After witnessing Brexit-Referendum resulting in the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, and national populist parties like “Front National” and “Alternative für Deutschland” making huge gains all over Europe, the question arises, where the sudden support for populist opinions originates from.
While the majority of younger citizens tend to share more positive opinions on the European Union, they lack the voter turnout to give their voice a numerical significance.
In contrast, the senior citizens’ voter turnout is massive, but their mindset is more conservative and sceptical towards the EU. Another obstacle is the highly biased media-debate, that complicates the search for trustworthy information, by oversimplifying political matters.
The main reason for the spread of popularity of populist claims ultimately comes down to a deficit of information, that allows “alternative facts” to become longer lived and harder to deny.
While opinion varies facts do not. Therefore we aim not to influence political opinions, but to enhance the accessibility of trustworthy information for everybody.
Younger generations rely heavily on mobile communication. This led us to develop an application, that determined whether or not the personal opinion truly matches with that of a specific party.
After selecting a party, the user is asked questions representative of the party-manifesto, to later show in what topics the opinions with the party may match or vary.
For example: If the „Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands“ is selected, the questions will focus on social justice, alternative energies and immgration policy, while also featuring topics like healthcare and foreign affairs.
Workshops and public events
The elder citizen, especially those in Retirement homes, lack access and know-how necessary to obtain information through digital media and are overseen by civic education, which may offer a wide variety of education programs for the youth, but not for the senior generation.
This is why we created a workshop exclusively targeted at senior citizens, to provide the information necessary in an understandable, age-appropriate fashion.
The workshops feature informative as well as interactive parts, like puzzles, to act as conversation starters and the presentation of numerous party-manifestos through short stories and creative tasks.
Even though we already celebrated successes with our project, like the endorsement of the federal minister for civic education in Hesse, we are not that delusional to think, think that we can provide the information for 750 thousand people all by ourselves.
We aim to inspire students all around Europe to become a part of the project, by doing their very own workshops, based on our material that is available online, to embrace information and to get in touch, which is the very foundation of European integration.
This is the way to ensure that opinion, no matter the political wing, is based on valid facts, not populist claims.
In recent years, there has been a rise of EU-sceptic party’s across EU member states, e.g. ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ in Germany, ‘Front du National’ or ´Jobbik´ in Hungary. The resurgence of nationalism culminated last year in UK’s popular vote for the Brexit. In many aspects, nationalist parties challenge both the status quo -as shown by the separatist vote in the UK- and the process of further European Integration.
Union-wide reforms are needed to increase stability across member states, prevent future crises and foster future welfare in Europe. Nationalist tendencies, implying lower willingness to coordinate and delegate tasks to the EU level might put the European reform process at danger. Moreover, current compliance with existing rules of the Union such as reform requirements in exchange for loans from the European stability mechanism (ESM) might be challenged by individual nationalist ´free-riders´.
How can Europe cope with increasing nationalism? What can be done to support the European Union in an environment of diverging preferences? Is a resurgence of nationalism even a chance for a new legitimacy and accountability of the Union? Who is responsible: the EU, member states or is it a story told by the legacy of the financial crisis? Can Europe adapt more legitimacy, be more accountable and incorporate more direct democracy? How can the European value added be measured and communicated?
Read more about the YES! 2017 topic “European Integration and the Rise of National Populist Parties” here.
The topic “European Integration and the Rise of National Populist Parties” was proposed by researchers at the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim. The YES!-teams are supported by the researchers Sebastian Blesse and Thomas Schwab.
The YES! 2017 team Albert-Schweitzer-Gymnasium Dillingen introduces itself here. If you would like to know more about the YES! 2017 team of the Hohe Landesschule Hanau visit their team page here.