As Alexis de Tocqueville portrayed in his Democracy in America, “as the election draws near, the activity of intrigue and agitation of the populace increase; the citizens are divided into hostile camps, each of which assumes the name of its favourite candidate; the whole nation glows with the feverish excitement.” If the trill before the elections is a crucial characteristic of the emerging American democracy, the hasty debates before the balloting to the European Parliament presage the forging of the European project. European Commission vice-president Frans Timmermans spelled it out: “These are not ordinary elections. These elections are about the soul of Europe.” Indeed the very nature of the EU seems to be at stake, contented by factions that respectively want further vs. less integration, strengthening vs. weakening EU institutional power, more vs. less Europe simply put.
Today’s hostile camps – to keep with Alexis de Tocqueville – look different as they have been to date. The traditional left-right cleavage made room for a novel axis of confrontation between pro-European and anti-European forces. The former embrace all mainstream national parties, which at the European level mainly consist of three groups: the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) and the European People´s Party (EPP). Notwithstanding their ideological and practical political differences, they share the interest in fortifying European integration as well as its core institutions (especially the Council), as testified by the informal agreement through which they have ruled the European Parliament in the past.
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