9th Dec 2023

A generation hungry for change — meet the MEPs under 35

  • Two-out-of-three MEPs are 41 to 60-years old. Currently only 37 MEPs under the age of 35, around five percent of all parliamentarians (Photo: European Parliament)
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As the current legislative term nears its end and the next European elections draw closer, political groups are already busy working on their electoral agenda. But what do young politicians have to say about it?

In the corridors of the European Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg, the generation gap is noticeable.

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Only one-in-15 MEPs are between the ages of 18 and 35, while one-in-five Europeans are in this age group.

EUobserver interviewed most of these young MEPs (under 35) to better understand their achievements during this legislative term, the obstacles they faced due to their age, and the challenges ahead for their generation. You can read all the interviews here.

Young MEPs are the ones who, at least occasionally, find themselves mistaken as assistants or lower-rank officials, rather than politicians, by older colleagues.

But they are also the lawmakers freshening up European politics, injecting energy into the decision-making process and bringing the European project closer to people — offering new ways of connecting with a more diverse and tech-savvy generation of voters.

"Young people's voices reflect the evolving needs of society," said the president of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, during an event this week.

The current average age of the 705 MEPs in office is approximately 53. Two-out-of-three are aged between 41 and 60 years old. And only 37 MEPs are under the age of 35 (representing around five percent of all parliamentarians.)

This discrepancy mirrors the reality at the national, member-state level, whose average age ranges from mid-40s to mid-60s.

Several studies suggest that the percentage of politicians younger than 30 in domestic parliaments rarely exceeds two percent — and favours men over women.

This is partly explained by the fact there is a decline in party membership among young people, and partly due to the absence of young people as role-model MEPs or politicians. A chicken-and-egg situation.


Following the last 2019 European elections, Danish Green politician Kira Marie Peter-Hansen became the youngest MEP ever, elected at the age of 21. She is now 25.

French far-right MEP Jordan Bardella comes next, becoming an MEP at 24 years old. Bardella has even overshadowed Marine Le Pen, being elected president of France's National Rally in 2022.

For contrast, the oldest MEP is an 82-year-old lawmaker from Poland.

Young politicians are often seen as 'green' and 'liberal' — but this is not always the case.

Among the group of the youngest MEPs identified by EUobsever, most lawmakers belong to the liberal group of Renew Europe (eight), the Greens (seven) and the European People's Party (six).

The youngest MEPs in the parliament come from over 19 different nationalities, with Germans being notably well-represented (seven).

While most of them became MEPs directly from the 2019 elections, some of them joined the parliament later.

Italian MEP Maria Veronica Rossi from the Northern League party has only been serving as an MEP since April 2023 and Luxembourgish Kemp Martine, who is just 29 years old, became an MEP only last month.

'The youth franchise'

Young MEPs are not only symbols of generational change but parliamentary data also suggests higher levels of activity, compared to their colleagues.

They engage in more frequent file amendments, deliver a greater number of plenary speeches, and offer more explanations for their votes.

For example, Portuguese MEP Sara Cerdas from the S&D (1,275) and French MEP Manon Aubry from The Left (1,163) have prepared written explanations for almost every final vote.

Despite their ideological differences, they share one concern: young people are indeed underrepresented in most institutional politics.

This underrepresentation is often linked to low political participation among young people — which means young people are unlikely to expect much from policymakers, as there is little incentive to focus on policies that benefit youth.

"Youth representation ultimately depends on the youth franchise," Tom Theuns, senior assistant professor of political theory and European politics at Leiden University told EUobserver.

Theuns argues that young Europeans are more likely to participate in elections when they believe they can make a difference.

This trend, he said, was evident in Poland's October general election, where exit polls indicated that about 70 percent of voters aged 18-29 voted — over 20-percent up compared to the 2019 election.

Meanwhile, the last EU elections in 2019 had a turnout of 51 percent — and the participation among young people was the lowest of all age groups.

However, the outlook for next year's elections appears more promising.

According to Theuns, lowering the voting age in European elections would be a major boost to the voice of young people in Europe.

This has already been done in Austria (voting age of 16), Belgium (16), Germany (16), Malta (16), and Greece (17).

Nevertheless, experts argue that young people are also most likely to engage in politics that prioritises the things that matter to them.

The top three issues for the younger generation are: combating youth unemployment, tackling poverty and inequality, and fighting climate change, according to the 2022 Eurobarometer Youth Survey.


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