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Were the European Parliamentary (EP) Elections of 2019 different from previous ones? Up until the EP Elections of 2014 the dominant perspective among political scientists has been that these are second order elections where not much is at stake. Scholars have argued that the complex multi-level governance structure of the EU makes it unlikely that these elections can function in the same way as national elections.

Event details of Workshop European Elections 2019
Start date 30 January 2020
End date 31 January 2020

First of all, there is no clear connection between the outcome of EP elections and the composition of prime executive agent at the EU-level, the European Commission. Second, despite the co-decision powers of the EP, the most important EU-decisions are ultimately taken by a majority vote of the heads of state in the European Council, who are in turn accountable to the national parliaments. Third, election campaigns for the EP receive little visibility in the media.

However, in the run up to the EP-elections of 2019 politicians like Frans Timmermans and several pundits have told us that “the future of Europe is at stake” at these elections. From the perspective of those who support the EU, there is of course cause for concern. Populist parties that challenge the existence of the EU are no longer just at the political fringes, but some of them are leaders of the governments in member states like Hungary, Poland and Italy; and nationalistic sentiments inspired many British citizens to vote in favour of their country leaving the EU. As a result of these developments, the Eurosceptic voice becomes stronger in the European Parliament. However, that does not mean that the character of European elections as second order elections has changed, nor that the outcome of these elections will have serious consequences for the future of the European Union.

This closed workshop brings together a collection of papers that speaks to both aspects of the European elections of 2019. Some papers aim to explain the election outcome. Have these elections become more first order? To what extent does the European election offer an opportunity for opponents of the EU to challenge its very existence? Do populists and ‘illiberal democrats’ benefit from European elections? Have the election campaigns become more European in nature and do we thus see the development of a ‘European public sphere’?  Another bunch of papers speak to the (potential) consequences of the election outcomes, particularly for the prospects of further European unification.