Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in A...
Dutch the least interested in the European elections13 May 2014, by Alexandra Gowling
While the majority of the Dutch population are aware of the European Parliament elections happening on May 22, even if they aren’t totally sure of the date, only a small fraction intends to vote.
The latest Ipsos Political Barometer showed that while 82 per cent of Dutch people know about the elections, only 20 per cent say they will be voting. This is the lowest percentage in the EU.
Voting in EU elections decreasing
In the last EU elections in 2009, around 36 per cent of people in the Netherlands voted, which was the lowest turnout this century.
The previous low point was in 1999, when less than 30 per cent of the electorate voted. By contrast, around 75 per cent of the population voted in the 2012 national elections, and Dutch elections generally have good numbers of voters.
These figures are also very low compared to the rest of Europe. In 2009, just less than half of EU citizens voted, with larger turnouts in Italy (65 per cent), Spain (45 per cent) France (40 per cent) and above all Belgium (90 per cent), although the UK (35 per cent) and Czech (28 per cent) were even less enthused than the Dutch.
Overall, interest in the EU elections has been dropping for decades: in 1979, 62 per cent of EU citizens voted.
Recent Eurobarometer surveys illustrate the decline clearly: 60 per cent of Europeans "tend not to trust" the EU now, against 32 per cent in 2007. Also, in 20 of the 28 member states, there is a clear majority who feel that the EU is going "in the wrong direction," with Eurosceptics outnumbering supporters for the first time.
Dutch parties in EU Parliament
Parties from the Netherlands are allocated 26 seats from a total of 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEP). According to the poll, most of the voters will support leading coalition party VVD and the winner in the recent Dutch municipal elections D66.
Third in popularity is the anti-immigration party PVV, which has joined forces with France’s Front National and potentially other Eurosceptic parties to try and form an anti-Europe voting bloc to attack the EU from within its own parliament.
D66 and VVD do not form their own bloc, however: they are part of the third-largest group, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. The largest two groups with more than half the votes are the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) and the Socialist and Democrats, who are predicted to retain their majority.
Dutch MEP influence
MEPs vote in these blocs in order to exert more power, which means that while VVD and D66 offer genuine policy differences in the Netherlands, in the EU parliament they generally vote the same.
For many, this brings up the question of what difference can MEPs make? While it may be harder to see results from a group, individual MEPs have been known to make a difference.
Dutch MEP Corien Wortmann, for example, played a leading role in the development of the banking union, which agreed to make banks responsible for keeping themselves afloat, rather than using taxpayer money, that is considered an achievement of the EU parliament.