As schools across Europe close their doors for the summer holidays, so do most EU institutions.
But not all that is quiet is empty - and this is not going to be a summer like any other for the European Parliament: it is the summer just before the elections of 2024. Political parties have just a few more months before the start of their campaigns, and they are going to use this precious time to fine-tune programmes and manifestos, sharpen their tools (and wardrobes), organizing events and debates that will bring their ideas around the EU to win the vote of its citizens.
Europeans will go to the polls next June 2024, from the 6th to 9th. Despite the positive result of the last EP elections of 2019 – where for the first time in over 20 years, EP turnout has surpassed 50% of eligible voters - research shows that for many citizens, the EU remains a far away, opaque political entity. Especially for young people, who on average vote less than other groups, both in national and European elections. Yet the effects of European laws and decision-making processes has and will continue to profoundly affect the everyday life of EU residents. Food policies - what products arrive at your table, their safety and quality - GDPR laws - who can use your personal data, and how - money laundering prevention, learning mobilities, consumer rights are just a few examples.
For many commentators, the upcoming election is a fundamental one, as it will be the fighting ground of forces that in the last five years have been struggling for power - often with unexpected results - in many national realities. The decision-making on issues such as climate change, the crisis of the common asylum system, and the integrity of democracy in EU member states could take very different turns based on the EP 2024 electoral result.
In recent years, we have seen the youth vote swing the balance of power in different contexts around the globe. In the US, for example, youth vote has skyrocketed, with the highest turnout in 30 years at midterm elections (28% and 23% in 2018 and 2022 respectively) and with over 50% of American youth showing up to vote at the last elections of 2020.
The next EP elections 2024 will see fringes of the population using their right to vote for the first time. In Belgium, the voting age for EP elections was recently lowered to 16, making it the fifth EU country granting 16- and 17- years olds the right to vote (the others are Malta, Germany, Austria and Greece). In many other EU countries, 18 year olds will have the opportunity to cast their ballot for the first time. Lowering the voting age to 16 is an effective tool to enable higher turnout of young people in elections. Yet age is not the only obstacle, and many young eligible voters must overcome a number of challenges to be able to cast their vote, such as living and studying away from home (mobility), navigating complex and often contradictory media and news environments, and fighting against a culture of apathy and alienation when it comes to youth political participation.
In the following months leading to the elections, OBESSU will aim to fill gaps and support young people in exercising their right to vote through our projects COYV and EPiC and setting our manifesto, using the knowledge gathered through our recent Research on challenges and motivations for the youth vote. There is even an easy to read version - check it out! And watch this space for more insights on the EP elections of 2024.