Setting out to contradict the stereotype of apathetic youth and political engagement, Sandra Butz puts the EU election website My Vote 2014 to the test.
"Act. React. Impact." - the slogan for the 2014 European election. All right, I'll definitely be voting on May 25 ... but who to choose? Politics, especially at the European level, are complex and often confusing, and it doesn't take long before you're lost in a sea of party platforms, laws and directives. But I'd like to get informed before I choose which party to support in May, and My Vote 2014, a website launched by the League of Young Voters and VoteWatch Europe, seems to be the ideal starting point.
Playing the role of MEPs
"Cast your vote," states the bold headline on the home page, a promising start. "Do MEPs share your views? Find the party that best represents you." Sounds exactly like what I need to compare my views with the various parties in the European Parliament and to find out which party best represents my interests.
Full of expectation, I click on "Start." The first question concerns me directly as a student: Should academic standards be harmonized throughout the EU? In this case, my choice is easy.
Each question is accompanied by additional information, an explanation of the issue and arguments for and against. These help with the decision-making process, but for now I want to go at it alone. I like to think I have a thorough basic knowledge of the EU and its activities - after all, I am majoring in European studies and I regularly read the newspaper.
But by the third question I stumble: what exactly was the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)? OK, no clue - bring on the background information! The text is short and precise, and includes three pros and three cons. Nevertheless, I have to admit that I still don't fully understand the implications of ACTA. Good thing that we're allowed to abstain!
Wide variety of topics
Focused on my task, I make my way through the EU's most important issues of the last few years. They range from the free movement of workers to maternity leave, from the financial transaction tax to nuclear energy. I need to check the background information more frequently then I'd like, and struggle with some of the explanations.
It may be that a topic such as eurobonds is not easily summed up and explained in five sentences, but I really have to push my brain not to shut down after reading about "stability bonds" and "budget deficits." Well, economic issues have never been my strong suit, but still. I'm certainly not the only one who must feel this way. Those who want to get something out of this site definitely need to put in the time.
Detailed results, from Sweden to Greece
I eagerly await the results of the analysis. My personal choices are weighted and matched up with the policies of individual members of European Parliament, along with the platforms of the national parties and political groups. Relieved, I see that my results aren't so very different from my previous election choices - at 87 percent, my choices line up clearly with my party of choice.
Fascinated, I look at the faces of the six MEPs who shared my opinion in 93 percent of cases. Most are completely unknown to me, even though two are German. The others are from Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. Too bad that the constituencies of the two German MEPs couldn't be further away from me.
Overall, My Vote 2014 fulfilled its goal: I not only have my result, but can analyze everything down to the level of national MEPs. It's a good start but, as always, not sufficient to make a fully informed decision. The question remains, however: Who will actually take the time to pore over the various party platforms ...