Young voices in the European Parliament elections

Article written by Mark Abdilla – Executive, MEUSAC
Published on The Malta Independent – 16.04.19

European citizens will once again be heading to the polls between May 23 and May 26. The citizens’ choice will dictate the political direction of the EU for the upcoming five-year period. Of particular significance to Malta is the fact that the European Parliament elections will mark the first voting experience for youths between the ages of 16 and 18.

In 2018 Malta granted 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote, making it the second EU Member State to take such a step. Austria was the first to do so in 2007, while the European Parliament had also adopted a resolution in 2015, which called for a reduction in the voting age in all Member States. The aim of the resolution was to increase equality in the democratic process, while also minimising discrimination. However, while the European Parliament can adopt such a resolution, it cannot impose such an initiative on Member States, and only Malta and Austria have so far done so by allowing 16 and 17-year olds to vote in local, national and European elections.

The granting of the right to vote to 16 and 17-year-olds is a significant development. It provides youth with the opportunity to have their say in an EU that may have seemed distant in recent times. This becomes even more relevant when one considers that many issues discussed by the European Parliament will directly impact the lives of future generations. Issues such as climate change, sustainable development and waste management are important policy areas which will certainly impact our future generations in some form or other.

While also serving as a Europe Direct Information Centre (EDIC) in Valletta, MEUSAC is working with the European Parliament Liaison Office in Malta to provide secondary and post-secondary students with timely and correct information about the voting process. The aim is to give a feel of the voting process to first-time voters while also making them feel involved in the EU democratic process.

In fact, through MEUSAC, secondary and post-secondary level students are already involved in the democratic process through their participation in various events, giving them an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns on various topics, such as the National Youth Parliament. In addition to this, the Young People’s Summit is organised on a yearly basis by Ekoskola, and this summit gives primary and secondary school students the opportunity to propose various measures to combat environmental challenges. These proposals are then presented to politicians during a special meeting in the Maltese Parliament. The summit was held on March 15 this year, with students discussing marine pollution, open spaces, and the transport sector. Such initiatives exhibit the level of interest children have in political issues, particularly on those subjects which have an impact on their future livelihood. This is very positive, as it means that youths would be more than ready to go out and vote when given the opportunity.

The results of these elections will have an important impact on the EU’s political direction for the next five years. In particular, it is an opportunity for first-time voters to have their say on what discussions take place within the European Parliament, on the subjects that matter most to them and their future. It is therefore vital for us all to make our voice heard in these elections.

For more information on the European Parliament elections visit the website of the European-wide EP campaign, thistimeimvoting.eu, or contact Europe Direct Valletta on edicvalletta.meusac@gov.mt or call 2200 3316.

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