Looking the May 2019 European Parliament elections in the face even more closely this time, you might expect that grand political issues of the moment and how the EU might work to overcome them will be on the table.
Well, no. Not this time.
This time, EnlargEUrope will focus on the youth population in the EU, the future and ultimate destiny of the continent and of the European Union. As the next round of censuses will likely show young people to be a dwindling population, it comes as perhaps no wonder that they are the focus of the Union’s interest today. After all, they will be the EU’s future political and economic population, its producers, consumers, investors and taxpayers. And voters and abstainers and protesters, to boot.
Every step of the way that young people spend feeling disengaged from the EU is a potentially problematic prospect tomorrow, when these young people elect to disengage from public affairs, paving the way for those who would get involved, but not through pro-social channels of participation. There is no shortage of those political actors who are interested in disrupting the EU who are counting precisely on young voters, their inexperience and susceptibility to messages that offer simple solutions and play off the easy trope of Us vs. Them, The Good People vs. The Corrupt Elite.
Getting youth to constructively participate in decision-making processes
in no small task and the EU knows it.
The solution is no longer to resort to relegating youth to maybe voting every couple of years and then being quiet the rest of the time. The EU is no longer willing to repeat the previous errors of various Member States whose governments had previously demonstrated the understanding that decision-making is the lot of a small clique of wealthy, influential, educated individuals that self-recruits from among its own ranks.
As the publishing years of political science literature show, this sort of democratic elitism has long been more or less the default attitude of Western political elites, casting the claim that old democracies had perfected participatory mechanisms in a somewhat different light. It is precisely these same countries that have faced several waves of voters’ defection from the established parties of their day, sometimes putting entire national party systems in turmoil for years at a time.
Participation comes in a variety of flavours
So, obviously, youth need to be involved today. And involved honestly – as a very useful model called Hart’s Ladder of Youth Voice (see here for a nice specimen) demonstrates, political and societal participation comes in a variety of flavours, which are among themselves in a hierarchical relationship. Not all of the rungs of the ladder constitute genuine participation – youth manipulated, youth tokenized and youth used for decoration are decidedly not youth participation.
But getting out of the Election Day and taking a ballot definitely is.
With this in mind, the European Parliament has launched the campaign to help encourage a higher voter turnout in the European Elections, especially among youth. There are three different scopes of engagement you may take. Sign up here and get information about how to get involved in This time I vote online campaign and/or in your local area.