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Youth political engagement is vital for the future of Europe. Democratic participation can take many different shapes, each act adding up to something greater. Citizens are taught from a young age that in life there are rights and responsibilities. But what modern tools can they use to accomplish these responsibilities in an effective manner?

Voting is a perfect example of one such tool – at a certain age (18 in most Member States, but 16 in some), people receive the right to vote, which is a responsibility to express their opinion and enjoy the features of a participative democracy that their ancestors fought for securing. The involvement in this process is sometimes perceived as being obsolete or uncool by young people, but do they know anything about the voting advice applications?

One such application being the newly designed electoral exercise that VoteWatch Europe has developed. Based on the voters answers to a set of questions, the application helps them discover a candidate or a party that best matches them. If this idea interests you, give it a try and play the game! (Preferably before the elections :D)

How should young people get involved?

It is important for young people to engage with politics. Fortunately, there are several tools that they can use to do this. The first step is to inform themselves. In an era of fake-news spreading with the speed of the internet, reliable information is increasingly harder to find. This happens especially in the case of political discourse: false information and misconceptions are constantly spread by politicians seeking office, or seeking to remain in office, as well as by various interest groups hoping to benefit themselves.

Young people have the responsibility to make informed choices and share the knowledge they acquire with their peers.

In the increasingly digitalized age, it is important to have access to objective information and a platform to provide it, such as VoteWatch Europe.

What VoteWatch Europe is?

VoteWatch Europe is a platform for political engagement aimed to deliver objective and factual information on the positions of politicians in the European Parliament, as well as the Council with regards to all issues debated at a European level. By merging sophisticated statistics with insights from politicians, institutions’ staffers and top notch independent researchers, VoteWatch Europe provides the public with real-time, data backed analysis and forecasts on European and global developments.

For instance, their latest insights revolve around which EP political groups are labeled as ‘fake’ and why those labels persist.

VoteWatch Europe identifies the political groups with the lowest cohesion through a practical and objective political affinity measure, which increases transparency.

This information is particularly relevant to knowing more about the true nature of the politicians that represent their electorate in the European institutions’ decision-making process.

What other tools can they use?

In addition to various informative reports, VoteWatch is also helping increase youth political engagement, having designed, along with five European organizations, a multilingual digital platform, YourVoteMatters. YourVoteMatters aims to serve as a communication tool between the 2019 candidates in the European elections and their electorate. This is achieved by including a series of policy debriefings, as well as a survey-like option that enables the electorate to find out which MEP or new candidate their views most align with.

Along these lines, the European institutions have also recently acknowledged the importance of engaging youth in politics. As another tool for this purpose, a campaign called ‘This time I’m voting’ has been created. The campaign has the sole purpose of energising young voters and including them through sharing various videos and articles featuring citizens expressing their reasons for getting involved and voting in the European elections.

Youth participation is critical to the future well-being of Europe. There are several tools that can be used in order to achieve this and organisations like VoteWatch are here to contribute.

All that is left for young people to do is engage and change Europe for the better.

 

The chamber’s young professional network, Brussels New Generation, is hosting a Lunch and Learn with VoteWatch Europe on the 25th February, on finding reliable information on the political stances of EU decision-makers and understanding the evolving regulatory landscape after the upcoming EU elections.

For more information and to register, click here.

 

Official_Robert-Madelin

by Robert Madelin, Directorate General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology

For decades, the single market has delivered new rights and opportunities to European citizens and businesses. The right to travel, live or study abroad. The right to benefit from the best goods and services the EU has to offer, wherever they originate. The right for businesses to enjoy a world of opportunity, trading and transacting beyond borders – selling to a potential market of hundreds of millions of people.

But increasingly our lives are going digital. All kinds of new activities are going online. From entertainment to healthcare, broadband networks offer a new platform and a new boost for any kind of business. New initiatives like cloud computing or big data allow companies in all sectors to benefit from high-quality, flexible services; and increase their productivity across the board.

Indeed this new online platform is a particular boon for the most dynamic, smaller businesses. Because the online world offers much lower barriers to entry, and much higher capacity for innovation, many European innovators and entrepreneurs are using it successfully to spread new ideas. As David Cameron himself put it – the digital sector is one of the engines of a modern economy.

But as much economic activity goes online – the risk is that we rediscover the borders we have spent decades trying to bring down in the offline, “real” world. In effect taking away from the freedoms that the EU single market is supposed to safeguard.

It’s all well and good to have the right to bid for foreign government contracts – but what if, in practice, you have to use paper, pen and postal services to do so across the border — and the time and burden then become prohibitive? Online, it’s easy to buy or sell physical CDs or books across borders – but often you cannot do so for their digital equivalents, like MP3s or eBooks – because of copyright rules or “geoblocking” (preventing online content from being viewed in particular member states, for legal or commercial reasons). And while it’s a boon for businessespeople to easily travel: often they find high roaming charges mean those trips become a lot more expensive; or alternatively, they just switch their phone off and lose all contacts and connectivity for the duration.

As the world goes online, such barriers are an increasing obstacle to our economy. Especially for those businesses looking to innovate and expand across borders. Online, distance should not be a barrier; we should ensure our legal framework is not a barrier, either.

Over the last five years, the EU has taken significant steps to bring these barriers down. All Europeans now have at least basic broadband. New EU rules make it easier, for example , to sign a contract or take part in public procurement online across borders, thanks to the new Regulation on e-Identification and Trust Services. EU regulations have brought down the cost of roaming significantly – and stand to go even further. A cloud computing strategy will ensure more trust and more consistent standards across the EU for this promising new technology. And so on.

But there is further to go. The European Council has underlined the urgency of delivering the digital single market by 2015 at the latest. Indeed, the benefits of such a digital single market could amount to over 4% of EU GDP; an economic impact at least as big as that of the 1992 programme which created Europe’s Internal Market for goods in the first place.

And the response of the incoming Juncker Commission has been clear: Europe needs a digital single market, not least for the benefit of every innovative and growing business. The incoming Commission have already been clear – for example – that copyright rules need reform; and that geoblocking runs contrary to the core principles of a single market. With a Vice President specifically in charge of creating that digital single market, we are well placed to take Europe into the digital 21st century.

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