Changes need to be made to make the European Union understandable and accessible to all citizens, says Thilo Buchholz, president of the Young European Federalists Maastricht, in this open letter to the EU.
Dear European Union, I know you’re a bit sleepy and think we can all relax after the elections, but now it’s time to wake up. The fact that the turnout of the European Parliament elections will be far below 100% in the EU’s countries won’t surprise any of us. We knew it would happen that way. And we knew that we couldn’t send the turnout skyrocketing.
Clarity, peace, serenity?
Because to send it skyrocketing, the European Union will have to be understandable and accessible to all citizens. The Commission needs to develop into a true European government with one European President directly elected by the European people. Building a political entity everybody knows and can relate to, and using language everybody can understand, the EU of tomorrow will also become accessible to those few people in the world who don’t study European Studies or European Law. And that does in fact tend to have some benefits for a healthy and cohesive society.
Some straightening out to do
While we’re at it: There’s young people in Europe who’ve got a perfect high school diploma but barely learn anything about the EU and its functioning. How do we expect citizens to understand each other if we don’t even give them the fair opportunity to learn what political system they live in? And, can we give all young people a reasonable chance to live in another European country; independent from their financial resources please? The Europe of tomorrow needs to be one of equal opportunity, and equal rights for young people. That stretches from cohesive educational policy over an effective social pillar guaranteeing employment, decent wages, and fair working conditions, to equal participation and equal voting rights for all young people in the EU. Youth is future and present of this continent, and deserves to have a say. Even if they don’t live in Austria or Malta (Austria and Malta are currently the only two countries in the EU granting suffrage from 16 years onwards.).
Dear EU, it’s time to be a big girl now
To get there, Europe can only peacefully grow through meaningful commitment of our current national governments. Yes, the Europe of tomorrow will be built through concrete achievements which hold up and strengthen the solidarity among us Europeans. When a new batch of motivated Members of the European Parliament will assemble on 2 July in Strasbourg, there’s little in their power alone to get a move on this. But when you’ll deal with national politics within the next five years, think about this. And make it count. Because then we’ll send the turnout skyrocketing.
President of JEF Maastricht 2018/2019
This article is part of a special about Europe with Martin Paul, President of Maastricht University as guest editor-in-chief.