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Analysis Last Updated: Jun 4th, 2009 - 00:46:02

European Parliamentary elections: A farce without the fun of Eurovision
By Chronis Polychroniou
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jun 4, 2009, 00:21

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Eurovision, pop�s music biggest kitsch and extravaganza show, a cultural Chernobyl, is a wildly popular event and a testimony of the overpowering dominance of low mass culture in the age of globalization. With its overriding emphasis on the predominance of effect and standardization, Eurovision represents or reflects the thoughtlessness or the content of the thought of a mass-consuming society whose members take a pleasure in meaningless pleasures and seek, either consciously or unconsciously, to escape from the burden of individual freedom and social praxis by allowing themselves to be docile and content.

As the German philosopher Theodor Adorno brilliantly argued more than half a century ago, the true power of the popular culture industry is to eliminate critical potentialities and to convert the citizens into a complacent and passive public, but even he underestimated the extent to which a good portion of the public accepts and eagerly identifies with the banality of low mass culture.

European Parliament elections, which take place this year between 4 and 7 of June and which are held every five years and represent the largest transnational direct elections in history, rotate in the opposite direction from Eurovision: colorless and dull, they are characterized by low turnout and voters use them either to punish or protest the policies of their national governments. Quite indicative of the way voters use the European Parliament elections, marginalized political parties, including anti-European Union parties, usually fare better in European elections than they do in national elections.

This is a pretty natural reaction. European Union (EU) institutions in Brussels are highly bureaucratic. EU representatives are far removed from peoples� needs, and the decision making process lacks democratic legitimacy. Agreements reached at the EU level, and which EU member states are then required to adopt, become laws without the approval from national elected institutions. As further testimony of the undemocratic nature of the EU, �no� votes in referendums are treated as aberrations and only �yes� votes are regarded as permanent.

The European Union is a treaty-based organization which was set up after the Second World War as a means of putting an end to the favorite practice of Europeans of sorting out their national differences by engaging in bloody warfare. Securing peace through the formation of a common market (which led eventually to economic unification) is an experiment that has produced remarkable results: Europe has experienced its longest period of peace since the end of the Second World War and war in the future among European member states seems a highly unlikely possibility.

Of course, the absence of war among European nations in the postwar era and the historic developments towards European integration that led eventually to the European Union of today point largely in the direction of an established correlation rather than a causal relation between the two variables: the nature and structure of the world power system that emerged in the postwar era (with the US taking over the reins of global power, NATO coming into play, and nuclear weapons having been invented) reduced substantially the prospects of renewed warfare among Europe�s traditional foes, and perhaps there is even something to be said about the deep and profound impact that the Second World War must have had on the consciousness of European leaders and public alike.

The European integration experiment -- from the EEC to the EU -- has also made a difference to the economic and social development of the member states, including those who lie at the periphery of the European economy. However, the type of Europeanization (that is, the process of creating European rules which are then imposed on national politics and policy making) that has been designed and implemented since the signing of the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 operates on the basis of a highly centralized and largely unaccountable power structure, which is alien to the vision of a democratic Europe and is having detrimental effects upon the ability of national governments to address effectively the specific needs of their own economies and societies, as the current global economic crisis so bluntly attests.

Further, given the vast socio-economic and cultural differences that exist within the EU, Europeanization exerts different kinds of pressures on the EU member states and the impact being felt varies considerably and to different degrees. Advanced developed economies are not only able to make an easier adjustment to the pressures of Europeanization than peripheral economies, but can offer political institutional responses which can shift policy in an advantageous direction relative to their own interests.

As things stand, the EU faces a serious democratic deficit and it is widely accepted as such by the majority of the European citizens. In the light of this, little wonder that European Parliament elections are surrounded by apathy. Europe�s citizens seem to be aware that European elections are largely a farce but, unlike Eurovision, there is no fun associated with them.

Chronis Polychroniou is an author and journalist who writes frequently on global economic, political and social affairs.

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