Young and mobile EU citizens are politically interested, but limited in exercising their democratic rights as a result of bureaucratic and language barriers.
A European research project is investigating the framework conditions for political engagement amongst young and mobile people in the EU, with the aim of generating greater awareness of the term EU “Union citizenship” in this sector of the population. It is also drawing up proposals for improving the involvement of these EU citizens in the political and social life of their host countries. The investigations are being carried out in Estonia and Austria, and the first results are now available.
EMY (Empowerment of Mobile Youth in the EU) is an EU co-financed project intended to inform young and mobile people in the EU, aged 16 to 29, of their rights as Union citizens, and to encourage them to make better use of their democratic rights and options for political involvement in a unified Europe.
In the run-up to the European Parliament elections in May of this year, a survey (379 participants) and in-depth, moderated discussion groups (focus groups) were carried out with students resident in their host countries of Austria and Estonia. The survey examined the students’ awareness of their political rights, in particular their rights to vote in their EU host countries, their general level of interest in the EU elections, and the barriers preventing them from exercising their voting rights.
The first results of the survey and focus group evaluations
The key findings in summary:
- Mobile students primarily see their Union citizenship in terms of the practical advantages it confers (e.g. travelling and studying abroad).
- The majority of those surveyed were very interested in the European elections. They were aware of their active voting rights in general, but were much less aware of their passive voting rights.
- As a rule, currently mobile students from EU countries are not yet prepared to exercise their local voting rights in EU elections in their host countries. They experience a far stronger bond with the political agenda of their home countries: in both countries, around 2/3 of those surveyed followed the news in their home countries on a daily and weekly basis. The limited level of engagement with the political life of the host country appears closely related to two factors: language skills and length of residency.
- Bureaucratic hurdles, such as insufficient information about registration and voting practices, both in the host country and their home country, represent a significant hurdle to participation in the elections to the European Parliament for eligible voters living abroad.
- There is significant interest in the option of online voting (e-voting), although many of those surveyed still expressed doubt and a lack of trust in the reliability and security of e-voting systems.
The detailed survey results are available at: https://europeanmobileyouth.eu/survey/
Aims of the EMY project
Mobility in the EU includes the right to political involvement at EU and local level. For that reason, the EMY project is designed to raise the awareness of young EU citizens about their democratic rights as “Union citizens”. The project initially focuses on young EU citizens studying and registered as resident in Estonia and Austria.
EMY examines the extent to which this “mobile youth” is engaged with the political events in their EU host country, and the extent to which they wish, or are able, to exercise their rights as Union citizens. In particular, the study aims to ascertain options for promoting and supporting democratic participation of young Union citizens, to identify barriers to participation, and to propose methods and instruments to support the target group.
Targeted measures are intended to raise the awareness of young mobile EU citizens about the democratic rights conferred by Union citizenship. A key EMY aim is to initiate a self-sustaining community which addresses the issue of political participation amongst young mobile Europeans and provides this target group with supporting mechanisms. Recommendations will be drafted for policymakers, public authorities and stakeholder groups so that they can better meet the expectations, needs and preferences of the target group, enhancing engagement at EU and Member State level.
The next project steps
In the next step, the findings to date will be used as the basis for examining the experiences and opinions of key stakeholder groups including student associations, relevant government ministries and representatives of political parties in Estonia and Austria, and including them in the investigations. Further focus groups will be launched in November and December for this purpose.
The project partners
The AIT Austrian Institute of Technology is Austria’s largest research and technology organisation. Among the European research institutes, AIT is a specialist in the key infrastructure issues of the future. In the context of comprehensive and global networking and digitalisation, the Center for Digital Safety & Security is developing modern information and communication technologies and systems in order to establish secure and reliable critical infrastructure. AIT acts as the consortium leader in this project and contributes its technological expertise in the field of e-participation.
The e-Governance Academy (eGA) is a non-governmental and non-partisan organisation based in Estonia, which was established to create and transfer knowledge in the fields of e-governance, e-democracy and the development of a civil society. Founded in 2002, eGA is a joint initiative of the Estonian Government, the Open Society Institute (OSI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The Centre for Economics and Public Administration (CEPA) is a network of internationally recognised experts in the fields of public administration, political science, economics, finance and information technology. CEPA was launched in the UK in 2015 with the aim to explore the complex interactions between science, policy and the civil society. The Vienna branch of CEPA was established in 2019.
Politikos aims to establish an efficient method of communication between political decision-makers and the civil society. This enables the development of innovative policy-making ideas and approaches, offering everyone the opportunity to engage in and actively shape political decision-making processes.
Project: Empowerment of mobile youth in the EU (EMY)
Project ID: REC-RCIT-CITI-AG-2018
Participating countries: Estonia, Austria, start of project: 1/2/2019, end of project: 31/1/2021
Web page: https://europeanmobileyouth.eu
This project is funded by the Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme of the European Union (2014-2020).
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