From 16 to the elections, already this year, the EU is in charge. And they train. It comes back to haunt her in Germany



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While in the Czech Republic the possibility to go to the polls is limited by the requirement to reach the age of majority at 18, in several European countries even younger voters who were 17 and in some places even 16 years old have the right to vote in the European Parliament elections, which is currently also the lowest possible age limit .

At first glance, it might seem that this is a negligible change, as only five EU states have taken this step so far – Austria, Germany, Malta, Belgium and Greece – but in reality, the votes of millions of teenagers are at stake in this age category. It is their votes that will speak volumes for the future direction of the EU in the June elections to the European Parliament, and regardless of the fact that they are minors, they will have the same weight as those of adult Czech voters.

This year, the European Union is trying its best to target young voters under the age of 18. And as well as calling for “bringing democracy into the classroom”, he is urging teachers to show children in schools materials explaining that the European Union is “good for them”. And also the fact that they have to go vote.

In educational set teachers will find a guide on how to make their pupils “active European citizens” and how to explain to them that the EU solves the problems that are burning young people.

The handbook states, for example, that the EU takes the problem of disinformation very seriously, and it is explained to them how much the European Parliament is trying to protect them from disinformation through, for example, the regulation on digital services.

The material talks about topics such as the balanced representation of women and men, climate change and the single market. “The voice of young people will decide which MEPs will represent them when working on new legislation and will influence the choice of the European Commission. These decisions will affect their daily lives and the lives of many others,” the European Parliament says.

The achievements of the European Parliament are also explained, which claims that in the previous election period it fundamentally influenced freedom of movement, the economy and the politics of climate change, or democratic values, including freedom of thought and expression.

Some young people will go to vote in the EU compulsorily. Even if she didn’t want to

“Today, the old opinion that young people are not interested in politics no longer applies. In fact, they are strongly involved in the issue of gender equality, the climate issue or the abolition of unpaid internships. Politics evolves over time and young people have learned how to get involved in society in modern times and communicate their position to express how they think society should work.” writes also the EU on the right to vote for young people.

And if young people living in Brussels were not interested in politics anyway and decided to spend their time in any way other than throwing a ticket in the ballot box, it might not end well for them. In Belgium, even 16-year-olds will have to vote. Willy-nilly.

According to the AFP agency, the Constitutional Court there decided that the different rules for voters of different ages do not have sufficient justification, and if 16 and 17-year-olds decide not to vote, they face the threat of a fine of between 40 and 200 euros (approximately 1,000 to 5,000).

Precisely the fines for non-participation, although the authorities often forgive them, are one of the reasons why the turnout in the last European elections rose to 88.47%. In contrast, only 28.72% of voters voted in the last EP elections in the Czech Republic in 2019.

16-year-old Germans can decide the future of Europe

The European Union has been pushing for the lowest possible voting age in the European elections for a long time. In March 2022, the European Parliament reached a compromise regarding the EU elections, which includes lowering the voting age to 16 in all EU member states, if these states shall not decide otherwise.

Neighboring Germany also decided to lower the age limit to 16 years of age, and this year will allow its 16- and 17-year-old citizens to vote for the first time in the elections to the European Parliament. Members of the Bundestag already supported the proposal to lower the age limit from the current 18 at the end of 2022. They explained the move by saying that the young generation is already taking responsibility in many areas of society and would also like to be involved in the political process.

Even before the elections, however, the German media note that the youngest part of the German generation has quite different electoral preferences than some government politicians dreamed of when they were clamoring for the amendment.

It turns out that young people in the neighboring country are increasingly gravitating towards the opposition of the current coalition. German public service station Deutsche Welle (DW) is taking notethat the Alternative for Germany (AfD) campaign has the greatest reach on social networks among the youngest voters.

The station notes that the AfD is beginning to gather support among the youngest voters not only on social networks, but also in real terms, which was already evident last fall during the elections in the western state of Hesse, where this opposition party, known for example for its strong rejection of illegal migration, among young voters aged 18 to 24 placed her in second place.

The public DW is threatened by the fact that the leading candidate of the AfD in the European elections, Maximilian Krah, whom he presents as a “right-wing extremist”, is gathering support among young people, for example, on the social network TikTok, where he advises them to be patriotic, or warns against politics that the mothers of today’s teenagers will lead to poverty in old age.

Education expert Klaus Hurrelmann told DW that the AfD enjoys the support of this age group also due to the fact that they blame current politicians for the covid restrictions that severely affected their lives a few years ago. According to him, the lockdowns and the ban on going to school are precisely what young people remember very well as a “turning point” in their lives. “For many young people, it was a turning point when, right after puberty at 12 or 13, they saw that they were no longer in control of their lives,” he noted.

According to him, the elections among young people will also be influenced by news about the “climate crisis” or the issue of poverty in old age, and the AfD should benefit from this, as it can show that the government is ignoring the concerns of young people.

An analysis by political consultant Johannes Hillje for German public broadcaster ZDF then found that TikTok videos posted by the AfD parliamentary faction achieved about ten times more views than videos posted by other parties.

According to DW, other parties are already noticing such growth of the AfD and are mobilizing heavily. For example, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung), linked to the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), which has decided on a tactic it calls youth “training” on its website, wants to turn it around.

“We will bring democracy to the classroom,” proclaimed the EU. Instead of democracy, the police arrived


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However, party “training” before the elections is not the only thing that can happen to German students.

While young Germans are not at risk of being fined thousands like their peers in Belgium, if they are not interested in politics and don’t feel like voting, the exact opposite can get them into trouble. It is enough for them to start talking about their political views publicly. Even the young 16-year-old girl, whose story shook Germany a few weeks ago, already knows about it.

The young German apparently took to heart the thesis of the European Union, addressed to young people states, that “no one is too young to talk about democracy” and so she made no secret of her support for the AfD. She shared a video of the party, which alluded to the blue color of the party and the identical coloring of the fairy tale “smurfs”. “Smurfs are blue, so is Germany,” it read, alluding to the “blueness” of Germany that suggests election polls. The young woman added that Germany is not just a place on the map for her, but her home.

Instead of discussion and by “bringing democracy into the classroom”, as the EU proclaims, however, in the classroom behind the girl because of her political opinion subsequently according to the German newspaper Bild the school principal brought in the German police.

The police then took the student directly from chemistry class and were supposed to conduct a “preventive educational conversation” with her. According to the police, the officers explained to her that they were not doing so because she would do something, but “for her protection”.

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author: Radek Kotas

The article is in Czech

Tags: elections year charge train haunt Germany


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