European elections 9 June – It’s all about the future of the youth!

It is a well-known fact that young people in Finland differentiate themselves from older age groups with a particularly positive attitude towards the European Union. Young people were born in EU-Finland and have grown amidst the benefits of membership, which has highlighted the positive aspects of the membership. Despite this, young people also stand out from the older age groups with lower voter turnout in the 2019 European Parliament elections, only 23.3 per cent of Finns between 20 to 24 years of age used their right to vote. The result of the vote was also lower than the European average, almost doubly. What is the reason behind the poor participation of young people?

In domestic news coverage, a dual image of the European Union is being built. On the other hand, Brussels, the ‘capital’ of the EU, is presented as a place where ministers are flown in at times of crisis to attend the big meetings and to make big decisions. At the same time, EU decisions are reported to be petty and bureaucratic decisions about curved cucumbers and banning whatever comes to mind. The Union is also often criticized for the complexity and distance of its decision-making in relation to its citizens. It is true that EU decision-making is in some places complex and therefore challenging to follow. So can the voter turnout of young people be affected by the fact that the mainly positive effects and decisions of the EU are easily overshadowed by negative news coverage?

However, the European Union gives numerous reasons to vote and be a part its activities. Free movement benefits young people first and foremost, for whom the Schengen area enables Interrail travel, among other things, but also smoother mobility across Member States to jobs and educational institutions. Therefore, the European internal market is also a large labour market. Many exchange students have realised the benefits of the European Erasmus+ student exchange programme, as it makes studying abroad not only smoother but also financially student-friendly. For example, the tuition fees of American or British universities for international students can be considered a good benchmark. In addition, degrees are increasingly recognised on a European scale, which also enables a broader and freer labour market for Finnish students.

On the other hand, support for young people at EU level is not limited to study or work opportunities, but funding is also provided for organisational activities as well as various projects that support the well-being of young people. The European Union guarantees young people different ways of participating in decision-making, both locally and on the level of the Union. Of course, one of the low threshold ways to make a difference is, as an EU citizen, to use the right to vote in European elections.

In the end, however, it is a fact that decisions will be made in the European Union, regardless of whether young EU citizens have voted or not. As we have been able to follow closely domestic politics this spring as well, the interests of young people and students can easily be overlooked and dropped from the order of importance. Without voting and influencing, the voice of young people is simply not heard, and the issues that are important to us, such as funding for young people or, for example, ways to mitigate climate change, are decided by some other people, possibly with completely different interests. When you say that ultimately it is we young people who will have to live with the consequences of these decisions in the future, such a solution does not sound very sensible or sustainable. So, in order for Europe and the EU to develop in the right direction, shaped by young people, we all need to find ourselves in the polling stations in June with the ballot paper in hand!

Tampereen Eurooppanuoret ry:n puheenjohtaja Anni Hongisto ja varapuheenjohtaja ja EU-asiavastaava Santeri Anttila.

Writers: JEF Tampere (Tampereen Eurooppanuoret ry)
Anni Hongisto, Chair
Santeri Anttila, Vice-chair & Organiser in EU affairs