The EU needs an image makeover

By Emma Brooks

With the results of the latest European elections being slightly disappointing, and turnout reaching a new low in some countries (such as the UK with 34.48% or 28.22% in the Czech Republic) it’s possible to wonder whether it might be time for a new publicity overhaul for the European Parliament (EP). The main problem that we have been faced with in these elections is that they have been turned into a matter of national politics contests. Therefore, the voters use these elections to show their discontent with the current government and vote in the opposition. Many said that in England, the vote mirrored the feeling of the voters towards the EU. I would say that to a certain extent that was wrong, and that it actually mirrored the feeling of the voters towards the current government, who amid scandals and resignations is struggling to keep together.

It is a real shame that the European elections have come to this, and I think this is largely due to a lack of information. People keep going on about the democratic deficit, but how can you call it that when the majority of the voting population are not even interested in the first place? It is my feeling that most people do not actually know what the EP does, and of its role within the EU institutions. This is partly the result of bad press, particularly in England but also in other countries, where the EU often serves as a scapegoat for unpopular policies. This makes it much easier to claim that the EU is “taking everything from us” and that we’re not getting anything from it. But we are!

This is where the idea of a publicity campaign comes in: the EU needs to advertise itself, and educate its voters a little. EU officials cannot complain that people are not voting enough unless they do something about it. A campaign across all 27 countries, explaining briefly and simply about the EP and its role would do the trick. Give them the facts, show them how it works, and then let them make up their minds. If they are still against the EU/EP then, it will be a much fairer vote.

One mustn’t forget that the low turnout is also due to a lack of interest in the EU. In my opinion, with the wide range of possibilities at hand today there could be a TV campaign, a website, pamphlets, a twitter profile… The possibilities are many and just a few of those things would help to spread the word wide and start raising awareness about the EU. It is vital that people have the facts in front of them before they make their decision, and I really feel that a majority of people do not know enough about the EU, which is partly why they don’t vote.  By launching a campaign across the 27 member states, alongside those of the political parties, the European Parliament would ensure that it was providing as much information as possible to the voters in order for them to make their decision. We need to move away from the national politics contest, and towards a real European vote.

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