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EUROPEAN ELECTIONS

Why young French people don’t care about the European elections

Fewer than one in four young French are planning to vote in this year's European elections which are set to take place on May 26th. So, why aren't they bothered?

Why young French people don't care about the European elections
stevanovicigor/Depositphotos

Too complicated, too far away, too un-involving, too boring: French youth are turning their backs on Europe. An Ifop survey on young people in France and the European Union, published in April, reveals that, out of 100 registered young people, 77 will not vote in the European elections. 

So what has caused this rift?

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History

French young people see the European Union mainly as a historical subject that they studied in school. Europe appears to them as complicated rather than democratic.

Not glamorous enough

Young people think of travel and they think of America and Australia, Europe just doesn’t seem exotic enough. In an attempt to counter this apathy, the EU has invested €16 million this year in a discovery travel programme: Discover EU.

Only young people aged 18 are eligible. They must travel to their European destination by train, all for a maximum of €260. Thirty thousand young people have already taken advantage of this offer launched in 2018.

Urban-rural divide

Young people’s attitudes to Europe depend on where they live in France. Someone from a big city is much more likely to have opportunities to experience other European cultures through academic exchange programmes such as Erasmus.

If your father is a farmer and you want to take over the farm, your only direct link with Europe will be the CAP, the Common Agricultural Policy.

Pessimistic future

According to an OpinionWay survey on 18-30 year olds, conducted on April 26th, young French people are pessimistic about the future of Europe. The “positive feeling” young French people have about the European Union has gone down by 7 points.

Opportunity to change

Half of the voters say that this vote – or abstinence from vote – expresses “a disagreement about the way the European Union is run”.

Young French voters believe that they can use this election to vote against the system.

Young and old will have the opportunity to place a vote in the ballot box for Europe on May 26th.

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EUROPEAN ELECTIONS

Down but not out: Macron eyes shakeup of European parliament

French President Emmanuel Macron tasted defeat in the European elections, but not disaster, and is set to continue pushing both his pro-EU agenda and a realignment of parties in the European Parliament.

Down but not out: Macron eyes shakeup of European parliament
Macron's Republic on the Move (LREM) party finished second behind the far-right National Rally (RN) of his arch-rival Marine Le Pen, but the two parties ended up with less than 1.0 percentage point separating them — on 22.41 percent and 23.31 percent respectively.
   
The vote was seen as a test for Macron domestically after months of anti-government “yellow vest” protests, while his credibility in Europe as a champion of deeper integration was also judged to be on the line.
   
“A disappointment, but not a defeat for the Elysee,” headlined Le Parisien newspaper on Monday, while an editorial in the Les Echos business daily said Macron's party was “resisting well” two years after his election.
   
Macron on Monday held a meeting of key figures from the LREM — including Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and the head of its list for the EU polls Nathalie Loiseau — to discuss the “next steps”, a presidential source said.
 
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The 41-year-old's priority will now be trying to increase his influence in the European Parliament where LREM and its centrist allies will send 23 MEPs, the same number as Le Pen's RN.

His long-standing objective is to redraw the political map of the EU parliament, long dominated by the centre-right EPP grouping and the centre-left S&D — in the same way as he broke the stranglehold of France's traditional parties.
   
Macron's EU-level partners, who form the ALDE group, finished third in Sunday's polls, but the French leader is now aiming to broaden the coalition to include new partners, particularly Greens who made major gains.
   
“The group that we are going to join is going to be a swing group which will try to be a driver in the creation of a progressive alliance. Why not with the Greens?”, French government spokesman Sibeth Ndiaye told BFM television on Monday.
   
She added that ALDE would be renamed.
   
On Monday night, Macron will hold talks in Paris with victorious Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez whose Socialist party is set to become the biggest member of the S&D grouping after topping polls in Spain.
   
“At the European level, the president is still manoeuvring to form a large progressive alliance, a force that will be essential in the new parliament,” an aide to the French leader told AFP on Sunday.
 
Tricky Greens?
 
But Macron's ambitions, like his broader agenda for new EU initiatives, are likely to face resistance and it is far from certain that he can repeat his feat of fracturing Europe's centre-right and centre-left parties, as he did in France.
   
In a sign of the difficulties in proposing a deal with the Greens, influential and outspoken Belgian MEP Philippe Lamberts appeared to rule out an alliance on Sunday, saying that Macron “couldn't give a shit” about the environment.
   
Lamberts, co-leader of the Greens, delivered a caustic speech to Macron when he visited the European Parliament in April last year, saying he had betrayed France's values of liberty, equality and fraternity.
   
Some analysts see the ALDE grouping as increasing its influence in the new parliament, but as remaining a distinct group along with the Greens.
   
“Centrists and liberals are now strong enough to say to the EPP and S&D, you need to work with us and organise a four-way coalition,” Sebastien Maillard from the Jacques Delors Institute, a think-tank, told AFP.
 
By AFP's Adam Plowright
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