On April 18th the European Parliament launched the platform thistimeimvoting.eu in 24 languages. The parliament terms the operation a pan-European, grass roots campaign of volunteers to get more people involved in the European elections with the purpose is to encourage as many as possible to vote. Supposedly it is a non-partisan community, dedicated to raising democratic awareness. But that can be questioned.
Given that it is financed and organized by the European Parliament is it really is a grass roots campaign or is it more of a masked publicly financed federalist movement. How, for example, were the over one hundred and fifty thousand volunteers in all member states recruited. And, was there no fear that the volunteers, who signed up to persuading people to vote in the European elections on 23‑26 May 2019 and to mobilise their families, friends, neighbors and communities to do the same, would be recruited primarily from those already convinced of the blessing of the federalist project. Furthermore, how neutral can thistimeimvoting.eu when the Parliament’s liaison offices in the member states acts as the information hubs and supports public debate by offering local platforms, easy-to-access online tools, seminars and information material. The quick-response services, available in all languages, for example, is named “What Europe does for meyou” not “How much does the EU cost meyou”.
By now we are all used to the constant campaign to promote the European Union. All project funded by the European Union must use a part of the funds the receive to promote the Union and to paint the institutions in a positive light. Because of the already low and continuously falling turnout in each election threatens the democratic legitimacy of the entire project we have been forced to get use to the publicly financed get-out-the-vote operations in European elections. This, essentially, is political propaganda to change the minds of the citizens financed with the taxes the citizens pay.
The European Parliament’s Bureau – made up of senior MEPs; essentially the leaders of the EP – in 2017 planned a taxpayer-funded campaign to dissuade people from voting for Euroskeptic parties in the elections. The leaked internal strategy memoranda penned by the European Parliament Secretary-General Klaus Welle recommended meddling directly in the election campaign to try and hinder the rise of Eurosceptic parties. The aim was “to bring voters to the polls, but also convince them to support the European project." The strategy was to use tax payer funds to and the power of the EU institutions to intervene in support of a particular political outcome rather than simply supporting the democratic electoral process and remaining neutral in the contest among parties and candidates.
The Klause Welle’s strategy document noted that a lower turnout potentially would favour Euroskeptic parties. Thus, the supposedly neutral get-out-the-vote efforts has the effect of supporting federalist parties that can’t convince their own voters to go to the polling booth. That in itself says something about the European project. A central element of the strategy was to focus on people who "look favourably" on the EU but don't vote in European elections. The rapport identified as "employed professionals" and "management" as "opinion-makers", as well as young voters and students as those that were to be influenced. The Parliament aimed to "maximize cost-free media coverage" and to use the institutions to persuade journalists to report on stories in a favourable light. The report notes that "Media do not need ready-made material but they do require good stories and guidance ... Media are key allies in building a positive narrative about the EU".
There have been other changes that affect the election. The Code of Conduct of the European Commission use not to permit Commissioners to stand as candidates without having to immediately give up their seat in the Commission. This has been changed so that Commissioners now can run without giving up their wages, benefits and perks. And, who does the work of the Commissioner when he or she is out campaigning while being paid by the taxpayer. Another change, supposedly to make the European elections more transparent for citizens and to give them a clear idea of in what direction the various political groups want to take Europe, is that the so called European political parties have been given even larger amounts of financial support from the EU budget to run their campaigns. Most of these parties – an overwhelming majority in fact - are in favour of an ever-closer union.
It is immoral and undemocratic to use the funds taken from the tax payers to fund federalist (or Eurosceptic) campaigns. Every genuine democrat should be appalled by this undemocratic mindset and we should do everything we can to oppose the use of institutions that should be neutral in the elections for party political purposes.