It is time to vote again soon! This time, we will turn our eyes on Europe. Who will be representing us at the European Parliament for the next five years?
Voter turnout at the European Parliament elections has not traditionally been very flattering. This spring, there is also the risk of an election overdose: after months of buzz surrounding the parliamentary elections, there might not be enough energy for the Euro elections. Furthermore, both the parties and the media have focused their resources primarily on the parliamentary elections. However, a lot is happening this year at the EU level too. Finland’s EU Presidency begins in July, and we have a chance to focus attention on important issues, such as education and the status of science, due to the new European Parliament having just been elected.
The student movement is advocating for the accessibility of education in the Euro elections. We believe that education should be accessible to everyone regardless of socioeconomic background or wealth. Mobility related to studying, working and travel must be made easier within the EU. The EU must guarantee a civil society where young people and underrepresented groups have a genuine possibility to influence matters, from the local level up to the level of the Union itself. Representational democracy must be given a more central position in the EU’s political activities. The European Parliament is the Union’s only directly elected institution – its power in the EU’s decision-making processes must be increased.
The Euro elections should interest all of us – after all, many decisions on issues that concern Finland are made at the EU level. However, voter turnout among young people in the previous Euro elections in Finland was a measly ten per cent: a total of 90% of those aged 18 to 24 did not even vote for Donald Duck in the elections. By contrast, 66% of young people in Sweden voted in the 2014 elections. Why is it, then, that we young people in Finland do not vote?
It is not a question of us not feeling at home in the EU. In fact, according to a report by Eurooppanuoret, 81% of young people in Finland consider our membership in the EU a positive state of affairs. Young people identify as European, and no wonder. Our generation has grown into an ever-internationalising world in which geographical distances have lost their importance due to the internet’s development.
In order to vote, however, young people require information. The media should report more on the European Parliament, do it more regularly and take positive developments into account, too. Currently, news on the Parliament’s activities often focus on negative issues only – in other words, on bans set by the EU. News should also be more reactive and topical – reporting on issues that have already been practically decided is not enough.
The Euro elections and influencing opportunities in the EU deserve more news coverage, too. If young people believe that their votes are meaningless and their opportunities to influence matters non-existent, it is no wonder that they cannot be seen at the polling stations. Public discussion should highlight the things that the EU has to offer to young people. Do young people know what kind of opportunities the Erasmus programme offers, for instance?
In light of the above, I am challenging you to write and talk about the EU and the Euro elections. Discuss the things that the EU offers, how the EU’s decisions affect Finland and how young people in Finland can influence matters. Let us make sure that young people know that voting in these elections also matters!
Member of HYY’s Board