Can Europe Make It?

The challenges of European elections

Ioanna Karamitrousi
23 May 2014

The elections are taking place during a period of profound political and economic crisis, and will shape European Union politics for the next five years. Through the ballot box, voters have the chance to determine the political majority of the European Parliament.

More fundamentally, the elections are an opportunity to breathe new life into the European Union and to begin a more inclusive and positive future for the European project.

But today, many Europeans have understandable anxieties around unemployment, austerity measures and migration from within the European Union. This is fertile ground for xenophobic, divisive and exclusionary campaigning.  Such divisive and exclusionary campaigning might also push mainstream parties to attack the European policies and institutions that protect the open society in Europe.

 Of course, there are some important issues that should be discussed. For example, the efforts to broaden political participation and representation, to nurture tolerant and inclusive political debate, to support open society values in the future European Union and to create greater political accountability within the European Union. In order to solve some very important social problems, the European Union has to take measures such as encouraging European Union citizens living in another European Union member-state to use their right to vote, increasing minority voter participation and encouraging people from minority backgrounds to stand in elections, amplifying the voices of women and young people in political discourse during elections, countering the use of hate speech and xenophobic rhetoric as campaign devices.

The big change needed should be achieved by promoting a constructive political debate on migration, asylum and integration, establishing dialogue among voters and candidates through - for example - public hearings, community-based debates and online campaigns and finally creating opportunities for voters to present their demands to candidates.

Everybody believes in strong European nations and everybody wishes the European elections of 2014 could be an advance towards this end.

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Chair: Mary Fitzgerald Editor-in-chief of openDemocracy

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