With citizens’ support for the EU at an all time low and voter turnout levels in EU elections significantly lower than turnout in national elections, it seems that it will take a miracle to boost participation in the upcoming European elections. Ahead of the 2014 EU parliamentary elections, a fresh and bold citizens-led initiative is emerging on the European scene.
In the last few decades turnout in EU elections has been consistently declining. Voter participation in the first EU parliamentary elections in 1979 reached 61.99%, but turnout rates have been falling ever since. In 2009 turnout in the EU parliamentary elections was a mere 43%, compared to an average of 66% for national elections in the EU27 member states. A lack of information is undoubtedly one of the major reasons for low voter turnout, as a recent Eurobarometer shows, and this is exacerbated by waning support for the EU project even in traditionally pro-EU countries such as France. While the EU Commission is urging national governments to improve their communication with citizens and better inform them by making it clear what national political parties are affiliated to which European political parties, a brand new individual initiative is taking matters into its own hands.
Seeking to raise awareness and enhance knowledge of EU elections, this initiative promises to rock the Union with a 9 month tour of the 28 EU member states. ‘Rock the Union’ is managed by a small team of EU enthusiasts and has already attracted support from citizens across Europe and from some prominent EU experts such as Jo Leinen, President of the European Movement, and Ulrike Guérot, Head of the European Council on Foreign Relations, Berlin Office. The idea behind this initiative is very simple yet its goal is remarkably ambitious: to raise the profile of the 2014 EU parliamentary elections through direct interaction with citizens from across the EU’s 28 members states. The initiative hopes to achieve this by putting together a team of 6 people who will travel through all 28 member states in an old English Routemaster between the middle of September and 16 May 2014. The purpose of the tour is multi-fold. The ‘Rock the Union’ team will discuss Europe with citizens, will explore why the European Parliament elections are important for the future of Europe, will promote the idea of taking part in elections and will give citizens a chance to send out their message to the candidates running for office in 2014.
The organisers are strongly committed to not endorsing any single candidate or party.
Inspired by this project?
As the project is in its early stages there are plenty of opportunities for Europhiles to get involved. Those inspired by the project can show their support by fundraising for the project, making a donation, partnering with the project, promoting the project, meeting with the team on their tour or even joining the core team that will be touring Europe in the Routemaster bus.
The ideal team member should have a deep passion for European ideas and values, be willing to travel for nine months in a bus with five other people, speak at least English and one other European language fluently, and have a strong motivation to participate. To apply, those interested are required to prepare a video in which to explain in less than one minute who they are, what they are good at, and the reason for applying. The selected participants will be expected to start working on the project 15 July 2013.
The Deadline for application is 10 July 2013.
The ‘Rock the Union’ tour starts in September and ends in May 2014. If you want to meet with the ‘Rock the Union’ bus during their tour, make sure you check their map on the project’s webpage.
‘Rock the Union’ constitutes a beautiful example of hands-on political activism that will undoubtedly contribute to a richer and more nuanced discussion about the EU. While it will be difficult to quantify the effect of the initiative on increasing voter turnout at the next EU parliamentary elections and improving knowledge of EU elections, this initiative has great potential to stimulate discussion and interest in the EU among its citizens and to inspire them to engage in civic initiatives and political activism.