Yvote2014 – 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. Fri, 08 Dec 2017 19:38:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.5.12 AEGEE demands more equality in the procedures of EP elections /aegee-demands-more-equality-in-the-procedures-of-ep-elections/ Fri, 28 Feb 2014 09:18:43 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=964 Being actively involved in raising awareness of the upcoming European elections and trying to increase young voters’ turnout, we have identified a number of impediments that under certain circumstances limit citizens’ opportunities to participate in the elections. In a previous article, AEGEE put forward a debate about inequalities that exist in the EU Member States regarding the minimum age to be eligible to vote and to stand as a candidate. This time we address the issue of the different national rules that determine the right of citizens to cast their votes when residing or traveling abroad on the day of elections.

We find it unacceptable that the provisions for participation of citizens while abroad – within the borders of the EU or beyond – are so diverse and discrepant for the European Parliament elections. To mention just a few examples, while Bulgarian citizens are legally allowed to cast their vote if they reside in any other country, Cypriots are completely deprived of this right; while Hungarian electorate has an opportunity to vote in these EP elections no matter where they live – outside or inside the EU-, Greeks can only exercise their voting rights within the Union. There are many more contradictions, therefore AEGEE emphasises that since we are electing a single European legislative body, all European citizens must be provided with equal voting rights and through similar procedures.

Foto from Gunnar 3000 FotoliaEven when people are allowed to vote from abroad, there are many differences: in some countries proxy or postal voting is possible (e.g. Austria, Latvia, Belgium), in Estonia e-voting system functions, but in other countries the only available option is to vote in person from your own country’s diplomatic representation (e.g. Romania, Croatia, Czech Republic).  Current situation causes several negative consequences that worsen EU’s institutional image and decrease citizen satisfaction with, and trust in, the EU.

The obstacles to participate in the EP elections potentially decrease voter turnout, especially in those countries with a significant number of citizens abroad. The level of citizen participation in EP elections is already worryingly low – only 43% of Europeans voted in the last elections to the EP in 2009. AEGEE considers that rules and procedures for participation in European elections should be simplified to counter this low turnout, to avoid losing more voters and more voices in the upcoming elections.

Additionally, when citizens face such set of constraints for their engagement in democracy, the perception of legitimacy of the political entity substantially decreases.  The principles of consistency and equality are undermined from the moment nationals from different Member States do not exercise the same rights. Is this something the EU – being highly criticised for its democratic deficit in the past years – can afford?

Last but not least, these diverse rules and procedures are not in line with one of the EU’s main goals and greatest achievements – mobility of citizens. Having provided us with an opportunity of free movement among 28 countries, the EU has failed to adjust these basic regulations that should enhance the feeling of being European.

The aforementioned implies that the Y Vote project of AEGEE-Europe claims for two explicit things:

  • rules and procedures for the participation in European elections from abroad should be as equal as possible in all 28 Member States
  • these rules and procedures should provide better access to participation in elections in order to foster higher citizen representation.

Hence, AEGEE welcomes the petition Equal Voting Rights and Procedures for all EU Citizens in EP Elections initiated by European Citizens Abroad, and strongly encourages everyone to sign it!

Written by Diana Ondža, Communications Manager of the AEGEE-Europe Y Vote 2014 Project

In order to achieve the goals AEGEE-Europe has set for itself regarding the European elections, the Y Vote 2014 Project was successfully launched  in 2013. The project aims at reaching young people, especially first-time voters, in order to turn them into important actors of the upcoming European Parliamentary Elections through different discussions, campaigns and actions. A number of events have been already implemented, however our ambitions grow as our achievements augment.

Copyright pictures:
eVoting: Gunnar3000 Fotolia

 

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Common parliament, different rules /common-european-parliament-different-rules/ /common-european-parliament-different-rules/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 14:49:41 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=905 In the light of the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament, AEGEE organises different local and European level activities within the Y Vote 2014 Project to raise awareness of the elections and to increase young voters’ turnout.  As a result of various discussions, opinion exchanges and comparisons, several concerns about eligibility for participation in the European elections in each Member State have been identified. Namely, the rules that determine requirements for minimum age to be allowed to vote and to stand as a candidate differ from country to country. Should these inconsistencies exist is a controversial question.

Since the requirements for participation in the elections are established by national law, there are substantial disparities among the Member States. Firstly, the age necessary to be eligible to vote for the EP is 18 in all Member States, with an exception of Austria, where since 2009 16-year-olds are allowed to vote. This means that Austrian youth has greater potential to influence the composition of the EP in comparison with the rest of young people aged 16-17. Moreover, their interests and demands are presumably louder, more visible and taken into account at least in the pre-election stage. This creates inequality among European youth from different EU countries that is not justified, and therefore poses questions about the consequences this situation may cause.

Secondly, there are considerable age differences for candidates to be eligible to stand in the European elections. For example, in the situation when it is theoretically possible to find Danish MEP aged 18, Italians are obliged to wait seven more years to exercise the same right because in Italy the minimum age to be allowed to stand as a candidate in the EP elections is 25. This is worrying because even though MEPs are elected and gain the mandate in the Member State where they candidate, they form single legislative body that represents all EU citizens. Thus, a 18-years-old parliamentarian from Denmark votes upon the laws and rules that are binding in Italy, while an 18-years-old Italian can not. It does not seem fair, nevertheless the current electoral provisions draw exactly such picture.

Here you can see infographics from the website Europe Decides which shows clearly the complexity of the situation and the inequalities existing among countries (click on the image to enlarge):

For the Member States, it is obvious and technically easier to adjust the rules regarding the minimum age to vote and stand for the European elections with the rules that regulate national, regional and/or local elections. But in AEGEE we believe that more equality, consistency and uniformity is required within the Union, therefore we would appreciate if both parties, Members States and EU institutions, take necessary steps in this direction. Accordingly, AEGEE is committed to further be involved in addressing this issue and give recommendations that conform to our vision.

Importantly, this opinion does not touch other requirements for voters and candidates in each Member State and factors such as access to civic education, the level of youth involvement, and the interest in democratic processes, politics and other aspects, that may explain the existing differences in the national rules; however there are strong grounds to raise this discussion in order to make the EU more united.

Written by Diana Ondža, Communications Manager of the AEGEE-Europe Y Vote 2014 Project

 

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EVA: Does Erasmus make you a better European citizen? /eva-erasmus-european-citizen-elections/ Tue, 22 Oct 2013 09:57:24 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=782 The first meeting of the Erasmus Voting Assesment project (EVA) took place last week in Brussels, at the office of AEGEE-Europe.  This new project aims at answering fundamental questions concerning active citizenship and participation in democratic processes of young students, and in particular the ERASMUS students. Through an in-depth survey, the project will measure the feeling of “being European” among young students and, furthermore, assess any possible existing correlation between having been an ERASMUS student and the level of engagement in the European society. In addition, this project aims to investigate the voting behaviour of Erasmus and university students across Europe in the European Parliament’s elections.

AEGEE-Europe/European Students’ Forum, The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) and Generation Europe Foundation partnered up and launched this new project, funded in September 2013 by the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme.

The coordinator of the project, AEGEE-Europe, hosted the kick-off conference in its office in Brussels. The consortium discussed the main project milestones, and some of the first decisions were already taken. There will be 3 study visits in December to three big European universities, recognised for hosting thousands of Erasmus students: Universidad Complutense de Madrid (Spain), Sciences PO Toulouse (France) and Aarhus Universitet (Denmark). A conference in January 2014 with mark the official presentation of the project, involving relevant policy makers and stakeholders, and presenting the survey. The official website for the project will be also launched in January 2014.

The project consortium is supported by an Advisory Board consisting by two European associations with relevant experience in the field of European citizenship and in sociological research: European Movement International (EMI) and the European Sociological Association (ESA).

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What can young people do for Europe? /europe-2020-young-people-elections-2014/ /europe-2020-young-people-elections-2014/#comments Wed, 15 May 2013 19:53:57 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=614 In response to Wat kan Europa voor de jongeren doen? (translation: What can Europe do for young people?) by Bart Staes (Belgian MEP for Greens/EFA), published in Knack on May 9, 2013.

 

“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” This sentence from the inaugural speech of John F. Kennedy has been used so often and in so many situations, and yet it can hardly be called a cliché. Also in this context it still remains true and powerful: European young people are not yet lost.

The situation is dire. So much cannot be denied. Youth unemployment keeps rising month after month and it is approaching the threshold of 25% in the euro zone. But does this turn people away from Europe? Does the average young person know enough about Europe for this? And what future do young people see for the European Union in 2020?

These and other questions formed the content of the first edition of the Europe on Track project, winner of the European Charlemagne Youth Prize 2013 last week in Aachen. At a time when the European integration project is being questioned, and the outlooks for many young people look bleak at best, AEGEE / European Students’ Forum has taken the initiative to question European youth on their vision of Europe and their role in it. As one of the six ambassadors, Mathieu Soete covered over 7,500 km by train to interview 200 young people.

From Brussels to Istanbul, many interviewed youth were indeed anxious about their current and future chances on the job market, both at home and abroad. Many don’t stand idly by however, and are further training themselves in youth organisations, on projects, through non-formal education. Yet they are aware that even this is often not enough, for non-formal education is still being insufficiently recognised, and it remains difficult for them to turn this invaluable experience into a meaningful job. The Youth Guarantee can play a role here, but this scheme can still be improved.

Moreover, for many the European integration project remains limited to politics and business, while on the ground many barriers remain before we can truly speak of a free movement of citizens. Some examples include the difficulties in transition from the French education to the German job market, or the mutual incompatibility of the Dutch and Belgian residence rules, or the drastic consequences of the fast integration of the new member states.

Few however, have lost their faith in a better Europe. Among youth the interest for European politics is low, and many indicate “not knowing what they are doing there in Brussels”, but this largely seems to be a reflection at the European level of the lack of interest or even aversion to national politics. Remains of communist regimes, insufficient attention for youth in political programmes, and a feeling of impotence to chance any of this, are the most commonly cited reasons for this disinterest.

But it is not yet too late. As European Parliament president Martin Schultz said last week: “The elections of 2014 will be crucial to regain the confidence.” Many elections and other events have already been called crucial and just as quickly have been replaced with other horizons, but we cannot afford to be discouraged by this. Each opportunity to turn the tide of Euroscepticism can be the decisive one. The European Students’ Forum is therefore industriously preparing the successor of its 2009 success project: Y Vote.

Many young people are more than ever concerned with the institutional discussions and the changes these could bring about. For many a stronger union is indispensable to get us out of this crisis, and a federal Europe seems a done deal: it is either integration or disintegration for this Erasmus-generation. Young people are most easily convinced by other young people, and it is therefore the task of these enthusiastic young Europeans to engage others and pull them along. This is exactly the aim of the Y Vote 2014 project as well, by again heading to the UK with a campaign on Euroscepticism.

But they cannot do this alone. Regardless of the number of projects and campaigns to stimulate young people’s interest in European politics and integration, political programmes and discourses must also be adapted to offer them a point of recognition and to demonstrate that Europe has a tangible — and mostly positive — influence in their daily life. Too often politicians at the national level blame Brussels for unpopular measures, and media report only on the negative aspects of European integration.

Young people are shouting that we can no longer continue like this, and they are prepared to do something about this. The least European policy-makers could do, is to actively support and guide these young people. We will gladly cooperate with this!

Adapted from Mathieu Soete’s blog.
Mathieu is Policy Officer for Sustainability in AEGEE-Europe.

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European Elections in Croatia: Back to the future? /european-elections-in-croatia-back-to-the-future/ Fri, 19 Apr 2013 08:06:01 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=594 Most of the Europeans would be surprised to know that more than one year before the European Parliament (EP) elections in spring 2014, there has been an effective voting for electing MEPs.

Yes, it did happen, and the reason is simple: with the accession of Croatia as a Member State the 1st of July of 2013, the election of 12 ew MEP was needed, in order to represent the country in the EU democratic institution. So far Croatia was only present in the EP as non-voting observers. For the first time in history, Croatians have been called to cast their vote and elect their representatives to the EU. However, the poor score of the elections in terms of participation (20.74% of voters, almost breaching the former 19.63% record of Slovakia in 2009) brings again to the scenario the worrying trend that the EP elections are following from the celebration of the first of them in 1979: a progressive loose of the percentage of people voting, which reached the bottom with only 43.24% of all voters practicing their right in 2009.

The consideration of the EP elections as “second order” elections is not new; it is highly noticeable that the national and regional elections normally have a bigger turnout than European ones. In this case there is another factor that adds to this consideration: the candidates now elected will stay in their seats for less than one year, until the 2014 EP elections. The problems in Slovenia, and specially the perception that belonging to EU has not kept their neighbors free of the financial crisis, can also be behind the poor percentage.

The low participation is worrying in terms of the lack of involvement and interest of the EU citizens on the European issues. In spite of the communication efforts of the European Union, that in 2009 launched the biggest campaign ever seen for EP elections, the results were lower than ever. There is also the question of to what extent the members elected are legitimated to represent their country since, in the case of Croatia, only one out of each five electors have voted.

In AEGEE we are aware of this situation, and take what happened now in the newest EU member as a potential anticipation of what may happen in one year from now. The institutions at every level should also take note and put the appropriate efforts to revert the trend. We in AEGEE have done our homework and, through the recently approved project Y Vote 2014, we will foster participation of young voters through different activities, remarking the importance of voting in the elections not only as a duty but as a right. Our intention is to make voting in EP elections the first step what will give the society a bigger involvement in the decision making process.

The case of this elections in Croatia can be an isolated one, or on the contrary it can be the pattern that will define the results on the coming elections. Taking the motto of our project, It is up to You(th) to have a more active participation that will contribute to change this trend.

Written by Javier Mendoza Jiménez ( AEGEE-Tenerife and Yvote 2014)

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League of Young Voters: mobilising people across Europe /lyv-league-young-voters-elections-european-parliament-201/ Fri, 08 Mar 2013 12:05:03 +0000 http://aegee.blogactiv.eu/?p=492 During February, the European Youth Forum held a Capacity Building event where 38 people from all over Europe, including representatives of 23 National Youth Councils, discussed the project League of Young Voters. The aim of the LYV is to mobilise young people, understood as between 15-35 years old, for European Parliament elections in 2014. The focus will be on the issues concerning young people and the inclusion of those into the political agenda. Without a partisan bias, LYV seeks for reflecting the position of the political families in those issues, and debates are foreseen to be developed.

On the first day of the event, the participants had the opportunity of learning about several aspects of the League of Young Voters Initiative, as for example the logo, and they visited the European Parliament for holding a meeting there with representatives of different political groups (EPP, PES, ALDE and Greens) in order to discuss the role of young people in the upcoming European elections 2014.

The second day was devoted to presentation and discussions on different topics related with the project, such as electoral campaigns, communications and multimedia and funding and financing. A milestone of that event was the presentation of Youth in Action call for the European Elections 2014 by Pascal Lejeune from DG EAC. This presentation was specially interesting because it showed the guidelines that organizations willing to apply have to follow in order to get their actions more successfully funded. Surprisingly, the open call has not been announced yet.

The last day was dedicated to the individual group and putting in common different ideas, and furthermore the development of future synergies that will contribute to strength the projects and to make them more complete.

To sum up, the event was an excellent opportunity to get to know people that are really attached with young issues and with close relations with National Youth Councils with whom the collaboration for future projects could become a valuable asset for AEGEE.

Written by Javier Mendoza, AEGEE-Tenerife

 

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