Iiris Hynönen: Decisions made in Brussels make a difference, even for you – what does this mean in practice?
Let’s have a show of hands! Did you vote in the last European Elections?
If you did not raise your hand, you are among the majority of Finns. In the 2014 European Elections, more than 60 percent of voters chose not to exercise their right to vote. In the same elections, a staggering 90 percent of young voters aged 18–24 did not vote. It is hard to blame anyone for this, because the European Union’s impact on the daily lives of Finns is often obscure.
So why should you vote in the European Elections?
Do you like to buy things made outside Finland? One of the EU’s key tasks is to conclude trade agreements, which make it easier for EU countries to engage in worldwide trade. As a result, it is easier and cheaper to access all kinds of products not manufactured in Finland.
Do you purchase food sourced in Finland or Europe? A fair share of the EU budget is spent on agricultural subsidies to support food production in Finland and other EU countries. Whenever you choose food produced outside the EU, the EU has its say in that: all food sold in the EU area must comply with the EU’s safety and environmental standards, for example.
Would you like to go abroad as an exchange student? Financed from the EU budget, the Erasmus programme is by far the most popular student exchange scheme. Then again, if you prefer to complete your degree in Finland, the EU still plays a role, as it supports the activities of institutions, such as Finnish universities of applied sciences, by dozens of millions of euros annually.
Would you like to travel beyond Finland’s borders? As an EU citizen, you can, in practice, travel freely and without border controls across almost the entire EU area. Should an accident happen on the way, you will have easy access to treatment in any EU country. If your flight is cancelled, EU consumer protection legislation will ensure that you are not left stranded in Central Europe. If you want to work in Europe, EU legislation makes this much easier.
The EU matters!
If you buy something, eat something, travel or study, the EU plays a role on your behalf. In many cases, I would guess that the EU has a greater impact on your everyday life than the Finnish Parliament.
However, in my opinion, the main reason to have a say by voting in the elections goes beyond the ordinary, everyday issues: the EU is such a big player that it can affect the major global issues of our time, of which climate change is the most crucial. The European Parliament elections will influence the climate policy that Europe pursues and promotes. This is the decisive issue of our generation.
Advance voting in the European Elections began 15 May 2019. I intend to vote in the European Elections because the EU has a major impact on my everyday life – and, above all, because the EU can have a major influence on all of our futures. I urge you to vote too.
Advance voting in the European Elections in Finland 15–21 May 2019.
The actual election day is Sunday, 26 May 2019.
For information on polling stations and other important facts on the European Elections, see vaalit.fi