These elections may be more interesting than usual for our European and global readers alike, given polarizations more dramatic across the continent than there have been for decades. The EU, originally billed as offering a new model to replace the chaos of the Westphalian system, is itself in chaos. Instead of burdensharing or offering joint multilateral efforts to mitigate severe financial, economic and social pain, EU governments have introduced various methods of punishment under the auspices of 'austerity measures’.
As a result we have an escalation of scapegoating, mutual accusation, exclusion and national introversion. The EU, in its construction and mission, was designed to manage just these traditional social-cultural and political tensions within its expanding boundaries. But what we have found in the last few years of crisis is how little de facto solidarity remains among European citizens belonging to economically and culturally different regions in times of real hardship and severe existential troubles. Support for the EU itself has plummeted. All of this has led not only to new levels of Euroskepticism, but to a huge disaffection with politics as usual.
But it is one of the most curious features of European politics that there are so few spaces in which the voices of Europeans can be heard in debate about how these shifting tectonic plates are affecting our every day lives – no demos in which to negotiate our way forward. Perhaps, it is only now that we are beginning to miss this space which has never been an EU priority – quite the reverse - but which arguably was the precondition for a successful Union.
Those Europeans who have most to complain about, since they are least responsible for this unholy mess, are the young – caught up in what my co-editor, David Krivanek has called, ‘a tidal wave of youth unemployment’ and all its implications, beginning with almost 15 million Europeans neither employed, nor in education and training.
Since Europe’s youth are its future, Alex Sakalis from Can Europe make it? has invited twelve young people from across the continent to join with us in the run-up to the elections and help openDemocracy to create a small European demos on this website at least between now and May - one, we hope, which really enables people to talk about the opportunities for European citizens today or the lack of them, what they think about Europe and the European Union, what they feel any future Europe should be like and how that could make a difference even if it takes some fundamental changes to bring that about….
Of course, in important ways this is a self-selecting group, and you could say representative of a minority of young people who actually wish to think about what it means to them to be European today – their hopes and fears, and who don’t mind doing this in English and in public. Of course that means that immediately they have some important things in common – such as the fact that most of them have experienced more than one European culture in some form, and have found integrating into that culture if not ‘effortless’ as Maximilien suggests – then at least highly rewarding. (Indeed, some people might be surprised at how glad Christoph seems to be to have left Germany and become a self-proclaimed cosmopolitan.)
But there are a huge range of attitudes and preoccupations among this small group… which is how a European demos should be. We hope that over the coming weeks, with the help of our many thoughtful Can Europe make it? regular contributors, our You tell us participants and readers will enjoy this space enough to show that this kind of opening up of democracy across European nations should be an integral part of all our futures.
Euro elections on Can Europe make it?: a walkthrough
The way we have structured our coverage of the European elections is – we hope! – simple to understand. First is the Euro elections 2014 landing page, which will feature all the oD content that relates, in one way or another, to the elections. Our aim is to go beyond the type of empty pre- and post-electoral analysis that passes as expert opinion these days; expect informed comment, much-needed warnings and important investigation. We are also running a European elections landscapes series that will tell you everything there is to know about the national factors that will influence the outcome of the vote in, say, Greece, France, the Czech Republic and Germany. Do get in touch at europe (at) opendemocracy.net if you'd like to tell us more about wherever you're from!
The other half of our coverage is Euro elections 2014: you tell us!, a more informal space where our bloggers will share and exchange their views. We've basically invited them to write about what they care about, how they want – some of them have already experimented with new forms of blogging, such as this exchange between two activists, one Spanish and the other Finnish. Every two weeks or so, we will collect the best blog posts into a 'bumper edition' for your convenience, maybe under a particular theme heading – here's the first introductory edition (parts one and two).
You can also follow us on Twitter @oD_Europe to stay up to date on all our Euro elections coverage. Please do let us know what you think, and do feel very welcome to send us suggestions on how to make this election campaign more meangingful at Europe (at) opendemocracy.net!