“A lot of our topics are being put on the agenda”

Maxim: Students are too young and inexperienced to serve in the European Parliament

28-05-2009

On 4 June, the elections for the European Parliament will be held. Billboards are on display around the city to enthuse citizens for this election round. Some Maastricht University students and alumni are themselves running for election as EP members. Aren’t they too young and inexperienced to make a difference among trained politicians?

Joost van den Akker, master’s student at European Law School and VVD (liberal democrats) candidate certainly doesn’t agree: “All ages should be represented in the EP, not only older politicians or politicians who’ve already had long careers with local and national governments.” He believes that studying at Maastricht University has helped him campaign: “I studied European Studies and Analysing Europe, which gave me the knowledge to understand European cooperation. I also did an internship at Maastricht’s city council, where I researched the origins of the Maastricht Treaty. I interviewed former politicians and studied documents, so this gave me insight into the EU as well. I think younger people will have useful knowledge via their studies or internships that older people might not have.”

But aren’t students too young to be taken seriously? “Well, you get underestimated sometimes. You can rectify that by being well informed, doing research, talking to the right people and coming up with subjects that are relevant for students.”

Research shows that 70% of young people feel European, but 60% also believe that Europe cares little for youth. “That’s why it’s important that all ages are reflected in the parliament”, says Michiel Dijkman, International Business alum and CDA (Christian democrats) candidate. He doesn’t feel that his young age (24) or starting career phase will be an obstacle in the EP: “I’ve been active in politics for about seven or eight years. I see that a lot of topics and issues raised by the younger delegation of the CDA are being put on the agenda. We know which subjects concern younger people and students. For example, there should be clarity when it comes to international internships for all students, whether they’re at university or other higher or vocational education institutions.” Dijkman has a few years of experience in business and believes more businesspeople should enter politics: “People with two feet on the ground, not only politicians with 25 years of experience.”

Frauke Claes, student at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, tried to raise awareness for the elections last Saturday at the Centre Céramique. With the help of friends from France, Germany, Maastricht and Palestine, she handed out balloons and talked to people passing by. “We have the right to vote, so we should use it. It’s just a small way to show your political preferences.” She also agrees that young people can make a difference: “They might think differently about subjects like sustainability, because they will be still alive in fifty years. Plus, they will raise other subjects that are relevant to talk about, like studying abroad.”

 

Irene Smeets

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