Reports 2016

What role for young people in protecting democracy in Europe?

29 November 2016

Over the past few years, alarmingly low levels of electoral participation by citizens have been registered in many EU member states, including at the European elections of 2014. Young Europeans, in particular, are increasingly disengaged from mainstream politics, with evidence from Eurobarometer showing that the percentage of Europeans aged 15-30 who voted in an election plummeted from 80% in 2011, to 73% in 2013, and to 63% in 2015. This does not mean that young people do not care about the common good; increasing numbers of young people are shaping reality around them through volunteering, signing petitions and contributing to NGOs. Whilst this is positive, their growing absence from mainstream politics raises serious questions about the sustainability of representative democracy in the long run.

What is the underlying cause of young people’s disengagement from mainstream politics? What is the most urgent measure to restore their trust in the European project? How can social movements and activism of young people be turned into political power? And finally, how can we reach out to the disengaged? FutureLab Europe members Thomas Baumgartner, Leticia Diez Sanchez, Janosch Delcker, and Darija Maric debated these and other questions with Brando Benifei, Member of the European Parliament, Elisa Lironi, Digital Democracy and Campaigning Manager at the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS), and Artur Wieczorek, Secretary General of the Federation of Young European Greens. The event marked the programme’s fifth anniversary and was moderated by FutureLab Europe Programme Leader, Claire Dhéret.