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Democratic passions could flourish differently if they could express themselves in rhythm. For people to dance together, the music has to start at the same time for everyone. Similarly, for the European peoples to feel part of the same political community, the elections by which they bring their representatives to power should be held simultaneously. Although this principle already guides the elections to the European Parliament, each European people still follows its own rhythm when they elect their national government and thus their representatives to the most powerful institution in charge of policymaking at the European level: the European Council. This asynchrony, so we hypothesize, may engender some dissatisfaction with European policies and processes among European voters.

Based on this observation, we believe it is worth examining whether the institution of a “European Election Day” for all legislative elections in Europe could bring more transparency in European policymaking and a stronger sense of “voice,” to use Albert Hirschman’s phrase, among European voters. The synchronization of national elections in Europe no doubt raises problems of an immense complexity at constitutional and political levels, but new bold proposals are needed to achieve both a democratization of European institutions and an Europeanization of public debates.  For instance, the “Lab” will critically engage with presently debated proposals for EU reform, such as the creation of a Eurozone budget and Eurozone parliament, as the creation of the latter (being composed of representatives of national parliaments) would make the issue of the temporality of national parliamentary elections even more relevant.

This project thus gathers jurists, sociologists, political scientists and policymakers to assess in laboratory-like conditions the worth of various proposals aimed at synchronizing national legislative elections at the European level. Participants to the European Election Day Lab will address questions such as:

How do federalist regimes organize the elections at the federal level? Can democracy survive at the federal level without uniting around the one-time expression of the popular will?
What would be the expected effects of a European Election Day (or European Election Month) on European institutions? Would it reinforce inter-governmentalism? Could it also reinforce the European Parliament and Commission? Would it be desirable to synchronize national parliamentary elections should a new assembly of the Euro-Zone be created?
If national parliamentary elections were to take place on the same day, should these elections be held at various times in order to renew various segments (for instance, a third of the members)? Could complete or partial synchronization of national elections create chaos in the European Council or in a future Euro-zone assembly?
What are the expected effects of this proposal on political parties? Would political parties be forced to Europeanize their agendas? Is there a risk that ideological issues trump national issues?
What are the main constitutional blockages and challenges that would prevent the adoption of a European Election Day? Would its adoption necessarily mean a constitutional reform or would reform of electoral laws suffice? Should it be adopted in the context of the ratification of a new Treaty to Democratize the European Union?
By answering these questions, we hope to generate new ideas, new research questions and new policy proposals in an experimental fashion. The goal is not to adopt for all participants to adopt one common proposal, but to broaden their political and scientific imagination when interrogating the democratic deficit of European institutions.

October 2017

Workshop Report