EU parliament unveils €16mn 'go and vote' campaign
10.09.13 @ 16:25
BRUSSELS - The European Parliament on Tuesday (10 September) began a €16-million effort to persuade people to go to the polls in next year's EU election amid rising unease about ever decreasing voter turnout.
The campaign, to run for one year, is designed to inform people what the world's second largest assembly does and why it is worth voting during the 22-25 May election period.
"We have a strong message. Do exercise your right to vote," said Greek socialist Anni Podimata. "The only way to legitimise and influence EU decision-making is through the European Parliament."
Austrian centre-right MEP Othmar Karas said: "We see it as an obligation to explain why your vote is important."
Their efforts after a eurobarometer survey released last week found that less than four in 10 Europeans feel that their voice counts in the EU.
The campaign is to have four phases, with the initial one explaining the legislative powers of MEPs.
The second phase, from October, will have "interactive events" in EU cities which will focus on key topics such as jobs and the economy.
The third phase, from February, will remind people of when the elections are, using the slogan "Act, React, Impact."
This phase will be saying "go and vote," Karas noted.
The final stage, after the election, will highlight the voting-in of the new European Commission President.
"In Europe, every opinion gets a fair chance. The decisions of the European Parliament are driven by everything that matters to you," says a campaign video with allusions to themes of war, peace, poverty, death and birth, on the parliament's website.
A 52-second video due to appear in all 28 member states will promise that "this time it's different."
This refers both to the parliament's huge array of new legislative powers compared to the previous 2009 election and that citizens' votes will for the first time affect who will be the next commission leader.
Podimata noted the context is also different, saying it is "unique in terms of the crisis and the very bad view that citizens have of the crisis."
The campaigning is starting as the EU faces record unemployment rates in several member states and a feeling among citizens that the Union is responsible for the drastic state of the economy.
Meanwhile, in Brussels, there is general concern that another low turnout - it dropped to 42 percent in 2009 - could play into the hands of populist or extremist parties.
The widespread feeling that the EU vote is of little local consequence also makes people more likely to vote for fringe parties.
Much of the campaign's success will be down to MEPs connecting with voters, particularly young people.
But while a third of the budget is to be spent on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, Karas acknowledged that MEPs cannot be "forced" to be more active on such platforms.