Your Vote, Your Europe

To see Part 1 of the Common Article written by our team of International Ambassadors, along with the introduction written by our International Officer, please click here.


Greece: European Elections: An opportunity to increase the democratic control in the era of chimeras

EU legislation regulates every aspect of our lives, from human rights to tourism and the environment. Two Institutions participate in the legislative procedure; The European Parliament which is directly elected and the Council which consists of representatives of national governments. As a result, this procedure ensures needed checks and balances for the Union’s governance. Those along with the technical expertise of the Commission ensure, a generally, effective as well as democratic governance. In an era of challenges such as Brexit and Populism movements’ blooming we need an effective government.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is ante portas and every system which wishes to survive needs a continuous transformation. The democratic control in this Era is more than needed, to adopt policies without any reduction in our values. Based on EU results the turnout is continuously decreased since 1979 while the challenges which faces our Union continuously and exponentially have increased along with the powers of the Parliament. Turnout rates for Greece are significantly higher than EU but the trend is also downward.

Those statistics support the argument that younger people are not enough familiarised with the role of the Parliament and they feel it as a “far away” institution. This conduct downgrades Parliament’s voice and consequently our voices. In our opinion, the best way to motivate young people to go to the ballot box is via citizenship literacy within formal education, but Greece local conditions dictate another approach. A social media campaign based on visualised facts combined with Q&A sessions are powerful tools in our hands. We need an effective message carrier. The content exists, and a significant example is the ban on throwing away plastics by 2021.


Spain (Barcelona): Reinforcing the Democratic Responsibilities of European Youth.

As Europe confronts an increasing number of social, political and economic challenges, it requires additional support from its citizens: every vote counts during this particularly volatile time.

Sometimes we feel that the small decisions we make do not have an impact on the bigger picture, especially in regards to such a complex organization as the EU. We tend to think that our opinions will not materialise into anything, that our voice will be ignored and cast aside, but this could not be further from the truth.

The upcoming European elections face a growing concern of how to attract more young people to go out and vote at the ballot box. To address this issue, the EU must educate its populace so that they are aware of the how, when and why they should vote. We must mobilise and encourage a well-informed youth who know the power of their vote, and give them the opportunity to choose a better future. More effort should be put on motivating young people to become interested in European ideas and policy. Why do European politics matter? How can it affect their daily lives? Why are elections important for European youth? If we were able to provide an answer to these questions, people would realise the value of participating actively in the discourse and political process of the EU.

We must put to an end the idea that voting will not change anything because as history has proven, voting changes everything. A firm belief in democracy is the reason why many of us make the effort to exercise our right to vote, and the youth must take advantage of this hard-earnt access to influence political decision-making. In fact, as young people hold more positive attitudes towards the EU than past generations, their weak presence at the polling stations actually benefits parties that are more critical of EU integration. Increasing the percentage of young people who vote in European elections will help to counteract the rise of nationalist and eurosceptic movements, who deny the concept of European citizenship and are against further integration of the EU.

Europe and European elections are important. This time, it’s not enough for us to hope for a greater future, this time we need to take responsibility for it.


Macedonia: Elections and voting: A Macedonian perspective

Europe is the cradle of democracy. This awareness is a cause for pride among the Europeans who are the authors of the most rational form of state administration. Democracy consists of several key values, including equality in the power of political decisions among others.

A model for making a political decision is an election. In elections, every citizen of Europe, in accordance with the principles of civic arrangement, decides on the future of Europe. One decision encompasses many visions, and the most representative thinkers are of course the young people. Youthfulness is helpful for vision, hope, a sharp feeling of righteousness, and uncompromising ethics and values. Therefore, the decisions of young people, as a progressive social force are of great relevance for any kind of society.

We come from the Republic of Macedonia, a country in which citizens have lost their trust in the institutions and their representatives. Citizens of Macedonia are convinced that almost nothing is decided in elections. It is with this apathy, that young people are particularly affected. One of the indicators that the Macedonian citizens have lost their faith in the institutions is their boycotting of the recent referendum. Their decision to boycott contributed to the referendum being declared unsuccessful due to the unfulfilled censuses.

Observing developments on the international scene, but especially in the domestic political context, make young people become apolitical and resigned. The young are witnessing a cruel and unjust policy that conflicts with their ideals and their utopian ideas, so instead of voting they decide to abstain.


Poland: The Polish Perspective

(Please note: since the completion of this article, our former Polish Ambassador – the original author of this article – had to leave the team. Nevertheless, we are happy to welcome our new Polish Ambassador who will contribute to upcoming EST publications!)

We are all Europeans, despite being born in different countries. In the next year, the European Elections will take place. Some young people in Poland seem as if they do not care – Brussels is far away, after all. However, these elections are as important (if not more) as the national Polish ones. In this article, I will present the young Poles’ view on the European elections.

I think that for young people across Europe, the coming elections are especially important. There is hope that the newly elected members of the European Parliament will stand together and fight effectively against the two biggest threats for the continent today – the new wave of nationalism, and climate change. Young Europeans will choose the politicians who are able to understand their needs and propose a constructive vision for the future.

Polish citizens feel like their vote counts, but they do not believe in European institutions anymore – they could not prevent Law and Justice (the current ruling party in Poland) from breaching the national constitution. They believe in having an influence on the outcome of these elections, but they have lost faith in the EU.

People do not vote because they perceive politics as something that they cannot have any impact on. They believe that electoral malpractice is common, so they might as well just r stay at home rather than participate by voting. The only way to encourage these groups to vote is through education. In schools’ curriculum, there should be classes focused on teaching about the role of a citizen in a democratic system.

I personally believe that these elections will change Europe for the better, and that the wave of populism will be defeated.


Spain (Sevilla)A common responsibility to a common project  

Having a youth unemployment rate of 38.6% which is twice the European average of 16,8%, is clearly the most pressing concern among Spain’s young people. In addition to that, Spain’s youth is concerned about having a better future of political and economic stability. Thirdly, the possibility to enhance personal development with access to equal opportunities is also among the youth concerns for 2019 European Elections.

Yet, the participation in the EU voting process has decreased over the years. As the 2018 Eurobarometer shows, there is still a 48% of Spanish young’s population (15-24 years old) which are predicted not to vote in 2019. The lack of participation can be a result of the prevailing thought that EU decisions are not addressing real youth interests and their vote does not count, plus a  distrust of the political system.

Having clear ideas of our preoccupations and knowing that voting is one of the fundamental steps in a democracy to reach a solution, the situation can and must be reversed. Solutions to motivate young people who participate in the EU elections involves multiple factors, for example; political programmes should include young people’s interests. Simultaneously, media and civil society (associations, universities, youth organizations etc must emphasize the decisive role of participation. To complement this and increase the youth’s interest, the youth must be included in EU debates as this helps to give an explanation of the EU’s impact in our daily life.

Otherwise, an uninformed society can be considered to be ignorant and be easily manipulated. The EU common project depends on our common responsibility; our votes and involvement!


Portugal

We have 6 months ahead of us until the next European elections. These elections will decide the future of Europe and the structure of the European Parliament-, at a time when the EU is undeniably facing critical challenges.

Youth abstention is very high, which is paradoxical because they are prepared and qualified to obtain information more than ever before. This means that among many other things, there is a lack of political education throughout the upbringing of an individual as a member of the society. Nevertheless, it is essential to explain the importance of voting and to be aware that their vote is a ‘big deal’ and can make a difference.

At this crucial moment for our Union, it is necessary to raise awareness amongst youth communities, particularly on their rights and duties of voting as this entails the risk that someone else will decide their future for them. They need to know who can represent them in sensitive matters, such as the refugee crisis, the growth of a more radical and anti-European wing, youth unemployment, climate change and terrorism. For instance, in Sweden there will be 70 000 new voters, which means that they can make a difference.

Therefore, young people need to go out to the streets, vote and grab the future with their bare hands. Hope alone will not be enough this time. We need to assume our responsibilities because ‘Your vote means Your Europe’!


Slovakia: “The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” – Abraham Lincoln

We all know that the election process is a  core element of democracy. So, what does election mean? It is a process where citizens vote for a politician who will represent their interests and believes in the political arena . Unfortunately, a  majority/ minority of the youth are not really interested and active in the voting process. But what happens if they do not vote?

First of all, the chance for their ideas and values to be heard and approached by someone who would represent them in the policy-making institutions, will be minimized. Second of all, when the interests of citizens are not being defended in the political arena, they will not feel the power and freedom of their voice.  A student for example, would feel worthless and unable to influence anything in his society. Therefore, the gap between students and policy-making institutions will increase more. This gap is the reason why students are not motivated enough to participate in the voting process. There is only one simple and efficient way to motivate a student – to explain to him that by refusing to decide something, that itself is already a decision.

Everything has consequences and  this needs to be known, in order to build a bright future for  themselves, as well as their society, by making the right decisions . They have to understand that by not voting at all, somebody else will  speak on their behalf through that vote, potentially allowing a person with extremist views or someone unprofessional to become the leader. It will result in the destabilization of democracy and creating more problems. As history has shown us, such a process can escalate to anarchy, totalitarianism, conflicts, civil wars, and destabilization.

As a conclusion, it is important for all  citizens to vote, because it is their right, freedom, and hope for a better future.


Belgium: Youth’s Perspective on voting

What are the reasons why some young people do not vote and how can they be motivated to go to the ballot box?

Voting as a young person is highly influenced by the political culture and environment you grow up in. My family has always viewed voting as a privilege and a right we have, and therefore must use, rather than an obligation. Through voting you can express your opinions, elect your representatives and therefore influence the decisions that will determine your future. Looking at the European Parliament elections this is even more relevant.

When looking at the EU system many citizens and especially young citizens do not see the power their vote has. This is the main reason many people do not even vote. Further I have personally heard from many people that they simply did not know when/how to vote! This is an issue that can be solved so easily, especially today with the help of social media. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are most probably the best platforms to reach out to the youth. These can be used to show young voters the impact they can make, the influence they have on the Parliament and therefore the EU as a whole.

We are all the Youth of Europe, the representatives we choose largely determine the path the EU will follow for the upcoming 5 years. Do you want to combat Eurosceptics? Or do you believe they are right and should have more support in the EP? Do you want to live in a prosperous Europe? Do you want a Europe that works for the youth? If you have answered with YES to any of the following questions you need to cast your vote!