Poland joined the EU fifteen years ago after a referendum in which more than three-quarters of the society voted YES. May 1st 2004 was a happy day filled with celebrations across the whole country. This year, as we vote for the fourth time in the European elections, we took a look at how Polish people react to the EU fifteen years after accession.
Broadly speaking, our research shows that the majority of Poles still have a positive outlook on the European Union. However, only 20+% vote in the European Parliament elections. What’s even more problematic, young people aged 18-24 are the smallest group among voters – on average, only 15% of them vote! How can this discrepancy be explained? According to our research, young people simply aren’t interested in politics. European Parliament is for many of them a faraway institution that (they think) has no impact on their lives. Perhaps even more importantly, they believe that their vote won’t change anything.
Faced with this challenging statistics, we decided at the Schuman Foundation to challenge the views so strongly held by the young voters and show them concrete examples of the impact of EU legislation on their lives through a series of workshops organized at high schools across Poland. It’s not always easy – school lessons teach students about EU rules and institutions, but ignore the basics such as values and what the Union actually does, how it influences everyday life and why was created. During our workshops, we work with maps, puzzles and quizzes to highlight the areas of life in which they encounter the EU. Many of them take the benefits of belonging to the European community for granted and come to appreciate the importance of the work of the European Parliament as the workshops go on.
Youth participation is a problem across almost the whole of Europe, hence European Parliament’s campaigns such as “This time I’m voting”.
Their goal is to convince the greatest possible number of people from all EU countries to vote in the upcoming elections and encourage them to share why they think voting is important. After all, as our workshops and “This time I’m voting” campaign intend to show, together we can work on things important to us better.