The Brief – ‘If voting changed anything…’

The Brief – ‘If voting changed anything…’ |

“If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal,” is a famous quote by Emma Goldman, a Russian-born US political activist, anarchist and writer (1869-1940). 

A similar quote – “If voting made a difference, they wouldn’t let us do it” – is attributed to American humourist Mark Twain (1835-1910).

I often think about these words, especially when I see no prospect of change (even if change is badly needed) in the national elections where I cast my vote, in Bulgaria and Belgium.

Unfortunately, I also see no prospect of change following the European elections, especially since we expect the same uninspiring people to be our leaders.

It is hardly a service to democracy if the US elections were to be a Biden-Trump rematch, two veterans whose aggregate ages are 159, on election day next year. If America is supposed to be a leader in terms of democracy, why isn’t this nation of 333 million people capable of putting forward a new John F. Kennedy?

It’s a common assumption that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen looks at the upcoming European elections as a trampoline for a second mandate as Commission chief. Although the Lisbon Treaty created the job of Council President, the Commission chief remains, to many, the most prestigious European post.

On Wednesday (13 September), she will deliver her ‘State of the European Union’ speech (a tradition copied from the US). Of course, that will be an occasion for her to say how much she has delivered and how motivated she is to do more.

We will listen and dissect the messages, of course.

Although I support the EU mainstream von der Leyen represents, I have little appetite to vote for her.

Von der Leyen embodies a number of things my instinct says are wrong: The way she was appointed; her apparent lack of original ideas; and how she’s strived to please the powerful – at times, at the expense of the electorate.

I want young leaders like Finland’s Sanna Marin or Spain’s Pedro Sanchez. Both of them, incidentally, come from the left, but right now I just don’t see any counterpart at the other end of the spectrum.

Years ago, I liked Alexander Stubb, the marathon man from the EPP who was firm on values when he had ambitions to run for a top European post. But since the EPP preferred others, now he’s running for president of Finland, a largely honorary post.

I have also voted for liberal politicians, particularly for Guy Verhofstadt in the 2009 European elections in Belgium, not because I knew him, but because I had read his books.

I was still in Bulgaria when I read “Les Etats Unis d’Europe,” and I said to myself – I wish I could vote for a politician like him. To my surprise, this became possible only a couple of years later.

But once in Belgium, when I got to know Verhofstadt better, I was disappointed, among other things, by how he treats his collaborators and interacts with the press, and by his lifestyle. Now I’m glad he is leaving politics.

It would be a pity if the European elections were to become a choice without a choice, if we would be called to cast our vote knowing in advance that von der Leyen would get to lead Europe again.

Why can’t we try to do politics differently? Who, or what, is stopping us?

The Roundup

EU member states should start making “better” investments to fight escalating climate change as Europe’s resources are reaching their limits, the EU commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management said on Tuesday, following the recent deadly floods in Greece.

French left-wing MEPs reject the European Parliament’s mandate to reform the EU’s electricity market but said they would not join an initiative by French centrist lawmaker Christophe Grudler to overthrow it because the conservatives and the far-right are involved.

The delay in implementing a tool to protect the EU market against fraudulent biofuel imports has been heavily criticised by European biofuel producers, who point the finger at the European Commission.

Two Norwegian opposition parties, the national-conservative Progress Party and the centre-right Høyre party of former Prime Minister Erna Solberg, won Monday’s local elections in Norway, denying the centre-left Labour victory for the first time in 99 years.

Germany is the number-one beneficiary of the relaxation of state aid rules, having received almost half of the total state aid approved since February 2022, according to fresh data from the European Commission – deepening concerns over market fragmentation.

The European Commission is looking to review its priorities for allocating the military research and development fund to focus efforts and resources on a limited number of defence projects, according to people close to the matter.

Following a decade of delays, Germany started construction on a crucial high-voltage transmission line to supply its southern regions with electricity – the infamous SuedLink.

The German Left party will take the fight to the far-right ahead of next June’s European election, the party leadership announced at the presentation of its draft manifesto on Monday, but it faces an uphill battle amid internal divisions.

A new EU Council presidency compromise text about the regulation to prevent and combat child sexual abuse material online, seen by EURACTIV, puts focus on the role of a planned new expert hub called the EU Centre.

Germany is not sufficiently prepared for the rising number of cyber-attacks and lags other European countries regarding cybersecurity, according to an international comparison published amid a worrying rise in phishing cases.

EU lawmakers are divided on whether industry-specific legal provisions on illegal online content should be voted on amid a dispute on whether they could contradict the bloc’s flagship Digital Services Act (DSA).

The consumption of blue crabs recommended by Italy’s government members to halt the invasive species’ spread in the Mediterranean complies with the EU food rules, the European Commission confirmed to EURACTIV – but warns the feast may not last for long.

Ahead of the SOTEU, for those who have only just returned from holidays, or just need an EU policy primer, have a look at our Special Report:  EU’s final stretch before June 2024.

Last but not least, don’t miss this week’s Transport Brief: Germany’s target of 15 million EVs – a distant dream?

Look out for…

  • Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers annual State of the Europen Union address in Strasbourg on Wednesday.
  • Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya addresses the European Parliament.
  • MEPs debate protection status of wolves and other large carnivores in the EU.

[Edited by Alice Taylor/Zoran Radosavljevic]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *