The 2019 European Parliament elections presented an important moment for discussion about state of the EU. At the same time, many young people are not interested in European elections for various reasons – they are influenced by populist rhetoric, don’t have enough information, are rather sceptical about the EU and don’t think that their vote will change anything, or they don’t see any good candidates. There is a lot of discussion on how to convince young people to vote, and one of the most effective tools is the political campaigning. In this context, the European Youth Press – Network of Young Media Makers and University Roma Tre organised international conference “Do you speak European?” in Brussels on 7th May, 2019.
The conference, organized within the project Vote4Europe-2019 and funded by the Erasmus+ Programme of the European Union under the Jean Monnet Projects action, focused on questions such as: how has the campaigning changed over the time, which challenges are faced by different countries and their citizens, how to motivate young people to be active in political life and candidate or vote, or whether is the EU wide campaign possible?
To answer those questions, “Do You Speak European?” conference brought together young media makers, researchers, representatives of civil society active at European level, representative of the European Commission, interns as well as officers from the European Parliament, and young EU citizens in general. They had an opportunity to explore topic of the European Parliament elections from various angles, discuss their ideas related to the EU, and get insights into tools for effective youth participation in political life.
The conference was opened by Treasurer of the EYP, Mr. Niels Timmermans, who introduced the participants into activities of the EYP related to raising awareness of EU affairs and importance of participation in democratic processes. “Vote4Europe-2019 project provides media makers with unique insights into the European political communication, which can be used when producing quality media and tackling fake news and other forms of misinformation,” said Mr. Timmermans.
First speaker, Mr. Martin Maška, who is a Board member of the European Dialogue from Slovakia, presented chapter on electoral rules of the European Citizens’ Constitution that was elaborated and voted on during the European Youth Convention, which took place in the European Parliament in Strasbourg in 2017. He also presented topic of campaigning at the EU level and elaborated on a question of possibility of the EU-wide campaign.
Prof. Edoardo Novelli from University Roma Tre introduced the participants into the concept and outcomes of the Vote4Europe project, especially a database of materials used by political parties for campaigning before the European Parliament elections from 1979 until 2019. Ms. Emőke Péter, policy officer from the European Commission, talked about some of the European Commission’s & EEAS measures to protect free and fair European elections, such as better protection from cyberattacks or disinformation and manipulation by Russia, ensuring greater transparency of paid political advertisements, and sanctioning political parties for misuse of personal data to affect the results of the European elections.
Ms. Anna Ūdre, freelance journalist from Latvia, and Mr. Richard Brix, researcher from Slovakia, introduced participants into the European Parliament Elections in their countries – last results, the most important topics, portrayal by media, campaigning, challenges, and tendencies in 2019.
Representatives of the Children and Youth Parliament Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf (CYP), Mr. Thomas Grau, youth worker, and Miguel Góngora, Chairman, presented the German initiative called U18 elections, which is focused at young people who haven’t had voting right yet, and the CYP, which is a unique youth participation platfom in one of Berlin’s city districts, as it’s members can make proposals and the district parliament needs to discuss and accept/reject them. In the context of this conference they highlighted process of elections and campaigning within the CYP.
After lunch break, Martin Maška led workshop on media literacy and analysis with particular attention to political campaigns. This was particularly useful, since the topic of fake news and misinformation was mentioned during previous part of the conference several times. He also presented online tools that can be used for facilitating active citizenship, youth advocacy, and European political awareness raising – GeoCitizen and YouthMetre. The first one enables citizens and public authorities to publish ideas or consultations and gain feedback from public; the latter provides simple insights into EU data (currently on youth, but it can be used for visualisations of any kinds of data), and training on youth advocacy and campaigning.
“Do you speak European?” conference was concluded by informal networking for organisers, speakers, and participants. It was a great opportunity to exchange contacts and ideas for future cooperation.
Partners of the project Vote4Europe-2019:
Disclaimer: this press release reflects only the author’s and conference participants’ views. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.