From the 23rd until the 26th of May, the European Parliament elections will take place. For many of us students, it will be the first time to cast a ballot for this continent-wide election. Since the very first European elections were held in 1979, the voter turnout has been decreasing steadily. Yet, this year, things will hopefully be different. Not only will this election be the first European election after a member country decided to leave the EU, but it can also be seen as a referendum on the whole European project with tremendous consequences for its future.
To convince you of the importance of making your voice heard in Brussels, this article outlines 7 reasons why YOU SHOULD cast a ballot in May.
1. The European Parliament has more power than you might think!
Many people believe that the member states remain to be the powerful ones on European level. While this might be true to a certain extent, there is hardly one European law that comes into force without the acceptance of the European Parliament. It can pass laws together with the Council of the EU that are applicable for all member countries. Essentially, the influence of the politicians in Brussels and Strasbourg is more significant than many people think – and only those who vote decide on who makes our laws.
If you want to learn more about the role of the European Parliament, you can read our dummy guide.
2. The EU impacts your daily life!
Although the EU often appears bureaucratic and far away from reality, it actually impacts your daily life to a larger extent than you might expect. Not only is the Euro a European project that we encounter on a daily basis, but also many laws that concern us originate from the European Parliament. Some of these things might nowadays be so natural for us, that we fail to realize that these achievements were actually brought to us by the EU. Maastricht serves as a good example to illustrate concrete examples of how the EU affects us on a daily basis. Coming from different member states, many students profit from the right to study, work and live anywhere in the EU. We students receive Erasmus+ when going on exchange to another European country and can use our phones in all member states as if we were at home. While travelling through the EU we can cross all borders without showing our passports and in case that we need medical support, our national health insurances are valid everywhere. Often, the parliamentarians are the ones who have the citizens’ benefits as a priority as opposed to the Commission and the Council who mostly care about business interests and economic stability.
Considering that the EU touches many aspects of your lives, wouldn’t it be nice to have a say in it?
3. You pay taxes – decide what happens to your money!
As taxpayers, or soon-to-be taxpayers, it is important to have a say in how many taxes you will have to pay and how your money will be spent. Voting for a certain party with a specific programme will be a good opportunity to show the politicians what you want. The more votes your preferred party gets, the more other parties will try to accommodate your expectations during the next elections.
4. The European Parliament is something unique!
The European Parliament is an exceptional institution that cannot be compared to any other institution in the world. Nowhere else an assembly that is composed of parliamentarians coming from different nations who decide on the future of their people exists. The upcoming elections are a major twice-a-decade democratic exercise and participating in it together with many other European people can be a meaningful experience.
5. The higher the turnout, the more democratic the EU!
Many people criticise that the EU is not democratic enough. Participating in the European elections can, however, be the first step to become involved in the European project and to increase its democratic legitimization. The more people participate in the elections, the greater the importance of the European Parliament and the greater the legitimization of its members will be. After all, the European Parliament is the only institution in the EU that gets directly elected by its peoples.
6. Now more important than ever before!
The EU is in a period of political change and the number of politicians that do not embrace values such as the rule of law and democracy increases. If these politicians are elected as members of the European Parliament, there is – for the first time – the possibility that anti-EU parties could form a big anti-EU faction. As a consequence, they could be in a position to disrupt the legislative business. European populist forces have, however, traditionally been divided and could, therefore, fail to form one single bloc in the parliament. Whilst these parties have long threatened to end the European project, they now rather want to modify it by – for instance – rebuilding borders between the European countries. Accordingly, Emmanuel Macron called the elections a choice for, or against, Europe.
7. Take responsibility for Europe’s future!
We – the students – are the upcoming generation in Europe. It is our responsibility to actively decide on our future and this future also entails some form of Europe – no matter what your political affiliation might be. Together we should stand up for the very idea of democracy by making use of our right to vote. It will not be sufficient to just hope for a better future, this time we all have to take action.
Voting alone might not be the solution of all of the EU’s problems, but it can serve as an important starting point.
In case you are wondering how to vote for the European elections as a foreigner living in Maastricht or abroad elsewhere, don’t worry; the MD has got you covered.
Caro Lurz is following a bachelor in European Studies at Um and writes for the Diplomat