The success of Eurosceptic parties like the UK Independence Party, which advocates British withdrawal from the EU, has contributed to generally negative coverage of the recent EU Parliamentary elections. Although I disagree with UKIP, I think its success is a good thing.
From my perspective as a sympathetic outside observer, the biggest single problem with the EU is the “democratic deficit” arising from the fact that the European Parliament isn’t really responsible to voters, though it is no longer a rubber-stamp for unelected officials. Most voters vote for national parties on the basis of national issues.
By contrast, the UKIP is running on a specifically European issue, and putting forward a legitimate viewpoint, though apparently one held by only a minority of British voters. It’s up to those who disagree to respond in kind.
One obvious response would be for candidates to run under the banner of their EU Parliamentary grouping instead of, or in addition to, that of their national party. The obvious objections to this course of action don’t, in my view stand up to scrutiny.
The first is that these parties would be unfamiliar to voters. But many European countries have experienced the rise of new parties at the national level or the renaming of existing ones without the electors collapsing into a state of confusion.
The second, related objection, is that this course of action would alienate core supporters. No doubt there are some supporters of, say, the German Social Democratic Party who would be less inclined to vote for the European Socialist Party. But surely there are far more German voters with broadly social-democratic views who wanted to give Helmut Schmidt a kicking, and took the opportunity in the EU elections.
Going further, the history of the rise and decline of parties is that a fundamental challenge on a new issue tends to force previously opposing parties into coalition or fusion. As far as European issues go, the differences between socialists, social democrats and moderate liberals are far less significant than the difference between all these groups on one side and the Eurosceptics on the other.