Recently held European Parliament elections have drawn more attention and carried more weight than the previous ones, bringing the European politics back into focus of citizens – this is the conclusion of the conference “European Parliament elections – Results, expectations and potential influence on the Western Balkans”, organized by the European Movement in Serbia, Institute of European Studies and Konrad Adenauer Foundation.
Aleksandra Popović, representative of Konrad Adenauer Foundation, pointed out that these elections have demonstrated the importance of democratic heritage, which is far more significant than the result itself. She thinks that political consciousness and participation of citizens are more relevant that political campaigns.
Secretary General of European Movement in Serbia, Suzana Grubješić, stated that the previous European Parliament elections have passed unnoticed in Serbia. “This time, a significant part of public has shown interest for these elections, which shows that we are no longer only interested in our own politics, but that are following European trends.”
Director of the Institute of European Studies, Miša Đurković, highlighted two things in his opening address: firstly, these elections have never been more interesting because European politics have never been this important for citizens, therefore it will be quite interesting to observe the consequences of these elections. Secondly, “judging by the first reactions, the question of enlargement will in some way be removed from the agenda, but Western Balkans won’t be forgotten and economic and infrastructural initiatives will be offered. Thus, it is of great importance that we solve our problems apart from the accession process,” Đurković said.
The first panel discussion analyzed the results of these year’s European Parliament elections. Dimitrije Milić, programme director of organization New third way, referred to Nietzsche in his exposition by saying that there are no facts, only interpretations, thinking of the different representation of the elections’ results. He considers the left and the right to no longer be relevant topics among the voters due to the current processes which have been causing the transformation of identity of the European Union in the past 30 years.
Professor Slobodan Zečević acknowledged the voter turnout at these year’s elections. He pointed out the trend of turnout decrease from the first European Parliament elections held in 1979 till 2014. Zečević stated two reasons explaining the “serious increase in voter turnout” at these elections.
“EU citizens have woken up, because they are concerned for the future of the European Union and they care for the process of eurointegrations. A smaller part of voters is against this kind of EU and would like to change it,” Zečević said. He added that the number of Parliament members is uncertain, since it is not clear wheter United Kingdom will definitely leave the EU, which will significantly influence the structure of the Parliament.
Miša Đurković has drawn participants’ attention to the work of Green parties, whose good results have passed under the radar here. In his speech, Đurković mentioned estimates of analysts concluding that „a trend of americanization of European politics can be seen in the fact that the far right has brought some topics which haven’t been discussed for a long time back into the political mainstream.“
The second panel discussed the future of EU enlargement, focusing on the Western Balkans. Vice president of the European Movement in Serbia, Vladimir Međak, said that the further direction of enlargement depends of the selection of enlargement commissioner. The problem which Međak spotted here is that there is knowledge and will for enlargement, but also a discrepancy between the European Commission and EU Member States. He concluded that there can be no stability without democracy and the rule of law.
Ambassador Duško Lopandić believes that the attitude towards enlargement directly shows the degree of vitality and readiness of the EU to transform and play the key role in Europe.
“The key element of enlargement is to empirically confirm the process of convergence, ie. the approaching of the Western Balkans’ states to the EU,” Lopandić explained. He concluded that enlargement isn’t dead, but only that the degree of ambition, in Brussels as well as in candidate states, is different.
Programme director of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, Marko Savković, pointed out a few questions the EU needs to answer, considering that its development depends on them: what will be the role of national parliaments, the influence of the green parties, the existence of divisions in the EU and Europe itself (on east, west, north and south, old and new members, Christian and liberal democracies), as well as the question of applying the new Parliament politics to the new European Commission’s work.
These elections have shown a clear concern for the future of the EU. Also, current globalization processes have influenced the transformation of entire political and economic identity of the EU, which was seen at this year’s elections. The possible exit of the United Kingdom from the EU can significantly influence the structure of Members of the European Parliament, together with other internal challenges the EU faces. Participants of this discussion agree that the enlargement of the EU is not dead, but dependent of the structure of the new European Commission and whether there will be a role of enlargement commissioner in it. They point out how important it is for Western Balkans countries to work together on solving regional problems, but the dynamic of their accession is determined by the accession prism based on merit, which is very important in the foreign policy of the EU.