European Parliament elections – AEGEE-Europe | European Students' Forum AEGEE (Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe / European Students’ Forum) is a student organisation that promotes cooperation, communication and integration amongst young people in Europe. As a non-governmental, politically independent, and non-profit organisation AEGEE is open to students and young people from all faculties and disciplines – today it counts 13 000 members, active in close to 200 university cities in 40 European countries, making it the biggest interdisciplinary student association in Europe. Tue, 17 Oct 2017 22:02:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.10 Who represents Latvia during the EP elections? /who-represents-latvia-during-the-ep-elections/ Tue, 29 Apr 2014 09:20:00 +0000 /?p=5105

Discussing the ideas for Europe with EP candidates in Riga

Riga 2After the stop in Warsaw, team blue embarked on a long journey by bus up north to the capital of Latvia: Riga. Latvia can be seen as a symbol of the revival of the Baltic States and for years it had one of the highest economical growth figures in Europe. In Riga, Diana – an experienced member of AEGEE-Riga – picked us up from the station. She organized an amazing session at the university with some of the Latvian candidates for the European Parliament elections. During this session, we discussed the position of Latvia in Europe and the challenges and opportunities for the Latvian youth. We asked the candidates why they got involved into politics and why they found it important to participate in shaping the future of Europe. Have you already considered who will be the best representative for you during the elections?

Raising the voice of the young people

Riga 3Reinis is one of the candidates for the EP elections and he represents the Union of Greens and Farmers in Latvia. He told us that one of his main drives to become politically active is to give young people a stronger voice in the political debate. While the Latvian and the European political spheres are mostly occupied by the older generation, he argued that the voice of young people is not sufficiently taken into account. By taking part in public debates and by having the courage to become politically active, youngsters can make sure that the European Parliament can have more young EPs and this will change the political landscape. This change is also visible within Reinis’ own party while it increasingly tries to get young people engaged and become candidates for political positions.

Entrepreneurial youth

Riga 4Oskars, the youngest candidate for the EP in Latvia, explained that his entrepreneurship and innovative ideas were the main motivators for him to become politically active. He’s involved in several start-ups and is convinced that the entrepreneurial spirit will be the solution to many problems that young people are facing today. He explained that the society and the economical context are changing and that more people will have to rely on their individual talents and passions. That’s why he wants to focus on creating a friendlier climate for young people that want to start a business. Give them the opportunity to fail on the road towards success and don’t make them afraid of taking risks. He told us that Latvia is already doing pretty well in this respect while some policies actively support the creation of start-ups.

Reading about history and changing it

Riga 5Eriks, a candidate for the National Alliance in Latvia told us that he had always been interested in politics and history. He was greatly motivated by reading about the history of Europe and Latvia and realized that people are needed in order to realize this history. Thanks to this motivation, he became active in Latvian politics and is now ready to represent his country’s people in the European Parliament. When we asked him about his party, he first of all explained that although his party is nationalistically oriented it is not to be compared with nationalist parties in Western Europe. Though his party tries to preserve the Latvian culture and identity, it does not exclude any minority from its ideas and it supports the role of Latvia in the European Union. When we asked him about the first things he would actively work on in case he got elected he gave a very concrete answer: he told us that for his party, the two most important issues were to decrease the European dependence on Russian gas and to create a railway connection between the EU and the Baltic states. These two points would greatly benefit the Latvian people, according to Eriks.

How to counter corrupt politicians?

Riga 6The last speaker in Riga was Evija, who works for the Latvian NGO Transparency International. The main goal of the organization is to provide voters with more information about the people they will be voting on. It gathers information about politicians that voters ought to get acquainted with before they cast their votes. This information includes for example the criminal records of candidates or corruption cases that have been running against them. Moreover, it provides additional information like whether a candidate has switched parties in the past. By compiling all these data, Transparency International tries to make sure that voters have an idea about whether or not they have the chance of voting for a corrupt politician. Information is power and the power belongs to the voters.

With all these very interesting insights about the European Elections and the candidates for Latvia in mind, we had to leave Riga for the train to Belarus. At the station, we found a classic, very decent Soviet looking train with carpet on the floor and great service on board. We were ready to head for the very interesting destination of Minsk where we would discuss the ways of participation of the Belarusian youth.

 

 

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We believe in voting and democracy, not in politicians /we-believe-in-voting-and-politics-but-not-in-politicians/ Sun, 20 Apr 2014 22:49:54 +0000 /?p=4868 by Monica Nica

Marine, the president of AEGEE Lyon introduced us to her wonderful home city and the French way of spending time – picnicking with friends by the riverside. She also proposed having a different approach to disseminating information about the European Parliament (EP) elections and gathering opinions on it. Instead of holding a presentation we used a method called “Porteurs de paroles” which allowed us to engage the students at Jean Monnet University in a debate on the street.

Even though they were rather shy in starting a conversation, once we approached them they opened up and provided us with a full range of opinions, from Eurosceptic to Europtimist. For example, one student said he is not going to vote, but if he did it would only be for a candidate proposing to exit the Eurozone. On the other hand, some talked about voting as a duty, as a right that must be exercised because people died for them to have it.

DSC00907 (1)Lack of proper information seems to be, as it was in the mobility topic as well, one of the main deterrents for young people.  They complained that the elections for the EP do not receive nearly as much coverage as the national elections and even when they do, the focus of the debate is on national issues. Furthermore, students said that the issues debated do not interest or represent them. Despite this, they mentioned that their decision not to vote does not reflect a lack of interest in politics or the EU.

Lyon’s youths fit in the pattern discovered by various surveys and studies throughout the EU: young people are not apathetic, but their concerns, ideas, and ideal of democratic politics does not find a match within the available political offer. Moreover, there are structural barriers hindering or making it very difficult for the electoral participation of certain categories of young people. Through poverty, unemployment, linguistic, ethnic or social integration, some young people are systemically excluded.

The voting behaviour of young people presents differences based on income and educational background. Income strongly affects the motivations of non-voters: youths from poorer backgrounds are significantly more likely not to vote if there is no candidate or party they want to win.

DSC00902 (1)Although young people have trust in the effectiveness of voting, the older they get their cynicism and belief in non-electoral forms of participation increases. Since the first two elections in the life of a voter are highly important in determining their long-term participation, it is important to encourage and incentivise youths to vote from a young age. Participating in the first two elections they are eligible for can make the difference between habitual abstentionists or habitual participants later on.

The factors that can increase the likelihood of young people voting include being part of an association offering them positive experiences of political efficacy, coming from a family which traditionally votes, having political and civic education in school and last, but most certainly not least, having encounters with politicians who actually listen to them.

But as one student said: “it takes a lot of work to make young people aware that they can have an impact on the decision-makers”.

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Charlemagne meets Charlemagne in Aachen /charlemagne-meets-charlemagne-in-aachen/ Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:23:40 +0000 /?p=4521 11th of April 2014

Team Blue

Discussing Democracy in the former capital of Europe

If Europe would have any “capital” nowadays most people would situate it in Brussels, the city where the European institutions are located. However, in a distant past – more than a thousand years before we had a European Union and a European Parliament – the capital of Europe was situated in Aachen. This medium sized German city that is situated very closely to the Belgian and Dutch borders was once the centre of the Holy Roman Empire. It was the centre of the empire of Charlemagne, the traveling emperor who ruled his grounds by constantly moving from one place to another. Now, the Europe on Track team and winner of the Charlemagne Youth price visits the city after which their price is named: Charlemagne meets Charlemagne. In Aachen, we discussed about democracy, politics and the European Elections.

Aachen

Transnational politics and a government of experts

In Aachen, we discussed with some enthusiastic members of AEGEE-Aachen about the European Elections. Where does the idea of elections come from? Why should we take the effort to go to the voting office and cast our ballot for somebody we don’t even know? In order to get to know more about the elections, we had to go back to the basics – the reason why we vote anyway: democracy. In an interactive setting, the participants got the team-assignment to try to design their own democracy, totally from scratch.

“How would your ideal European democracy look like?”

Surprisingly, the teams came up with very different ideas. On behalf of “team Blue”, Benjamin Feyen presented an idea that was focussed on reforming the legislature. His team had come up with an idea of a European parliament that only consists of transnational seats. This would mean that anybody in Europe could vote for every candidate; so if you’re living in Poland you should be able to vote for a candidate from France or Portugal or any other member state. Moreover, they came up with the idea of having one third of the parliament being chosen by means of a lottery instead of elections, so to have one third of the parliament being filled with random European citizens. This could be a very interesting innovation while it would make a part of the parliament independent from party politics and campaigning: creating a “real” representation of the European population.

The other team, “team Red”, came up with a different idea that was focused on the executive branch of government. They argued that one of the main problems of politics nowadays is the gap between politicians and the field they are making policy for. In their ideal democracy, a health minister should have a background in the health sector and an education minister should have experience as teacher at an educational institution. Only if we could choose our ministers out of groups of experts in their field, the people in charge would be able come up with sensible policies and be directly accountable for these.

“Why should we take the effort to vote for the European Parliament elections?”

Workshop AachenAfter thinking about these “ideal” democracies we discussed the current situation of the European elections and asked the question “why would you vote?” All participants were convinced that they should take part in the elections, both to exercise their democratic right and to have influence on the shaping of the European political system. However, some critical comments were raised. Kostas Tsoleridis argued that it’s not strange that many people don’t go to vote because it is very hard to differentiate between European politicians. How can people really see the difference between the positions of for example Schulz and Juncker when they both have a lot of similar opinions on important topics? Moreover, the political structure of the EU has become so complicated, that it’s almost impossible for the average voter to know about the actual influence of his vote. How can you know whether your vote counts if you don’t understand the system?

The session in Aachen provided some very interesting insights in the ideas behind our democratic system. On the one hand, we seem to have a democratic system in the European Union, on the other there are still many ways in which we could improve it. Today, we have arrived in Mannheim in order to discuss the Europtimism amongst the European youth: what can we be optimistic about in Europe and what can we gain from Euroscepticism? Keep track of our blog in order to stay updated on our great European journey!

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