- Working groups
By Gabriel Daia
As the EU prepares for the 2019 European elections, reports show that the young generation of the old Continent lacks interest in national and EU politics.
It is not a striking new trend, though. The previous elections have delivered a disappointing turnout and continued down the declining drift. The historical minimum vote rate was infamously “achieved” in 2014 when, according to studies, only 42.61% of eligible voters have had their vote casted. The figures are even more alarming among the 18-24 years old segment where the vote rate was as low as 28%.
One needs to reflect: what are the underlying triggers? According to European Parliament’s post-election survey in 2014, the youngest potential voters “lacked interest in politics” whilst students were “too busy at that moment”.
Europe ought to take swift action and engage with its youngsters. The outcome of the upcoming elections will have a significant impact on the lives of more than 440 million EU citizens, after having completed the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union.
It is clear that the traditional channels to reach out to (all) voters do not deliver efficient tangible results for millennials. This mismatch was spotted by EU40, the network of young Members of the European Parliament, already back in 2014. Ahead of the EU elections in May 2014, they have organised the first edition of the “Battle for YOUR vote” event.
The concept? Fresh and dynamic: four teams – each comprised of two Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from the same political party and one professional freestyle hip-hop artist – went head to head in a freestyle rap battle on topics relevant to Europe, at that time. On the stage that had been set-up at the heart of the European Parliament in Brussels, the teams competed by rapping with music. The responsibility of deciding the winners had been passed, in a very democratic fashion, to the audience: by rounds of applause.
The outcome? Youngsters have shown a massive interest in the event, both online and offline: about 1,000 of them attended the live event at the European Parliament in Brussels whilst more than 3 million have engaged on Twitter and Facebook. Furthermore, MTV Voices, one of the sponsors, have aired the battle on TV.
Building on the success of the 2014 event, ETNO decided to sponsor this year’s rap battle organised by EU40 and European Parliament’s European Youth Event 2018 (EYE). This time, the second home of the European Parliament has been the focus in charming Strasbourg, on 1 June 2018.
The EYE has brought together more than 8,000 youngsters from all corners of the European Union and proposed 300 activities in 2 days, including sessions on the future of Europe, youth unemployment, European elections of 2019, and other topics that are of high relevance for the agenda of the European Parliament.
The two-days long event has culminated with the “Battle for YOUR vote" and brought together on stage six “Notorious MEPs” – as described by the Financial Times - from the main political parties representing the EU citizens in the European Parliament: EPP (Tomas Zdechovsky), S&D (Brando Benifei, Tiemo Wölken), ALDE (Dita Charanzova) and the Greens (Karima Delli, Terry Reintke).
The result? Beats dropped, rhymes flew, youngsters cheered the artists and MEPs, in a set-up resembling rather to an underground hip-hop battle venue than to the press zone of the heart of European political debates. Only a few meters away, the 751 MEPs convene once a month to debate and vote on the most stringent subjects, often in marathon-like plenary sessions.
The young crowd, who decided to spend Friday evening in the company of the organising crew, offered generous rounds of applause and has proven that EU politics could be more appealing (if and) when the approach is tailor-made. Many of the participants were eager to share their experience digitally and were using their smartphones and tablets for spontaneous impressions in the online world. Some were nervously waiting to spot their posts on the social media wall made available on stage. Tweets and Instagram posts were abounding. The event lasted for 75 minutes and is available in full (here) or as a 1-minute wrap-up (here). Tune in your headphones for an enhanced audio-visual experience.
On this occasion, we took the opportunity to launch officially the Instagram account, as the event kicked-off. Have not you seen it yet? Meet the @InstaTelco, powered by ETNO, which highlights the artistic side of telcos, including the latest innovations of a fast-moving industry.
At ETNO, we believe in the future of Europe, empowered by digital services. According to the “Lead or Lose” Accenture Strategy study prepared for ETNO, digitization affects over half of the current European jobs. At the same time, €4bn in value per day from digitization could boost Europe’s economy. The digitization train has already left and, milestone by milestone, it will influence all areas of our lives.
The sponsorship of the project was a natural choice for our association. At ETNO, we believe that providers of digital services and Europe have one big-shared dream: connecting people.
We need to be frank and bold, though. One such initiative is not enough to raise awareness across the Continent. The young generation will not come to vote only thanks to our joint efforts. However, we regard it as a step in the right direction.
We encourage all voters, especially the young generation, to take a minute and reflect on our responsibility, as voters. We ought to seize the opportunity of the upcoming EU elections and make our voices heard, irrespective of individual values or beliefs. As Leonardo da Vinci famously stated, “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”
Gabriel Daia (@Gabriel_Daia) is ETNO’s Digital Communications Officer.