19th March 2014: Yesterday at the European Parliament in Brussels, Andrew Brons made the following contribution to a debate in the Constitutional Affairs Committee (AFCO) following presentations by Professor Weiler (of the European University Institute) and Mr Janis Emmanouilidis (of the European Policy Centre).
"Professor Weiler said that in all democracies voters had two choices to make: who will govern us; and how we shall be governed.
"Voters might want a third choice but to make it their first choice and instead of the other two. Voters might want to decide whether they want to be governed at all by the institutions on offer.
"The wish to make that choice might explain why turn-out has fallen despite the power of the EU as a whole and the power of the European Parliament having increased. Low turn-out could be read as a vote against being governed more and more by the EU - whether by the Parliament or by other institutions.
"We have been told that the 2014 European elections will provide the voters with a choice between alternative candidates for the Presidency of the Commission. This is undoubtedly a clever idea, originating from Professor Maduro, and based on the existence of permitted and approved-of European Political Parties.
"However, there are two problems:
"One is that there is no European electorate with a collective voting identity - no demos. There is a European cultural and over-lapping ancestral identity but that is not the same thing.
"The second problem is that the preparatory work has not been done and I would say the same thing, even if I were an enthusiast for the Project. I asked a group of retired professional people on a non-political occasion what they knew about European Political Parties. They knew nothing. I asked them what they knew about voters having the choice between different candidates for the Presidency of the Commission in the May elections. They looked at me even more blankly.
"They did know what the Commission was and who was its current President. There are many people in the UK who would not know that.
"My daughter reports that more than just one or two people, who when told that her father was a Member of the European Parliament have asked: 'What is that?'
"To sum up: will it be possible to translate the votes in the European elections into votes for one candidate for the Presidency who is considered to have received a plurality, if not a majority, of the vote? Voters for national parties will have to be discounted.
"Yes, but it will have been a vote that the voters will not know they have exercised. It will be a vote as though it was being cast in the dark, without knowing the wording on the ballot paper.
"Indeed, it will be like voting in the European Parliament when all of the votes have been changed in the middle of the night. In President Schulz's words when the Vice President, Mr Papastamkos collapsed, 'people will not know what they are voting for'."