Lucille Rieux is the secretary general of AEGEE-Europe/European Students' Forum, the largest EU-level student organisation, based in Brussels.
AEGEE-Europe has recently launched Y Vote 2014, a youth-led campaign aiming to encourage young citizens to get involved in the upcoming Elections. Yet our way is obstructed by the political parties which prepare campaigns too much focused on national issues, because this message is transferred to the electors. How can we convince the European constituency of the importance of their participation in these elections, when the message of the candidates has such a strong national perspective and does not address the issues that are relevant for them? We don't want to see politicians repeating mistakes from the past, with national parties pushing forward candidates based on obscure reasons, linked to the political game inside each one of the parties. Does the European Parliament not deserve to have passionate and well-prepared candidates truly interested in the European issues?
The reluctancy of some Member States to focus on true European topics is highly disappointing. Currently, the EP Elections often serve as a thermometer for national politics, and they are a key piece of the strategies to win the next national elections. Political parties run their campaigns blaming the opposing parties for its decisions on the national ground, and almost no attention is paid to Europe and its future. We have the recent example of Artur Mas, President of the regional Government of Catalunya, trying to transform the EP elections in the referendum about catalonian right to decide that has been blocked by the Spanish Government.
AEGEE deplores this resistance to switch towards a real European campaign with a proper transnational debate of ideas. This way of presenting the campaign conditions the perception of the electors, and pushes them to choose candidates according to the good or bad performance of their parties on national politics, sanctioning the work of national politics in the previous months. This campaign looking more to the past than to the future biases the selection of MEPs dangerously. This is not the way to find an exit to the crisis, but a risk to perpetuate it.
In this context, we welcome the endorsement of the Duff Report by the European Parliament. This report includes a set of measures to reform the EP Elections, from where we especially like the proposal that “25 MEPs (shall) be elected by a single constituency formed of a whole territory of the European Union”. This daring proposal seems a first step towards truly European elections, with candidates representing first and foremost their ideas, whatever their nationality is. We would appreciate as well the creation of “transnational lists” because that measure would strengthen the European perspective on these elections.
Unfortunately, the Duff report is a non-legislative resolution by the Parliament, calling on European political parties and national Member States to act accordingly. Therefore the implementation of the proposals depends on the willingness of the Member States, and they haven’t yet given any positive sign they will follow these guidelines. At least, we are happy that the four main European political groups (EPP, S&D, ALDE and Greens) have at least declared that they will come forward with a candidate for the Presidency of the European Commission, which is already a new approach to a more transnational elections. Yet we still expect more commitment from them. We call the political groups in the EP to convince the national parties to carry out a real European campaign, focusing on the issues that really affect the European citizens and leaving their national agendas behind. Even more, we demand the national parties to create their lists according to transparent criteria, and to choose the candidates based on their expertise on EU matters. And finally, we would appreciate if the candidates are proficient in at least another language than their mother tongue. This is not only a first step towards the strategy of the European Union which aims at “mother tongue + 2” for all EU citizens; it is also a matter of fairness, since young people has to meet this requirement for almost any job or grant we apply for.
it is time to give a real boost in favor of the European Union, to be ambitious and daring, and we expect the Members States and the European Political Groups to accept the challenge.