Think tanks and policy makers debate European election system reform

News / 17.6.15

The debate “Which European primary election system for citizens to connect better with the EU” organised by the EurActiv Institute on 28 May revolved around the newly established Spitzenkandidaten and the possibility to improve the election system towards 2019. Representatives from all major European political parties and foundations took part in the debate, among them Günther Dauwen, Director of the European Free Alliance and Ignasi Centelles Santana on behalf of the Centre Maurits Coppieters.

The 2014 elections to the European Parliament marked the introduction of the so-called Spitzenkandidaten, where European political parties (mainly) nominated candidates for the top of their lists who then competed for the position of the president of the European Commission. In this light, the personalisation of the election campaigns through Spitzenkandiadaten can be seen as the culmination of previous attempts to make the European elections more transnational, as elaborated by Andrew Duff. The introduction of transnational lists with candidates representing transnational constitutencies has already been proposed in the 2009-2014 legislature, but was subsequently blocked by the member states. Electoral turnout in European elections has been declining since 1979, but research recently presented by the Fundació Catalunya Europa showed that the introduction of Spitzenkandidaten in 2014 had a positive effect on European-wide electoral turnout. Thus, for the upcoming European elections in 2019, further efforts towards a consolidation of the transnational nature of the European elections along with the possibility of improving the election system must be in the focus.

In the video above, Günther Dauwen (Director of EFA), Marisa Matias (MEP, Vice-President of the European Left), Jan Zahradi (MEP, President of the board, AECR), Siegfried Muresan (MEP, Spokesman of the EPP), Angelika Mlinar (MEP, Vice-President of ALDE) and Mar Garcia Sanz (Secretary General of the European Green Party) share their views on the effect of the introduction of Spitzenkandidaten in the last elections, as well as give insights into possible future developments of the electoral system like transnational lists. Overall, it has been a very insightful debate while most participants, except the representatives from the AECR, remark that Spitzenkandidaten mark a first step towards bringing Europe closer to its citizens.