Learning About My Vote: The Citizen and the EU Elections
“It’s time I seriously start giving a thought to the elections of the EU parliament”, I say to myself. Given that I want to listen to my civic conscience, I decide to look for a reliable tool that could help me figure out which way to cast my vote on the 26th of May, not only as a (constitutional) lawyer, but also (mostly) as a (EU) citizen . So, I open google and type in the search field “European Parliament Elections”. Just in-between Wikipedia entries and institutional websites, something called “Match your vote” catches my attention. When I click on it, I’m confronted by very nice images, short sentences, and a user-friendly website. “Looks like what I’m looking for”, I think. Easy, quick and entertaining, as the website itself declares: a game to play in order to discover “which politicians, national parties and EU political groups match your views based on their true actions”.
I quickly read through the premise: I’m going to get to vote on twenty-five real decisions that Members of the European Parliament (EU MP’s) have actually made in the last five years (2014-2019), to see which politicians match my views. “Ok, got it”. I register: name, gender and nationality (they reassure me that my answers will remain “strictly confidential and will be used for statistical purposes only”), and I’m good to go, START.
Question 1. “Should there be a tax on companies that use robots, as a way to support the social security system?” My first reaction is: “Ok, let’s read it again”, which I do. “Am I in favour, against or do I want to abstain?” To buy some time, I scroll down the page. With great relief – I must admit – I find arguments for and against at the bottom of the page. As any dedicated researcher, I thoroughly read the explanations of both perspectives, think about it for myself and decide. I click on the chosen answer and automatically the website brings me to question number 2. This time I’m asked to give my view on how strict rules on the privacy of online communication should be. Again, in order to answer in a (minimally) informed way, I need to read carefully, think, seek some additional information online, and only then can I give my opinion. The same is true with almost all the remaining (23) questions.
Among others things, I have to take a position on the role of “whistleblowers”, on how to distribute asylum seekers, on the treatment of animal, on fossil fuels and methane emissions, on a common minimum corporate tax rate, on fiscal compliance, on the establishment of a European Armed Force, on pursuing closer trade relations with the United States, on limiting China’s exports to the EU market and on Palestine Statehood. Besides a couple of questions regarding EU institutions , where (given my daily work) I feel sure enough about my answer, the remaining issues require – at least – that I invest some time in gathering enough information before I feel sure enough to take a stand.
The experiment comes to an end and “Match your vote” is able to tell me which EU MEPs most closely represent my views and which political groups better align with my ideals. Useful? Yes. Difficult? Also, yes. Would I suggest it to others? Definitely!
Why? “Match your vote” clearly demonstrates that the decisions taken by the EU parliament are profoundly diverse and very complex; that being able to have a clear position on all these issues is hard but not impossible; and that we all need more transparent, clear, fact-based and digestible information in order to be better prepared for and engaged with this democratic moment. All in all, this exercise reinforced my conviction that higher quality information on these issues is urgently needed.
This is why, EUreka! – over the course of the next four months – seeks to shed light on some of the issues most relevant to current European debates with a view to contributing to a better understanding of the European Parliamentary elections and their consequences. Crucially, in this era of populism, growing distrust in representative democracy and pervasive anti-EU sentiment in politics and society, EUreka! hopes to play a role in informing public opinion.
| Martina Trettel is Senior Researcher at the Institute for Comparative Federalism of Eurac Research. She got her PhD in Constitutional and European Legal Studies at the Graduate School of Law of the University of Verona in 2017. Her main research interests are Institutional Innovation and Participatory Democracy, Fiscal Federalism, Federal and Regional Studies and Comparative Constitutional Justice but she is also very much interested in running, cats and crime books.|