minister David Cameron has just announced Jonathan Hopkin Hill, Baron Hill of Oareford (ergo Lord Hill) as the British Commissioner designate. This nomination may prove to be the most important in UK-EU relations, and indeed in the history of the College of Commissioners, given the ever-more precarious position of the UK within the European Union. The choice will speak volumes about Cameron’s strategic calculations, as regards his proposed “renegotiation” (a concept as abstract as the constantly mooted, but never defined, “reform” of the EU) and the negotiating tactics he will use.
Prior to the European elections this past May, the alarm had been raised that the voter registration procedures throughout the European Union were convoluted, difficult to navigate for those trained, and the sheer number clouded most organisations from providing aid to citizens. While the EU stresses democratic legitimacy of voting, and encourages mobility amongst citizens, the hurdles, which citizens residing in a member state other than their origin had to overcome, were simply ridiculous with unequal voting rights, directly contradicting basic European principles. With over 112 scenarios for voter registration in European elections and only one known organisation who took on the challenge to sort through these scenarios, citizens in the European Union who were exercising any right to freedom of movement in May were often disenfranchised from having their voice heard in the largest democratic exercise in the world.
As predicted prior to the election, these convoluted voter registration procedures were the direct cause of issues that inevitably led to European citizens being upset, and discouraged after their attempt to vote resulted in defamatory remarks and not being allowed a vote. These sentiments are not something European politicians want to see at a time when scepticism of the European project is on the rise. In this past election, politicians and others in the field highlighted 2014 proceedings as being more democratic than ever before, but how can this really be when many member states are pushing aside or were unaware of voter registration problems ? Most assuredly, the issue of citizen disenfranchisement in the European elections has not received much attention at the EU level, though these problems occurred in multiple member states. In the United Kingdom, Europeans are continuing to resist this complacency, pushing for this problem to be addressed at every level possible. It is through these efforts that the fight for mobile citizens to maintain their democratic rights that hopefully politicians, both in the member states and the European level, will take heed of more citizen dissatisfaction than the mere increase in Eurosceptic election results.