Next week, the citizens of the European Union elect their representatives for the European Parliament. The EU Parliament is an assembly of 751 elected officials seating both in Brussels and Strasbourg. It is the legislative body of the EU in conjunction with the EU Council (itself composed of one commissary per country). The last elections for the EU parliament in 2014 were the largest transnational elections ever held at the same time. This year’s promises to set a new record. You can be part of it too.
The Parliament decides on a pretty large number of decisions that range from migration to jobs to pesticide regulations. It is also one of the only elections in which foreigners can vote in their country of residence. To know more about the how and when according to where you are and where you’re from, refer to the well-made official EU elections website.
Plan A takes a stand for voting. In recent years, the temptation to refuse to play in the electoral system has caused a decline in poll turnouts. Since 1999, EU elections turnouts have been steadily diminishing. Across the world, democracy is put into question by corporate interests, less-than-benevolent dictatorships and doubtful crowds. The incapacity for democracy to propose a real alternative has pushed a number of people to stop putting their trust in this system of decision-making. The need for voting has in our opinion never been greater.
Let us try to argue why.
Because climate change
The EU works for climate action. Despite the growing power of lobbyists and the power of money over politics, it has whipped out some pretty serious binding legislation that has made Europe – and the world – a greener place. Drastic norms on many topics, from air quality to waste management to single-use plastics, have been hailed as groundbreaking and have opened the path for other countries to move forward. Access to the EU single market is heavily controlled, and businesses have to comply with long lists of requirements before being allowed to operate. This in and of itself has done more to drive the sustainable agenda for companies than most other governments.
Among other achievements, the EU Parliament has voted a ban on most single-use plastic items, imposed a moratory on certain toxic pesticides and has just decided to spend 45% of the institution’s budget on climate-related initiatives. The EU has been remarkably proactive in tackling climate change, investing large amounts of money in mitigation, adaptation and conservation strategies across its territory. It also uses its power to keep countries in line with common objectives such as that of the Paris Agreement, decided collectively.
Because you can
Voting is just another way to make your voice heard. By voting, you are not renouncing to other means of action, such as volunteering, donating, protesting, writing, cultivating and many other verbs ending with -ing. At Plan A, we are also big on direct, private, public-private, formal, informal, humouristic, political, economic action. And all of these combined too. We also believe in the power of stability and reforming systems from the inside. The solutions are there, and we need a canvas to make them happen. This includes investments, visibility on upcoming global strategy, the possibility to interact with other countries and not having anti-everything, straw politicians that can override the system.
To vote is to use the most conventional weapon at your disposal to influence decisions before they influence you. Not voting is also the best way not to have any influence over some minor items of debate such as budget or respect of fundamental rights. Just saying.
Because we like drinking better than fighting
The EU is a formidable machine for peace. Member countries of the EU have never been at war with each other. Not once. The EU has won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, and its founding fathers have too. The cycle of violence has been paused for 70 years and counting. A record-breaking achievement if there ever was one.
Because there are big fish in the ocean
With a population of 512 million people, a US$ 18.8 trillion GDP and 10 million km2, the European Union provides for a much better safeguard than frontiers, national immigration hardline policies or return of tariffs among states. The calculus in that regard should be fairly simple. What is the negotiating power of a single Germany, France or Poland compared to that of all 27 member states together? Not big enough.
Granted Europe needs change. The continent of Enlightenment, the cradle of democracy, the home of Daft Punk, but also Eurovision, Trump’s ancestors and Eurodance music needs your help to sway it in the right direction. That is what elections are for, and the European level is actually a great place to start, thanks to its proportional system and the multitude of alternative parties.
The value of upending a system that took literally hundreds of years to figure out is limited. Putting the right people in positions of power seems to add more value to your life and that of the rest of this world. Besides, voter’s turnout was 43% in 2014. Voting can now officially go back to being cool again. There aren’t that many elections left before it’s too late for our planet. So put your best outfit, roller skate your way to the polling station, and be one of the good guys!