Stephen Gilmore, Lola Boom, Mohamed El Khalouki, Tibo Duhamel, Ilaria Cassani, Melanie Weber, Maren Schmid, Eléna Lefèbvre
This week’s elections to the European parliament are of critical importance. Not only will they set the course for the EU over the next five years, but they will help to shape the longer-term future of the European project.
Europe is confronted with a series of fundamental, intertwined challenges. There is the continued rise of far-right and anti-EU forces, who are consistently polling well in many member states and, according to some projections, could win more than one-third of the seats at the next election. We can also see substantial discontent with politics more generally, notably in movements such as the Gilets Jaunes in France.
Perhaps even more pervasive, and arguably a contributing factor to both of these issues, is a widespread lack of knowledge about how the EU operates – highly problematic considering, in the understated words of academic Bo Laursen and Chiara Valentini, the EU’s “considerable influence on European citizens’ daily lives”.
In this light, cliché though it may be, these European Parliament elections look like being the most important for a generation. The significance of voting cannot be overstated. Yet, if we look at the data since 1979, there is an obvious and pronounced downward trend in turnout across the continent as a whole. In 2014, countries such as Slovakia or the Czech Republic didn’t even hit 20% turnout.