I’m 25 and I don’t consider myself so 'young' any more, but when talking about the 'younger generation', commentators often refer to people of up to 30 or even 35 years of age.
One of the topics surrounding the debate on these young citizens is their alleged apathy towards politics. Eurobarometer statistics showed that in 2009, at the time of the last elections for the European Parliament, only 29% of people aged 18-24 voted (while the overall average was 43%, peaking at 50% for 55+ year old people). Moreover, it was found that 33% of 18-24 year olds declared that they don’t want to vote at all, in any kind of elections. The most common reasons for that kind of behaviour were “my vote has no consequence”, “no interest in politics” and, above all, “lack of trust in politics”.
This last result allows me to say that the 'blame' for this apathy towards the EU concerns not (only) our generation, but above all that of our parents (I mean people born from 1950 on). Why? Because the generation before that one experienced the war and thus had some reason to see the ECSC (then EEC and finally EU) as the means to reach Peace in Europe (this is still not completely true if we consider Kant's definition of 'Peace': currently, within the EU, we are in a truce).
But that 1950s-born generation is the same generation of politicians with whom 'young people' are dissatisfied. The generation that failed in giving the EU a Constitution (2005) or reforming treaties towards a European Federation (the 2007 Lisbon Treaty essentially changed nothing in this regard).
Why am I talking about a federation? Because the most sensitive topics for people are, in my opinion:
- social security;
- sense of 'security' coming from an effective foreign policy.
Currently, these topics are under the jurisdiction of member states. From this comes the "apathy" towards the EU, because the EU cannot really decide on those topics. The few decisions come, above all, from the Commission. Ideally, I'd like to see a European Federation where the legislative power is up to a parliament elected by the people and the executive power is up to a government legitimated by the parliament.
But the EU should decide on these topics, especially as education and job "markets" are no longer "national" but "continental"; and that, on their own, the member states are too small to compete and be heard in a globalized world dominated by continental-wide powers such as China and the USA. Also the eurozone's troubles come from the lack of shared fiscal, banking and financial policies: a common currency without a common state is senseless.
On the other hand, let’s talk about the absolute lack of effort in at least trying to create a European sense of belonging. Programmes like EVS, Erasmus and Youth in Action (nowadays all integrated into Erasmus+) were/are of course useful for this, but not enough, since they involve only a small portion of citizens. Some common European media talking about Europe and European issues would have been useful, but nobody really pushed for that.
In a few words, for all I've written so far, my opinion is that "apathy" is generated by the EU's intrinsic nature as a mere economic and political body "without a soul".
And yes, it’s easy to be apathetic towards such a thing, but only our generation can change that, and probably will. Maybe the majority of us are apathetic towards politicians but not towards other Europeans. And this is the first step for building a better Europe.