In the light of the forthcoming elections to the European Parliament, AEGEE organises different local and European level activities within the Y Vote 2014 Project to raise awareness of the elections and to increase young voters’ turnout. As a result of various discussions, opinion exchanges and comparisons, several concerns about eligibility for participation in the European elections in each Member State have been identified. Namely, the rules that determine requirements for minimum age to be allowed to vote and to stand as a candidate differ from country to country. Should these inconsistencies exist is a controversial question.
Since the requirements for participation in the elections are established by national law, there are substantial disparities among the Member States. Firstly, the age necessary to be eligible to vote for the EP is 18 in all Member States, with an exception of Austria, where since 2009 16-year-olds are allowed to vote. This means that Austrian youth has greater potential to influence the composition of the EP in comparison with the rest of young people aged 16-17. Moreover, their interests and demands are presumably louder, more visible and taken into account at least in the pre-election stage. This creates inequality among European youth from different EU countries that is not justified, and therefore poses questions about the consequences this situation may cause.
Secondly, there are considerable age differences for candidates to be eligible to stand in the European elections. For example, in the situation when it is theoretically possible to find Danish MEP aged 18, Italians are obliged to wait seven more years to exercise the same right because in Italy the minimum age to be allowed to stand as a candidate in the EP elections is 25. This is worrying because even though MEPs are elected and gain the mandate in the Member State where they candidate, they form single legislative body that represents all EU citizens. Thus, a 18-years-old parliamentarian from Denmark votes upon the laws and rules that are binding in Italy, while an 18-years-old Italian can not. It does not seem fair, nevertheless the current electoral provisions draw exactly such picture.
Here you can see infographics from the website Europe Decides which shows clearly the complexity of the situation and the inequalities existing among countries (click on the image to enlarge):
For the Member States, it is obvious and technically easier to adjust the rules regarding the minimum age to vote and stand for the European elections with the rules that regulate national, regional and/or local elections. But in AEGEE we believe that more equality, consistency and uniformity is required within the Union, therefore we would appreciate if both parties, Members States and EU institutions, take necessary steps in this direction. Accordingly, AEGEE is committed to further be involved in addressing this issue and give recommendations that conform to our vision.
Importantly, this opinion does not touch other requirements for voters and candidates in each Member State and factors such as access to civic education, the level of youth involvement, and the interest in democratic processes, politics and other aspects, that may explain the existing differences in the national rules; however there are strong grounds to raise this discussion in order to make the EU more united.
Written by Diana Ondža, Communications Manager of the AEGEE-Europe Y Vote 2014 Project