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What If You Did Not Have the Right to Vote in the EU?

17 April 2019
photo c/o: ProDemos *note there are currently 751 seats in Parliament, 705 refers to the amount without British seats

On Sunday 14 April, the NHC took part in A Privilege Free Day, as part of The Hague Freedom Weeks. The NHC, together with Hague Talks Youth, Kinder- en Jongerenrechtswinkel, Justice and Peace, and Het Nutshuis organised several “escape room style” experiences and discussions on topics relating to the effect that privilege has on your sense of freedom. Each experience was paired with a discussion on voting, children, or human rights.

Voting in the European Union

During the event, the NHC covered voting and the EU. The goal was to convince people to take an interest and vote in the upcoming European Parliament elections, taking place 23-26 May 2019. We paired with the “Big Red Button” escape room, facilitated by Hague Talks Youth, in which participants had to complete a set of challenges in order to push a big red button, symbolizing registering to vote. In fact, the tasks were designed to be impossible to finish. One included unscrambling a collection of words (many of which with key letters missing). The other was deciphering instructions on how to register to vote in languages the participants could not understand (e.g. Gaelic).

The escape room simulated taking away the participants’ right to vote by imposing difficult obstacles preventing them from pushing the big red button (and registering to vote). By “taking away” the ability to vote, it aimed to increase the awareness amongst participants of the power they do possess to impact change through their vote. This could be compared to the feeling many would get if their right to travel without passports or visas from The Netherlands to, for example, France or Italy was abruptly taken away.

After the escape room, participants discussed the EU’s effects and benefits on our everyday lives. NHC representatives Jennifer Pampolina and Aaron Clements-Hunt argued against the perception that the EU is “just some far away bureaucracy in Brussels,” and highlighted the importance of voting for an institution that does indeed have a significant amount of power and influence over things such as the price of cheese to your right to receive medical care while abroad.

Effects of the European Union on Daily Life

photo c/o: European Union website

Upcoming European Parliament Elections

Citizen’s civic interest and participation through voting, can help ensure their views and values are represented. Moreover, it increases the accountability and the functionality of governments. It is an essential part of democracy, which the NHC has aimed to strengthen through its work. Historically the EU has suffered with the reputation of not being fully representative (often referred to as a “democratic deficit”). This is paired with declining interest in the elections; studies have shown only 41% of EU citizens know when the next EP election is and only 51% declare interest in elections. However, experts have countered the “democratic deficit” claim, arguing that “citizens have gained more power in Brussels…than they lost nationally.”

While many may feel ambivalent towards the EU, there are also a growing number of aggressively anti-EU political parties. There are projections that the influence of anti-EU parties within the European Parliament could rise significantly in the upcoming election. This highlights the importance of both increasing voter turnout and understanding of the EU. If anything, Brexit has demonstrated how a lack of clarity amongst voters could result in far reaching consequences.

If you would like to learn more about the European Parliament elections and how to vote click here: This Time I’m Voting