European elections 2019
In a direct vote on 23-26 May 2019, citizens in 27 EU member states will go to pools to elect 705 MEPs to form the new European Parliament, the world’s largest transnational democratic elected institution. Around 400 million Europeans of voting age coming from each of the member states of the EU will have the chance to choose who will represent them in the EU Parliament for the next five years.
But why are the elections so important?
The European Parliament is part of the so called institutional triangle, alongside the European Commission and the Council of the European Union, making up the legislative and the executive power of the EU. Together, the institutions are responsible for policy making and decisions, while the Commission proposes EU legislation jointly adopted by the Parliament and the Council.
Thus, a Parliament is a directly elected body with legislative, supervisory, and budgetary responsibilities. It was established in 1952 as the Common Assembly of the European Coal and Steel Community and first elections were held back in 1979.
The main role of the EU Parliament is the legislative one. It passes EU laws, together with the Council of the EU, based on European Commission proposals, decides on internal agreements, reviews the Commission’s work programme and asks it to propose legislation.
The Parliament has also a supervisory function: votes on Commission President and approves the Commission as a body, having the possibility of voting a motion of censure, obliging the Commission to resign. Moreover, the political groups’ hierarchy in the EP as an outcome of the elections leads to the designation of the candidate for the position of President of the European Commission.
It questions the Commission and Council, examines citizens’ petitions and sets up inquiries.
Nonetheless, EU Parliament establishes the EU budget, together with the Council and approves the EU’s long-term budget, the “Multiannual Financial Framework”.
Currently, the Parliament has 751 members, who are directly elected, but because of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom, following BREXIT, the new Parliament will have a different composition and the seats will decrease to 705.
They are headed by a President and 14 Vice Presidents. Seats are divided among member states proportionately to their population with a minimum of 6 seats and a current maximum of 96 seats.
Every five years the members of the European Parliament are elected in their home country and organize themselves in Brussels into larger European parties according to their ideological lines and affiliation and not their nationality.
The Group of the European People’s Party (EPP Group) is the largest group in the European Parliament. Its roots reach back to Europe’s Founding Fathers – Robert Schuman, Alcide De Gasperi and Konrad Adenauer – and its Members come from all of Europe’s Member States. It is a centre-right group, committed to creating a stronger Europe, built on its people. Their goal is to create a more competitive and democratic Europe, where people can build the life they want.
The Socialist & Democrats (S&D Group) is the leading centre-left political group in the European Parliament and the second largest, with 189 members from all 28 EU countries. The S&D Group stands for an inclusive European society based on principles of freedom, equality, solidarity, diversity and fairness. Its MEPs are committed to fight for social justice, jobs and growth, consumer right, sustainable development. The S&D Group’s priority is to fight unemployment and ensure that our societies and markets become fairer.
The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR Group) is a centre-right political group in the European Parliament, Eurosceptic and anti-federalist, founded in 2009 with a common cause to reform the EU on the basis of euro-realism, respecting the sovereignty of nations, and focusing on economic recovery, growth and competitiveness.
The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE Group) is a transnational alliance between two European political parties, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party and the European Democratic Party. The pro-European platform of ALDE adopts liberal economics, and support for European integration and the European single market.
The Greens/European Free Alliance (Greens/EFA Group) is the political group in the European Parliament containing green, regionalist and left-wing nationalist political parties. Their ideology is based on environmental responsibility, individual freedom, inclusive democracy, diversity, social justice, gender equality, global sustainable development and non-violence.
European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL Group) is a left-wing political group in the European Parliament established in 1995. Their mission is to make the European Union more human, more transparent and more tangible. They want more direct democracy and active participation by citizens, equal rights for women and men, civil rights and liberties and the enforcement of human rights.
Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy is a populist Eurosceptic political group in the European Parliament. This group is opposed to European integration. 24 out of its 47 MEPs were from the United Kingdom, representing the UK Independence Party.
Europe of Nations and Freedom is a political group in the European Parliament launched on 15 June 2015. With 36 members, the group is the smallest in the European Parliament. It is a right wing party promoting Eurosceptism and nationalism and having an anti immigration policy.
1 Main source: europarl.europa.eu
The EU elections have faced a falling voter turnout in the last years with a turn out rate of just 42.6% during the 2014 elections, however slightly better than the 2009 rate of 39% turn out. Low turnout seems to become common trend and young voters abstain more than the general population in all European democracies. During the 2014 European elections, only 28% of the youths aged under 25 casted their vote.
According to the latest Euro barometer, half of Europeans are interested in the EU elections and almost one third know the date of the elections. In addition, two thirds of Europeans believe their country has benefited from being a member of the EU. These optimistic figures, the highest in 35 years, must be translated into a high turnout during the EU elections.
However, gaps and obstacles remain: populism and anti EU parties are getting stronger, while disinformation, fake news and trolling are most visible during the electoral campaigns, in an attempt to hamper with EU elections, undermine pro European values, and promote nationalistic and xenophobic messages.
New tools and approaches are needed to translate the messages from the grass root level and connect them to the EU public policies, favoring a more bottom-up approach, closer to EU citizens. There is an urgent need to raise awareness and know how among youth on the importance of EU 2019 elections and empowering them with the needed tools to gain momentum and influence over EU’s direction through interactive and user friendly methods.
This time I’m voting
This time I’m voting is the official campaign of European Parliament, independent from any political party and ideology which objective is to promote democratic engagement in the European elections. It was launched at the European Youth Event 2018, aiming to encourage EU Member State citizens to vote and therefore to increase the voter turnout. More information about this campaign can be found at thistimeimvoting.eu.
As European citizens it is our duty and responsibility to be an active part of these elections. This is our opportunity to make our voice heard and shape the European Union as we want to be. This time I’m voting is not only a slogan, it is our chance to model the future of Europe and be part of the change especially when democracy and rule of law in Europe is threatened. It is important to vote to make a clear statement that Europe chooses to be united, celebrating its diversity and continuing its democratic way.
If you want to take part in a survey on EU elections and check your vision on the future of Europe, please click here.
If you want to see how other youths across the EU see the future of Europe, please follow our E-debate competition here.