By Antonia Frangou
European democracy is currently facing a challenging period marked by a growing sense of disillusionment among citizens.
The decline in voter turnout in EU general elections since 1979 reflects a broader trend of disengagement. According to a Eurobarometer survey, only 38 per cent of EU citizens feel they have a meaningful say in decision-making processes.
Recognising the urgency of amplifying citizens’ voices, the EU Youth strategy, including roundtable discussions as part of the EU Youth Dialogue, aims to formulate policy proposals to foster a more participative and accountable European democracy.
Launched in 2018, the EU Youth Dialogue initiative focuses on fostering direct dialogue with young people to amplify their voices in policy-making. By providing a platform for open conversations, it aims to rekindle interest, participation, and accountability in European democracy. This initiative serves as a proactive strategy to counter disillusionment and strengthen the connection between citizens, particularly the youth, and EU decision-making processes.
One crucial aspect that demands attention is cultural change. To promote political participation as an integral feature of citizenship, a shift in mindset is imperative.
Education plays a pivotal role in instilling civic values and the importance of active participation from a young age. Incorporating civic education into school curriculums and promoting civic awareness campaigns can nurture a sense of responsibility among citizens. Additionally, fostering a culture of inclusivity that values diverse perspectives and encourages open dialogue is crucial for cultivating an engaged and informed electorate.
Developing a common strategy targeting citizens’ involvement is the second key point for consideration. The European Union must embark on a coordinated effort to bridge the gap between institutions and citizens.
Utilising digital platforms for transparent communication, public consultations and feedback mechanisms can enhance the accessibility of decision-making processes.
Furthermore, fostering collaboration between civil society organisations, media and educational institutions can amplify the reach of civic initiatives and encourage citizens to actively participate in shaping policies that affect their lives.
The European Year of Youth in 2022, despite its numerous initiatives, faced limited turnout. To address this challenge, Europe needs to identify the communication channels that are lacking when reaching out to the younger population.
Harnessing social media, interactive platforms and incorporating technology-driven engagement methods can bridge the gap between traditional political structures and the digitally resourceful youth.
Facilitating youth-led discussions, integrating technology into political discourse, and addressing issues that resonate with younger generations can enhance their connection with the democratic process.
In conclusion, revitalising European democracy requires a multifaceted approach that addresses cultural norms, strategic initiatives, and targeted engagement with the youth. By instilling a sense of civic responsibility through education, fostering open dialogue, and leveraging technology for enhanced communication, Europe can lay the groundwork for a more participative and accountable democracy.
Activities like the roundtable discussions aim to catalyse these changes, offering a path towards reinvigorating democracy and ensuring that the voices of European citizens, regardless of age, education, or socio-economic status, are heard and valued in the decision-making processes that shape their collective future.
Antonia Frangou is president of Nedik (the youth wing of Diko)