In Focus: European Parliament elections 2014

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Political InsightIn an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (September 2014, Volume 5, Issue 2) we looked at the results of this year’s election to the European Parliament.
In May 2014 the citizens of the 28 member states of the European Union (EU) went to the polls to elect the 751 new Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). The distribution of seats in the European Parliament is not directly proportional to each country’s total population. A so-called ‘degressive proportionality’ principle gives small countries a few more seats than what would have been the case if strict proportionality were applied. The voter turnout across the EU was 43%. Belgium and Luxemburg have the highest rate of voter participation (90%). On the other hand, the smallest voter turnout is observed in Slovakia (13%) and the Czech Republic (19.5%), whereas the United Kingdom had the 11th lowest rate in Europe (36%). More than 90% of all elected MEPs belong to one of the seven political groups of the European Parliament. There is a minimum of 25 members needed to form a political group and at least one quarter of all member states must be represented within this group.
The map series in the article presents the geographical distribution of the votes across member states. All countries in these maps are shaded using a rainbow colour scheme, starting with shades of dark red to demarcate the countries with the most recent association with the EU and moving through to a shade of violet for the oldest member states.

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Once upon a time there was a country called Europe

‘We cannot aim at anything less than the Union of Europe as a whole, and we look forward with confidence to the day when that Union will be achieved’

Map of Europe at Night shown on a gridded population cartogram
One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things
(click here for larger version of the map)

It may sound inconceivable today that a statement such as the above could be made by a British Prime Minister and even more so by the leader of the Conservative Party. Yet, this is an extract from a speech delivered by Winston Churchill at the Congress of Europe in The Hague on 7 May 1948. It is just an example of numerous similar statementsand activities supporting European integration and union. These were part of wider efforts and actions by the people of a continent shattered by war towards a common purpose and future, which have been imaginatively ‘narrated’ by a member of Europe’s next generation in an award-winning video ‘We are Europe’ – see below. These efforts have been steadily leading towards a Europe United in Diversity and to the formation of a European identity underpinned by common values and ideals such as the establishment of democratic institutions, the respect of human rights and the protection of minorities, as well as solidarity and social cohesion. Continue reading

European Agricultural Spending

The EU27 is history, with Croatia becoming the 28th member state of the European Union today. On last week’s European Council meeting, the ‘old’ members had other issues in mind, as the common agricultural policy (CAP) was one of the critical issues in negotiating a new seven year budget. The proposed changes in subsidies in this field of spending are quite important, as this part of the EU policies started a process of considerable changes in the agricultural landscapes in Europe over the years. The area of spending is not least relevant, as together with the rural development funding agriculture counts for almost 40% of the budget (see this map series about EU spending for more details).
The agreements that were reached are also significant, as the agricultural budget mainly serves the economically and politically strongest countries in the European Union. The following cartogram shows the redistribution of spending on the agricultural markets within the EU27 in 2011 (the most recent data available from the European Commission), which counts for €44,898 million of the overall €129,394 million budget:

Cartogram of European Agricultural Spending
(click for larger version)

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Visualising the EU Budget

Last week’s map series on the financial state of the European Union focused on a general overview of how population and economic activity relate to the financial framework of the Union. The current financial framework covers the period of 2007-2013 and ensures a certain planning security for the main areas of the common political goals of the EU. With the current framework expiring next year, tense negotiations are under way for the forthcoming Multiannual financial framework 2014-2020. The outcome will undoubtedly have major implications on the functioning of the European Union, as the budget allows key political areas to be pursued beyond national politics: “The Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) defines the EU’s long-term spending priorities in line with the agreed political priorities and sets annual maximum amounts to be spent on each priority. The financial framework stretches over several years [...] to ensure sound and responsible financial planning and management.”
The following map series shows the current funding priorities of the EU budget. It shows that beyond the net benefits and contributions, large proportions of the money are actually redistributed between the wealthiest member states. The first two maps compares how much is paid into and received from the EU budget by each member state at the moment:

Cartogram / Map of the Money Paid into and received from the Budget of the European Union
(click for larger version)

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The State of the European Union

The European Union is an economic and political partnership between 27 European countries that together cover a large part of the European continent. As the EU website explains: “It was created in the aftermath of the Second World War. The first steps were to foster economic cooperation: the idea being that countries who trade with one another become economically interdependent and so more likely to avoid conflict. The result was the European Economic Community (EEC), created in 1958, and initially increasing economic cooperation between six countries: Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Since then, a huge single market has been created and continues to develop towards its full potential. But what began as a purely economic union has also evolved into an organisation spanning all policy areas, from development aid to environment. A name change from the EEC to the European Union (the EU) in 1993 reflected this change.
The Nobel Prize Committee recognised the achievements of the European Union by awarding the 2012 Peace Price to the projectfor over six decades contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe“. But in the shadow of the European debt crisis Europe appears less the united with Euroscepticism gaining momentum in some countries. A 2009 study by the European Commission “Portugal and Hungary (both 50%) and Latvia (51%) contain the fewest people who feel optimistic about the EU’s future. The UK (53%), Greece (54%) and France (57%) also record noticeably low figures” (see page 212 in the accompanying report). “Euroscepticism in the United Kingdom has been a significant element in British politics since the inception of the European Economic Community (EEC), the predecessor to the EU”, concludes a Wikipedia contribution, which reflects the emotional and often – in either way – dogmatic nature of the debate in the most skeptic members of the Union. The EU appears to have become a welcome recession scapegoat.
But what is the European Union anyway. Rather than an alien construct imposed on the member states, it still is the agreed structure set up by its member states (for the good or bad, that is). The following series of maps gives a brief introduction into some of the key figures that shape the countries that are part of the EU and who are about the meet for negotiations on how to fund the European Union for the rest of the decade – having crucial implications on the role and purpose of the project. All maps shown here are cartograms based on national-level statistics. The first map is a population cartogram of the member states showing where how many people live (a more detailed perspective gives this gridded population cartogram of the EU):

Cartogram / Map of the population of the European Union
(click for larger version)

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