Romanian Presidential Election: Europe’s Response

Post length: 683 words, just over 3 minutes.

I posted in November about a letter which I helped Monica write to our local MEPs (and a variation sent to some of the European Commissioners), and updated it a little while later expressing my disappointment that none of those we’d written to had got back to us. I also posted about my disappointment on Twitter, which got a bit more of a response from a couple of our elected representatives. (Interestingly a question I directed at my brother, who works in the office of Richard Corbett, the Deputy Leader of the Labour MEPs, about MEPs response times got a reply from the Labour MEP rather than my initial post. You can draw your own conclusions from that.)

Since then we’ve received two email responses from MEPs, and two letters from European Commissioners. The first email came from Anneliese Dodds on the 3rd December:

Thank you for your e-mail and for drawing my attention to this issue.

Your personal case of being unable to vote is unacceptable and I agree with you that being able to vote is a fundamental democratic right.

You may be interested in following this link: [link] which will take you to a free Europe advice service which handles cases where an EU citizen rights have been hindered. This will allow you to lodge your complaint with the EU which will hopefully lead to appropriate action being taken.

The links are interesting and we may follow up on them. Unfortunately it seems the message didn’t get processed quickly enough to have the desired effect. Still, I appreciate the response.

The second response, received on 10th December, was from Richard Ashworth:

I understand that the voting process in polling stations outside Romania took longer than usual and I understand your concerns that it was a deliberate move from Victor Ponta’s party to limit the voting power of the Romanian diaspora. The European Commission has called the Romanian authorities to undertake an investigation of the complaints of Romanian expatriates. I have passed your concerns to Mr Ashworth.

Now this is interesting. When writing the initial letter we deliberately didn’t accuse Ponta’s government of using their power to impact the fairness of the election. We felt that throwing accusations around was likely to get our letter, ultimately about the importance of transparency in national elections within Europe, filed along side politically motivated propaganda. In this case the spin has been put on the issue by the MEP’s office regardless of if we feel that Mr Ponta’s party had any malicious intent at all. There’s also another interesting point in this email when read with the response we got from Vĕra Jourová of the European Commission:

Free elections are a basic expression of democracy and elections in the EU must follow the highest democratic standards. A strong commitment be the Member States is important to guarantee these democratic standards.

However the European commission has no general powers to intervene with elections taking place in Member States. In particular, it has no power to monitor or  get involved in the conduct of national elections in the EU, including presidential elections.

Member States are responsible to hold elections in line with international rules by which they are bound. National public authorities and national courts have the responsibility to ensure that these rules are respected.

So, in other words, “nothing we can do.” It’s possible, as Mr Ashworth’s office said, that the commission have “called the Romanian authorities to undertake an investigation” but if that were the case then I would have expected Ms Jourova’s office to have mentioned it. Perhaps, if they have as little power as they make out, they simply wrote a polite letter asking them to have a look into the matter perhaps if they got a chance.

All of this does beg the question: if no one in Europe has any power to get involved or even monitor the state of national elections in Member States, how can the EU claim that “elections in the EU must follow the highest democratic standards” and what exactly happens if they do not?

Posted on Monday 12th January, 2015 at 10:03 am in Obiter dicta.
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