In May of 2019, voters of European Union member states will elect a new European Parliament (EP), which will become the basis for the establishment of a new European Commission. Thousands of hopeful candidates are standing for election in the individual states, and voters should ask some essential questions before entering the voting booth.
The most essential question of this European election is not that of Brexit or immigration, but of the long-term development of the EU's political institutions. French president Emmanuel Macron believes in a more integrated--and therefore centralised--European Union. He is joined by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and its leader, former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt. It is likely that Macron can count on the support of countries such as Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Sweden in his push for more integration, which could soon have many more joining the cause. However, given current political majorities, he could face opposition from Italy, Poland, Denmark, Austria, and Hungary, where electorates are structurally opposed to further integration.Were any of the reforms requiring treaty changesput to a vote, the French europhile's dreams could quickly face a crushing defeat.
Centralisation and integration are not only promoted at the treaty reform level, though: even within the current treaties, the EU's institutions can already push for common standards and regulations. This is illustrated very well by the French initiative for a digital tax, similar to the push for a financial transaction tax years ago. Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voting on these types of proposals by the Commission may not be essential in the decision-making process, but their political diversification sends an important message to all actors involved. Therefore, those voting should ask the following questions to candidates for their EP seats:
As a general principle, do you support further integration of the European Union project? If yes, is your belief associated with the ideas of "ever closer union"?
The answers to those questions will give you a clearer vision of where your candidate stands on the issue of centralisation and integration. All of these questions can be answered in a straightforward manner.
I believe it's safe to assume that attempts to dodge these questions can be counted as support for integration. For decades, voters have structurally been unaware of the aspirations of their representatives for the future of the EU. The only politicians who are transparent about those exact ambitions are those arguing in favour of the creation of a federal state (a complete list can be found here), and those who are eurosceptics opposing the EU altogether. In between (which is a majority of the parliament), you find a fluctuating bloc, ambiguous about its positions, yet constantly swaying towards more integration.
Asking these questions, particularly in public, not only serves the purpose of demanding answers from those candidates: it also puts the question of integration on the radar of other voters. In so doing--if we find ourselves in a French-style centralised EU in a couple of years--we can at least say that we saw it coming.