22 May marks the date of the European elections. Voters will have the opportunity to determine who is their voice in the European Parliament, and for the first time the outcome of these elections holds greater importance as the new parliament will decide who will lead the European Commission.
For many of us, May will be the first time we will vote in such an election. With young voters facing uncertain prospects, therefore, it is important to ask: what kind of a future do candidates to the European Parliament envisage for the youth of Europe? This task fell to St Andrews’ Young European Movement, whose debate on the political visions for youth took place on 29 April in School III.
The apparent political apathy that seems to plague St Andrews has frustrated those who see university as a time to engage. However, as a new society in St Andrews, YEM have had considerable successes in providing a platform for wider discussion and involvement on European matters. Their ‘Visions of Youth’ debate can certainly be counted amongst these.
They gathered together an impressive roster of speakers from across the parties, including: Labour MEP David Martin, LibDem candidate Christine Jardine, Green candidate Alastair Whitelaw, SNP MSP Roderick Campbell, SNP candidate Toni Giugliano, and UKIP candidate Otto Inglis. This variety was to ensure a balanced, unbiased debate and aiding this was chair Professor Jo Shaw of the University of Edinburgh.
The evening commenced with each candidate providing a précis of their campaign and reasons why young voters should tick their box on 22 May, but the real highlight came when candidates tackled questions from the audience on unemployment, study abroad, and UK attitudes towards Europe.
Particularly pertinent was the issue of greater youth participation in elections. UKIP’s candidate suggested that experienced voters are more important, yet the debate itself shows that this is not the case. Its creation and significant turnout shows that young people are concerned with Europe, and that concern may turn into votes as long as these events continue to raise youth awareness. Hopefully, YEM will continue to foster greater integration between St Andrews and European politics.
For more information check out the election’s website.