EU elections: a student’s perspective

As the summer draws to a close, talk of the European Parliament elections is growing. More and more manipulation, more and more unclear moments about where, how and who can vote. In this edition of Smart Student, together with Horia Serban Onita, President of the European Students’ Union, we decided to talk about the upcoming important events that will shape the lives of everyone living in the EU for the next five years.

In short, we discussed the importance of young people’s participation in the elections, the role of student organisations, the role of education policy in the EU and its impact on shaping the youth mentality, the difficulties of voting, as well as the future of the EU in terms of the Erasmus+ programme and possible changes in the organisation of higher education. All these issues led to a common call for action providing greater clarity and understanding of the nuances of the electoral process.

When we talk about the participation of young people in the European Parliament, we refer to basic statistics according to which the entire young generation is represented by a number of people equal to the number of Members with the surname Martin, which speaks for itself. Greater participation and representation of young people in politics is needed to ensure that decisions reflect the diverse needs and aspirations of all parts of society, not just the older generations.

European Parliament elections are important for students as they have a direct impact on the quality and direction of higher education and on the mobility opportunities for young people across Europe. There is often a sense of powerlessness among young people, a belief that their actions will not bring about change. This feeling, which may be rooted in the frustrations of the past, does not match today’s opportunities for influence. Each individual voice contributes to the collective power of young people to steer the EU’s political course towards the desired societal change. Abstaining from voting risks relinquishing control over outcomes determined by the preferences of others, while active participation can shift the balance in favour or against certain parties. In today’s digital age, young voters face the additional challenge of overcoming manipulative tactics designed to distract them from the electoral process and then unexpectedly encourage them to vote without a clear understanding of what is at stake.

When answering the question of how to vote and where to look for information, it is always important to remember that there are different parties on social media representing different interest groups and using different platforms to promote their ideas. We encourage you to be cautious about the information you receive, check sources carefully and think critically. Critical thinking is one way to help students deal with propaganda on social media, where Russia is currently a very active propaganda actor.

Overcoming the obstacles to young people’s participation in elections is a multifaceted task that requires joint efforts on several fronts. Key strategies include simplifying bureaucratic processes, expanding access to postal and proxy voting, conducting targeted information campaigns and encouraging greater participation of young voters in the political process. Successful examples, such as advocacy efforts that led to policy changes tailored to students’ voting needs, demonstrate the positive impact of these strategies. By removing these barriers, we can ensure a more inclusive electoral process that empowers young people to exercise their right to vote and help shape policies and governance directions that reflect a diverse and democratic society. It is important to note that non-EU residents and EU residents also have the right to vote in EU elections.

The hope for 2029 is an EU where student mobility, quality education and inclusion are at the centre of attention. This future means a significant increase in the number of programmes such as Erasmus+. The education system will meet the needs of all students and create an environment in which diversity and equality are not only welcome but fundamental principles. Central to achieving this vision is the active participation and representation of young people in the political process, so that their voice plays a decisive role in shaping policy and the future direction of the EU.

The European Students’ Union (ESU) is the main advocate for students’ interests and rights across the EU and plays a key role in shaping education policies that are inclusive and student-friendly. Advocating for student-centered education reforms, ESU ensures that the perspectives and voices of students are considered in the political arena. Moreover, the act of voting is underscored as a fundamental tool for students and young people to influence the future direction of the EU. By participating in elections, they not only exercise their democratic rights but also contribute to shaping policies that affect their education, mobility, and overall quality of life. The ESU’s efforts to mobilise student voting emphasise the importance of active civic engagement, positioning young people as key contributors to the democratic process and architects of their own future within the European Union.

In conclusion, the conversation with Horia Serban Onita from the “Smart Student” podcast emphasises the vital role of youth in shaping the future of the European Union through participation in EU Parliament elections. It sheds light on the challenges young voters face and the European Students Union’s advocacy for more inclusive and student-focused educational policies. Looking forward, the vision for 2029 is one of increased student mobility, inclusivity, and active youth involvement in political processes, underlining the importance of every vote in steering the EU towards a more connected and equitable future.

Artem MelnikovMember of EÜL's international working group