You will have to live with the EU whether you vote or not


Elections for the European Parliament, European elections, EU elections – call them what you will! But what are the EU elections actually about?

The EU elections are held on 9 June 2024, with 720 members of the European Parliament, or MEPs, elected in them. During the next term, a total of 15 MEPs will be representing Finland in the Parliament. The main duties of the European Parliament include approving EU legislation, monitoring the operation of the EU’s other administrative bodies and deciding on the EU’s budget.

The EU may seem far away, but decisions made by it affect our lives every day. Thanks to the EU, you can take a last-minute flight to spend a weekend in Riga without having to apply for a visa or change currency. If your return flight is suddenly cancelled just before it leaves, you are entitled to compensation.  Back home, you can go shopping in the Tripla shopping mall, which received a 130-million loan guarantee for its construction from the European Investment Bank. At the grocery, you can buy Finnish products because the EU supports Finnish farmers with an average of 240 euros per hectare. And when you visit your parents in Riihimäki in the future, your journey will be smoother because the EU is funding a project improving the Helsinki–Riihimäki railway.

The EU also directly affects higher education students. For decades now, the EU has supported international mobility and cooperation both between higher education institutions and among students. Its best-known internationalisation project is the Erasmus+ programme that supports people going on exchange or taking an internship abroad. Over 14 million people have taken part in the Erasmus+ programme since it was launched in 1987.

In addition to its grant programmes, the EU also increases cooperation between higher education institutions through the European Education Area, for instance. One of the goals of the area is to standardise degrees and studies completed in European universities to make it easier for higher education institutions to recognise studies completed in other institutions. The EU has also wanted to increase cooperation through the creation of European university networks. The University of Helsinki, for instance, is a part of the Una Europa network.

It is very clear that the EU affects our everyday life, in stores as well as on campuses. But why is it especially important for you as a student to vote in the upcoming elections?

The simple answer is that the EU’s role in Finland and in students’ lives is by no means getting smaller.

The upcoming elections address many issues that are critical for the future, including the EU’s finances and security. The EU has faced many new challenges since the previous elections, including the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Global challenges are not about to disappear either, which means that the EU will continue to make huge, difficult decisions in the future. The EU also has the opportunity to influence the major crises of our time, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, both of which have long-term effects on our lives as well as the lives of future generations.

In addition to all this, the far right is predicted to make gains in the elections. Even though the centre-right and centre-left groups are expected to remain the largest groups in the parliament, the rise of the far right would have a major impact on the EU’s policies. The predicted changes in the balance of power would be reflected in immigration and climate policies in particular.

From Finland’s perspective, the elections are also about additional seats in the parliament. The effects of Brexit and an increase in the number of seats in the European Parliament have handed Finland one entirely new seat in the parliament. Competition for the new seat among Finnish parties is fierce.

All in all, this June’s elections are particularly interesting. It is crucial to get students to vote and help define the EU’s future direction. In the 2019 EU elections, voter turnout was highest among people aged 74. Do you want pensioners to decide on your affairs? They will not have to live with the decisions that are made – you will.

What does your EU look like?


HYY’s international sector

Henna Heino, member of the Board in charge of international affairs
Tiia Niemi, specialist
Mathilda Timmer, specialist