Towards a new European polity? Social Democrats and the 2014 EP elections





Authors: Laura CAROLI, Nicola GENGA, Alvaro IMBERNON, Iulian STĂNESCU

Introduction of the paper

The next elections to the European Parliament will take place in May 2014, less than a few months away. For EU citizens, this will be a unique opportunity to vote and express their views on key decisions that affect the lives of hundreds of millions across the continent. Perhaps the most important chance for raising the profile of this election for citizens and media could come from the rival candidates for EU Commission President. Moreover, these candidates are openly supported by competing European political parties. Thus, there is an expectation that by determining the balance of power in the future Parliament, EU citizens will have a real and concrete role in deciding who will lead the EU Commission.

This paper provides an overview of the upcoming 2014 European elections with a focus on some of the relevant features, issues and trends that are likely to influence the electoral performance of the Party of European Socialists (PES). First, we study past European elections to identify the member states with strategic importance in the outcome of the upcoming elections. We then discuss three key issues and trends important for the entire EU and particularly in our selection of member states. We begin with the Europeanisation of the 2014 election. Second is how strong is the populist challenge and how to deal with it. Last but not least is the question whether the Left’s electoral base has been shrinking and how to respond to this phenomenon. 

Background on the FEPS Young Academics Network

The Young Academics Network (YAN) was established in March 2009 by the Foundation of European Progressive Studies (FEPS) with the support of the Renner Institut to gather progressive PhD candidates and young PhD researchers, who are ready to use their academic experience in a debate about the Next Europe. The founding group was composed of awardees of the “Call for Paper” entitled “Next Europe, Next Left” – whose articles also help initiating the FEPS Scientific Magazine “Queries”. Quickly after, with the help of the FEPS member foundations, the group enlarged – presently incorporating around 30 outstanding and promising young academics.

FEPS YAN meets in the Viennese premises of Renner Institut, which offers great facilities for both reflections on the content and also on the process of building the network as such. Both elements constitute mutually enhancing factors, which due to innovative methods applied make this Network also a very unique project. Additionally, the groups work has been supervised by the Chair of the Next Left Research Programme, Dr. Alfred Gusenbauer – who at multiple occasions joined the sessions of the FEPS YAN, offering his feedback and guidance.

This paper is one of the results of the third cycle of FEPS YAN, (the first one ended with three papers in June 2011, while the second one led to five papers in spring 2013), in which six key themes were identified and were researched by FEPS YAN working groups. These topics encompass:Precarious employment in Europe; “Full employment: A progressive vision for Europe; “Get the party started: Modernizing progressive politics; “The 2014 European elections; “Enhancing EU enlargement” and “Young and easily allured? A comparative analysis on the relationship between populism and youth in Europe. Each of the meetings is an opportunity for the FEPS YAN to discuss the current state of their research, presenting their findings and questions both in the plenary, as also in the respective working groups. The added value of their work is the pan-European, innovative, interdisciplinary character – not to mention, that it is by principle that FEPS wishes to offer a prominent place to this generation of academics, seeing in it a potential to construct alternative that can attract young people to progressivism again. Though the process is very advanced already, the FEPS YAN remains a Network – and hence is ready to welcome new participants.

FEPS YAN plays also an important role within FEPS structure as a whole. The FEPS YAN members are asked to join different events (from large Conferences, such as FEPS “Call to Europe” or “Renaissance for Europe” and PES Convention to smaller High Level Seminars and Focus Group Meetings) and encouraged to provide inputs for publications (i.e. for FEPS Scientific Magazine “Queries”). Enhanced participation of the FEPS YAN Members in the overall FEPS life and increase of its visibility remains one of the strategic goals of the Network for 2014.

For more information please contact the FEPS colleagues in charge of the FEPS YAN’s coordination: Ania Skrzypek, FEPS Senior Research Fellow at ania.skrzypek@feps-europe.eu, or Judit Tanczos, FEPS Policy Advisor at judit.tanczos@feps-europe.eu