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Europe

Brussels Begins Post-election Soul-Searching

Shocked by low turnout for European Parliament elections in the last week, the EU has begin examining the causes. The Dutch presidency plans to hold a conference on the topic in October.

The European Commission and the next EU Presidency are beginning a long process of soul-searching to discover why so many voters did not bother to turn out and vote in recent elections and why so many voted for euroskeptic parties. Speaking to journalists Wednesday, Commission President Romano Prodi said, "This was a particularly poor turnout, and we are very concerned about this. We will have to take this into account as we examine the implications of the European elections." Less than half of the electorate expressed their views at the ballot box -- an all-time low --and in some new member states, the turnout was closer to 20 percent. But Prodi dismissed the notion that low turnout in the newer members of the EU club was due to dissatisfaction with Brussels. "Of course, in the Commission, we are going to analyze these aspects in depth, but it would not appear that low turnout in the new member states is linked to any lack of satisfaction. Dissatisfaction seems to be reducing," he said. Earlier in the week, the Dutch state secretary for European affairs, Atzo Nicolaï, announced that the Dutch, who will assume the rotating EU presidency in July, would organize a conference in October on the issue of why turnout for the elections was so low. Ministers and state secretaries for European affairs of all member states will convene to assess the causes of the different turnout figures and the varying communication strategies. "The goal is to learn lessons from each other in order to improve the turnout in the next elections", Frits Kemperman, Dutch spokesman, told the EUobserver. (EUobserver.com)

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