Elections for the European parliament take place at the end of the week. It is gradually becoming a body of growing significant political influence. Its 736 elected members represent the 500,000,000 citizens of the twenty seven member states of the European Union. Not since the time of the Roman Empire has there been such an agglomeration of the peoples of the world. This election will be the biggest trans-national election in the history of humanity.
A tower of Babel it is not. The parliament is the under-reported cinderella of the union. When the Treaty of Lisbon comes into effect, after what seems likely to be a successful Irish referendum in October, a re-ordering of the governance of the EU will give the parliament more power, as well as strengthening the authority of the Council of Ministers with a permanent president. To some it appears to be a contradictory development, but there is no reason why both should not be able to tolerate each other’s new powers.
Norman Davies wrote in his magisterial study Europe, that “Europe is not going to be united in the near future. But it has a chance to be less divided than for generations past. If fortune smiles, the physical and psychological barriers will be less brutal than any time in living memory. Europe rides on.” And as William Pffaf, America’s leading foreign affairs commentator, wrote in his 1989 book, Barbarian Sentiments, “[f]or four hundred years European civilization has dominated the world- for better or for worse. It is convenient and flattering for Americans to assume that it is all over; but it is rash to do so.” The coming events of the year- these elections and the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty under the stewardship of what is likely to be a well run and effective Swedish presidency- will bring Pffaf’s observation up to date.
Cecilia Wikstrom is a senior member of parliament for Sweden’s Liberal (Folk) Party (in the Swedish parliament the Liberals are the most pro-European party). In a recent interview she argued that these elections are “a crucial moment for Europe. When drug and human trafficking is increasing we need cross border cooperation. We also have a growing problem with fundamentalists, both Christian and…