The Brief, powered by The Greens/EFA — Europe’s future is shaped by its old electorate

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

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Seeing that election results in EU countries are increasingly determined by older voters, one cannot but wonder: What sort of innovations can we really expect from politics these days?

The latest example came from Germany’s federal election. The Greens and the Liberals (FDP) dominated among voters under the age of 25 with 23% and 22% respectively. The Left, with 8%, clearly has a better share of votes in this age group than in the entire electorate, where it won a meagre 4.9%.

At the same time, the results are rather heartbreaking for the two dominant political parties, coalition partners in the outgoing cabinet. Only 11% of young people voted for the Christian Democrats and 14% for the Social Democrats (SPD).

The picture is overwhelmingly different among those over 60 years of age and even more so in the over-70 group. The CDU/CSU takes the lead in the latter age group with 39%, followed by the SPD with 33%. In this age bracket, all the other parties are sinking significantly below their polling average.

One could say the party choices of German voters partly depended on their age. Considering that Germany, like almost all European countries, is facing a serious demographic problem with its steadily ageing population, one can be tempted to claim that the final election outcome was distorted, to the detriment of the younger generation.

But this is not the case only in Germany. Greece is another example: Its ruling New Democracy party (EPP) was over-represented in the last elections among older voters, while the youth vote was well below the party’s average.

Election results in several European countries are therefore largely determined on the basis of their age composition. And an ageing population is easily swayed by the promises of higher pensions and free prescription of medicines…

Overall, however, older people vote more conservatively, they are generally afraid of taking risks and going into unchartered territory with new reforms. They do not approve of strange “experiments”, they fear the unknown.

This is perhaps one reason why Europe has for decades consistently lagged behind in innovation. Traditional parties have been running tried and tested campaigns of the past to keep traditional party clients engaged.

European citizens, young and old, use mobile phones made in the US or China, cars from Japan and Korea, TVs, air conditioners and other appliances from Asia.

The intriguing question, which cannot be answered today, is simple: Will we sit and wait for today’s young people to grow up only to find out that they have become as conservative as their parents and that Europe will continue to grow old with them, spiritually and mentally?

Or will they will bring about a radical renewal of the political systems and get rid of “dinosaur” parties?

Only time will tell. But we should not forget that time is also ruthless.

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The Roundup

As post-election coalition talks continue in Germany, France is silently crossing its fingers for a favorable government. France will take over the presidency of the Council of the EU on 1 January 2022, and a lot depends on whether or not Germany has a concrete majority government by then (and who’s in it).   

Speaking of French presidents: Nicolas Sarkozy was found guilty of illegal campaign financing over his failed 2012 re-election bid, which comes with a one-year prison sentence. This is Sarkozy’s second sentence this year, but will he actually end up in jail? 

Back to Macron, who is probably having a better day than the former president. Macron announced on Tuesday that as of 2022, ​​consultations with psychologists will be reimbursed for the entire French population aged three and above. This applies if patients subscribe to an eight-session package, with a €40 reimbursement for the first session and €30 for those following.

Big news day for France, as the National Commission for Data Protection published a decree against the Ministry of the Interior, identifying “failures” in the adequate maintenance of its digital fingerprint database (FAED). Issues include illegal data storage, poor file management, and a lack of information provided to individuals with data in the system. 

Still on tech, YouTube has permanently deleted the German offshoot of Russia Today (RT) for repeatedly breaking community guidelines on disinformation, which prompted threats of retaliation from Russia. Russian officials called the ban “unprecedented information aggression.”

And on the other side of “fake news,” Bojan Veselinovic, the head of STA, resigned Thursday as Slovenia’s government continues to withhold funding from the Slovenian news agency. Financing was suspended last December after conservative Prime Minister Janez Janša criticized STA’s reporting on the coronavirus crisis, calling it a “disgrace.” 

After ten days of tensions between Kosovo and Serbia, officials have reached a temporary de-escalation agreement. Both countries have agreed to simultaneously remove special police units near the Jarinje and Brnjak crossings, starting at 8 am on Saturday (2 October), and complete the withdrawal no later than 4 pm.

Stakeholders argue that the Commission’s proposed mandate to support sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) will lead to higher greenhouse gas emissions by diverting waste-based biofuels from the road sector. The Commission, though, says “this is an absolutely ridiculous assertion and there is no evidence for that at all.”

Look out for…

  • Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides meets with Austrian Minister of Health to discuss vaccine rollout.
  • Third European Citizens’ Panel for the Conference on the Future of Europe kicks off in Strasbourg on Friday. Attendees will debate climate change, environment and health. 
  • Commission Vice-President Josep Borrell in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia until Sunday (3 October) for diplomatic meetings.
  • Ninth annual European Cybersecurity Month, titled ‘Think Before U Click,” kicks off on Friday.

Views are the author’s

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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