Written by: Ebba Sandberg Callenberg Photographer: Magnus Swärd Stylist: Adam Olsson Make up artist: Rosanna Laaksonen Assistant: Sofie Hultbom
The European election is just around the corner. We asked Aza Cheragwandi, the representative of the European Commission EU youth dialogue about the importance of democracy and voting turnouts. Aza is currently engaged in Youth Republicans and works as a political secretary in Huddinge, Sweden.
- In the 2014 European Parliament elections, only 29% European citizens (aged 18-24) voted in the election, what do you think is the reason for the decreased voting among youths?
I’d say there’s several reasons. One being a general distrust in the power of one’s vote and a distrust in the political system. It’s hard enough as it is to effect change in your local community, and I think many young europeans simply don’t believe they can make a change in the EU. At the same time we have to recognize that the European Parliament may be many things, but an easy system to grasp is not one of them. It’s incredibly complicated with really drawn out processes and intricate systems – but it’s like that for a reason!
Democracy isn’t easy, and it isn’t fast. The EU is no different. In order to make sure everyone is on board and have had a real opportunity to participate in the discussions before a decision is made it takes time. I also believe that when youth are faced with real issues that haven’t been resolved, like youth unemployment, housing crises and lack of adequate education systems it’s hard for them to focus on the EU – being that it’s something very few really understand.
- What do you think is the main issue for this election?
Climate change. One of the most important upsides of the European Union is the fact that we are 28 member states willing to come together and make huge decisions. After the IPCC report that clearly showed us the magnitude of change necessary to reverse the climate change and create a sustainable world we now understand how much we have left to do and how little time we have left to do it.
Within 10 years we need to make unprecedented change in local, regional, national and international policies if we’re going to turn this ship around. At the same time, we have major parties in every EU member state denying either climate change as a whole, or the magnitude of the problem. This is why every young european needs to vote this time, and we need to vote for parties that realise the urgency and that’s willing to take the necessary (and quite often unpopular) steps to create a sustainable life.
- What is the most crucial issue for young European voters?
Again, climate change. In 50 years, when the world as we know it has ended and climate change has irreversibly effected our planet creating millions of climate-refugees and making vast areas of our planet uninhabitable, us who are young today are the ones having to live with the consequences. The 60-yearold white men governing the EU today will not. We need to take action and defend our collective futures before it’s too late.
- Why is it important to vote? (EP)
Because roughly 30% of an average EU-member states legislation comes from the EU, and about half of all local and city councillor agendas are depended upon EU-legislation and decision making. To vote in your nations general elections and not in the European Parliamentary elections is like throwing away half your vote.
The European Commission (the ”government” of the EU) works as a representative of the EU-member states governments, while the European Parliament are representatives of the EU-member states population – of Us. If we’re gonna have a say in the future of our Union, we need to elect people representing us.
- What drives you to work for democracy?
The knowledge that we can create the change we want to see in the world. Everyday I meet smart, talented and engaged young europeans with great ideas that just lack the right forum – I want to be that link and create a space in which young europeans can share ideas, push agendas and change our world.
- What is your vision for Europe?
My vision is a conflict-free, green, inclusive Europe where it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, gender fluid or not, muslim or jew, white or black, an immigrant or native – Everyone is part of the European community, and where there’s jobs, housing, social rights and a strong common european culture. I’d like to one day live in a Europe where if a Canadian asks me where I’m from I can respond ”From the EU living in Sweden”.
- How would you describe your style ?
I’d describe it as a mix of young tech-nerd and bearded hipster with a touch of politician in me.
The european Parliament elections will take place on 23-26 May 2019 to elect 705 members of parliament for the term of office 2019-2024.