UK – EU Parliamentary Elections

Political Background The UK long backed European integration in theory, but has always been less certain about involvement itself. Winston Churchill backed a United States of Europe, but when the European Coal and Steel Community was started his successor as PM, Clement Attlee described it as made of “Six countries, four of which we had to save from the other two”. The country initially joined EFTA, but as that trade agreement fell behind the nascent EEC, it began to be attracted to membership. The country applied for membership in the EEC first in…Read more

Sweden – EU Parliamentary Elections

Political Background Sweden joined the EU in 1995, ending long years of Cold War neutrality for the country. It has so far stayed out of the Euro, with Swedes rejecting the single currency in a referendum in 2003. Sweden has long been held up as a beacon of progressivism across the developed world. As Sweden never had serfdom (largely an invention to deal with the damage from Viking attacks elsewhere in Europe), Sweden developed a particularly educated and politically powerful peasantry in the middle ages. When the industrial revolution and liberalism arrived, workers…Read more

Spain – EU Parliamentary Elections

Political Background Spain joined the EU in 1986, along with fellow Iberian new democracy Portugal. Spain has been a member of the Euro since its inception. Spanish politics has long been marked by a struggle between the centre and peripheral nationalist movements. When the industrial revolution came to Spain it arrived in peripheral regions such as the Basque Country and Catalonia, whereas politically dominant Castille (home of Madrid) remained rather undeveloped by comparison. This meant that these peripheral regions developed well educated and wealthy elites who were subsequently able to resist attempts at…Read more

Slovenia – EU Parliamentary Elections

Political Background Slovenia joined the EU in 2004, and became the first country to join the Euro after its initial launch. Slovenia can trace its democratic routes to the seventh century when local farmers would elect their own Dukes. Formerly part of Yugoslavia, Slovenia had been the most productive Yugoslav Republic. Despite representing less than 10% of Yugoslavia’s population, Slovenia represented 20% of the GDP of the former Communist federation. Slovenia was the first Yugoslav republic to declare independence but was not badly affected by the break-up of the country. Isolated on the…Read more

Slovakia – EU Parliamentary Elections

Political Background Slovakia joined the EU as part of the large expansion of 2004. It joined the Eurozone in 2009, officially becoming the last country to join the Euro before the Eurozone crisis. Formerly part of Czechoslovakia, Slovakia was more rural, and less developed part of the former country. After the fall of Communism, Slovakia came to be dominated by Vladimir Meciar’s Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. Meciar fought with his Czech equivalents over the correct structure of the Czechslovak state, with the Czechs desiring a more centralised Czechoslovakia, and Meciar desiring deeper…Read more

Romania – EU Parliamentary Elections

Political Background Romania joined the EU in 2007, along with Bulgaria. It had initially been slated to join in 2004, but its admission was delayed due to doubts about the integrity of its political and economic system. Communist Romania was governed by the leadership of Nicolae Ceausescu. Ceausescu ran a particularly repressive regime with one of the most brutal secret police, the Securitate, in the world. Ceausescu’s regime was marked by an extreme cult of personality and nepotism on his part. In the words of the academics Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan, Ceausescu’s…Read more

Portugal – EU Parliamentary Elections

Political Background Portugal joined the EU in 1986, along with Spain, having emerged from dictatorship in the 1970s. Portugal joined the Euro on its inception. From 1926 until 1974 Portugal was run by the Ditadura Nacional (‘National Dictatorship’) and then from 1933 Estado Novo (‘New State’) a right-wing authoritarian dictatorship under Antonio Salazar (until his resignation in 1968, two years before his death). Salazar’s regime was highly anti-communist and anti-liberal and strongly supported Catholicism and colonialism (hence Portugal was the last of the European empires to decolonise). Salazar’s regime conservative and nationalistic regime…Read more

Poland – EU Parliamentary Elections

Political Background Poland joined the EU in 2004, as part of the ten country expansion of that year. Poland was historically one of Europe’s greatest states, the dominant component of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth which was Europe’s largest country at one point and one of its most progressive, with a system of checks and balances which contributed to the ideas of modern day democracy and federalism, and which provided ‘golden liberty’ to a full 10% of its population. The Commonwealth was, however, wiped off the map in the late 18th century, as it was…Read more

The Netherlands – EU Parliamentary Elections

Political Background The Netherlands has been part of the EU and the Euro since their inception. The Netherlands has possibly the most consensual political system in the entire EU, due to the historical legacy of sharp divisions on religious lines. The Dutch have a saying: “One Dutchman is a theologian; two Dutchmen are a Church; three Dutchmen are a schism.” The national system imposes a very low barrier to entry – only 0.67% of the vote is required to enter the national parliament, and the Netherlands has the most proportional elections in the…Read more

Malta – EU Parliamentary Elections

Political Background Malta joined the EU in 2004 and rapidly joined the Eurozone in 2008. Malta is the smallest country in the EU, with a population of around 450,000. Malta has a smaller population than Manchester and at only 312 square kilometres (121 square miles) it is roughly the size of the Isle of Wight. Malta is so small that it did not have local government until 1993. Malta’s position in the Mediterranean, it is the most Southern EU country and lies parallel to Tunisia, means that it has historically been of strategic…Read more