Home Featured Want to boost voter turnout in the EU election? Set yourself on fire and speak English
Want to boost voter turnout in the EU election? Set yourself on fire and speak English

Want to boost voter turnout in the EU election? Set yourself on fire and speak English

by host

Welcome to Declassified, a weekly humor column.

It’s a given that we’re all excited about the European Parliament election. Days off work have been booked, “I ❤️ Manfred Weber” T-shirts ordered, and parties (as in beer and food and chat rather than groups of politicians pretending they agree with each other) planned.

But not everyone has June 6-9, 2024 circled in red ink on the calendar. Asked by pollsters when they thought the next EU election is taking place, only 45 percent of Europeans were able to answer correctly that it will take place next year. And remember that this was a survey conducted by Eurobarometer on behalf of the EU institutions, so respondents would have had to answer “yes” when asked, “Would you like to take part in a survey,” rather than, “No, get lost.”

And that 45 percent figure was up 9 percentage points from 2018, a year ahead of the 2019 election.

It’s clear that greater engagement with European citizens is needed or else turnout will again be low (just 50 percent in 2019, dipping as low as 22 percent in Slovakia).

But what can be done to get people to the ballot box? Here are a couple of things that have been tried elsewhere. In Squamish, Canada (and yes it’s Squamish, not Squeamish), a local councilor pledged to set himself on fire if voter turnout increased. It did, and so he did set himself ablaze. The caveats to this are that the councilor was a former stuntman and that it’s a less attractive proposition in the European Parliament now that UKIP has left. And in the U.S., activists working for NextGen, an organization dedicated to getting out the youth vote, used their dating app profiles to spread the word ahead of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election. This might not work quite so well with some of the older MEPs (except for when Silvio Berlusconi was a member of the assembly).

Speaking of attempts to get closer to citizens, there have been calls for English to become an official administrative language in Brussels, instead of French. Only joking, as well as French and Dutch.

“We should be polite and welcoming to people who do not speak Dutch or French,” Brussels Minister for Multilingualism Sven Gatz told Flemish Radio 1. That noise you can hear is screaming from across the border. In 2021, ahead of its turn at the helm of the Council of the EU, France said that if a letter arrived from the European Commission in English, it would go unanswered — Le français est nécessaire. Seems no one told the Belgians.


“Thank you for your many questions. Does anyone want to ask about something other than these boots?”

Can you do better? Email [email protected] or on Twitter @pdallisonesque

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Paul Dallison is POLITICO‘s slot news editor.

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