Micro-Europa: ‘1 +1 = 3’
In the last European Parliament elections, only 29% of young people aged 18 to 24 (43% for older people) voted; this abstention rate has never been seen before. Does this mean young people reject the European Union en masse? Were they only against European-level policies? Or were they determined to show their indifference to the European project, simply because of their main concern: finding a job (fear of unemployment is young Europeans’ top concern, according to Eurobarometer polls)?
Whatever the answer, the low turnout highlights great uneasiness and a wide gulf between young people and the European institutions and politicians that are in power. This is a tremendous paradox: today’s young people, who are so used to mixing with others of their own generation from other European countries, are far more used to speaking foreign languages than their parents. For them cities such as Barcelona, Dublin and Warsaw are within easy reach… and yet these young people seem to be highly indifferent to the European project.
However the European Union (EU) is a democratic area, an area of peace – a very precious thing, given the tens of millions of people killed in the Second World War. Whether one likes or dislikes the policies of the EU (and any doubts or criticisms about it are perfectly legitimate), it has a huge influence today on the lives of citizens (and young people) throughout the Union and in every sphere. So no matter whether one likes the EU a little, a lot, madly or not at all, it is essential for citizens to show more interest in Europe, to get to know the way it works, and to get involved by carefully scrutinising their elected representatives and by making their voices heard.
Without this essential participation by active citizens, the experts and technocrats will permanently hijack the EU… and it will be doomed to failure. Which would be a terrible shame, because today we have greater need than ever before of a European political union – one that is founded on solidarity and understanding among people – to meet the big challenges of the coming years. Namely ensuring social and economic prosperity, protecting the environment, working hand in hand with people in the developing countries, and so on. We need an EU to improve everyone’s quality of life and to preserve this quality for future generations.
How can more citizens be encouraged to participate at European level? There are no magic solutions. But clearly it is worthwhile making major efforts to this end in educational systems. Journalists too – especially those working at local and regional levels, and who are therefore the closest to people – have a key role to play in informing, disseminating and paving the way for debate about European issues. By helping to train generations of future young journalists who can cover European subjects from the local angle, journalism schools can make a useful contribution.
Calling on this common belief, several schools, universities, and training schools for journalists – in France, Belgium, Romania, Germany and the UK – decided to get together and found the Micro-Europa network. The network brings together the radio activities of European students working on these campuses. With Micro-Europa, through societal themes linked to their everyday lives, the students who run these campus radios JOINTLY produce European programmes that are widely rebroadcast from each partner institution. By bringing together students and teachers, Micro-Europa serves as a genuine think tank for innovative practices encouraging local European journalism. It can also stimulate the practical application of the principle of European citizenship, centred around this virtuous equation: ‘1 + 1= 3’.