2014 will be a pivotal year in the European Union’s history. The European Parliament elections will be the first pan-European test of public opinion since the Greek crisis erupted, triggering a wider loss of confidence in the euro and in the EU more generally.
Opinion polls – and recent election results in many parts of Europe – suggest a high level of dissatisfaction with traditional parties and a great opportunity for gains by extremist and populist forces on the Right and Left. The perception that the European Parliament elections are of a lesser importance to people’s daily lives – that this is a ‘free hit’ at national governments – is likely to fuel a protest vote.
However, the 2014 European Parliament elections are only one part of a wider year of change. Under the Lisbon Treaty, the results of the elections will influence the choice of a new President of the European Commission. The major European political parties are set to name candidates for the Commission presidency and national parties are being asked to give these candidates prominence during the election campaign.
Subsequently, new commissioners – including a new High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy – will be nominated and approved. Member states will choose a successor to Herman Van Rompuy as President of the European Council.