What do Greek Zoomers think about the European elections?

What do Greek Zoomers think about the European elections?

Europeans are heading to the polls for the 2024 European Parliament elections. Generation Z voters, the newest addition to the electoral body, born between 1997 and 2012, comprise a significant segment of the 366 million people from the 27 member-states eligible to vote.

Across the bloc, young voters have become more active in the process of selecting their MEPs, yet the reality is that the majority chooses to abstain. According to Eurobarometer, the number of under-25s who voted in the 2019 European elections rose to 42% from 28% in 2014.

In this year’s campaign, Greek politicians have sought to approach young voters mainly via social media. However, a lack of reliable data on the participation of young Greeks in the 2019 European elections makes it hard to gauge Gen Z turnout.

Kathimerini English Edition spoke to seven Zoomers about their plans for this Sunday, to understand why they have chosen to vote or abstain and to get their views on the European Elections and European Union in general.

Why turn up?

“The fact is that the European Union is vital for Greece. We are inseparably linked, legally and fiscally; we have chosen to be part of this framework,” Konstantina Konstantinou, a 26-year-old PhD candidate in philosophy, told Kathimerini English Edition.

“I feel I am a European citizen; every time I pay with a euro, I am reminded that I am part of something bigger,” first-time voter Fragkiskos, whose last name was withheld, added. However, the 17-year-old still feels excluded from the rest of Europe. “In Greece, it is hard to act European,” he added.

“Do I feel like I am a European citizen? You know what, I try,” 21-year-old political science student Anastasia Giannarou shared. She sees European institutions as a tool for unity but considers national socio-political issues an obstacle. “The other day I heard this story of an elderly woman dying after drinking water that was contaminated during September’s floods in Thessaly. When young people are dying in trains and grandmothers are being poisoned by the water, I don’t think we can claim to be Europeans.” Despite this, Anastasia is actively campaigning for young people to vote in the upcoming elections and envisions further unity within the EU.

Athina Fatsea, a 26-year-old PhD candidate in cultural heritage and disaster risk management, also reflected on her experience as a European. “I benefit from the freedom to travel, work and study,” she said, highlighting that she perceives the elections as an opportunity to influence positive change.

Nikos Fifis, the 26-year-old founder of a marketing agency, will certainly cast a vote. He believes that for Gen Z-ers, “politics is not just about voting or running for office.” Being active in politics also entails educating oneself, choosing what information one consumes and why, protesting, debating in the virtual and physical public realm, and even participating in politically motivated artistic expression, he said.

What’s at stake?

What issues matter most to Gen Z when deciding who to vote for?

Athina believes the EU needs bolder policies on the environment and culture and looks for candidates who believe the same. “I would like to see stronger cultural and environmental policies and increased youth participation,” she said.

On the other hand, for Nikos, the EU needs to focus on technology and innovation because these are the tools that will shape our future. “Technology moves fast. You either shape the future or it shapes you,” he argued.  

Konstantina looks for efficiency and effectiveness from the European election candidates. She studies the resolutions they have brought to the parliament, checks their credentials and listens to their speeches. “I will look into their resumes as well as what they are saying,” she said, adding that she would like to see more democracy in the Union.

For Anastasia, climate change and human rights are top priorities. She also wants to see MEPs with fresh ideas and able to bring Greece’s issues to the floor of the European Parliament. “I don’t think I would vote for someone who is too senior, because, yes, they may have experience but I think we need fresh approaches,” she stated.

For Fragkiskos, sustainable development is a key issue. “I consider it very important to have the right policies in place so that we can leave something for the next generations,” he explained.


What does it mean for a young person to abstain from elections and why do so many choose to do so?

“Many young people abstain because of disappointment, a lack of trust in institutions or the feeling that voting simply doesn’t matter,” Athina observed.

“I believe that abstention is a choice and a right, but when it is done consciously,” Konstantina said, adding that “there is a huge percentage [of people] that truly doesn’t care.” She believes that the smaller percentage that uses abstention as a political statement is lost because of indifference from the rest.

However, the rest of the Zoomers we spoke to didn’t feel the same. “I do think that abstention stems from despair, but I don’t consider it a political stance,” Nikos stressed. The young generation is disappointed with the status quo and seeks to influence politics using alternative routes, he said. “The danger here is that we might completely dismiss these institutions. The challenge is to work with them, update them and reconceptualize them,” he added.

“Voting is not just a right, it’s an obligation,” argued Anastasia, who does not think claiming to be “apolitical” constitutes a legitimate political statement. “The decisions will be made and everyone else will go to vote; if you don’t go, don’t think that makes you cool,” she added. She believes that such political stagnation among young people can be alleviated with social networking. “If you socialize with people who are sensitized to socio-political issues, you become aware of politics and then it’s your turn to sensitize the next person,” she argued.

In one of her political science classes, out of the 50 students invited to an informative event on European elections, she was the only one who turned up. In the past months, through an internship at a research center, she has actively tried to engage more young people in European affairs. “We’ve used the internet to promote voting in the elections and yet, no matter how hard we try, I am not sure I can see the impact,” she explained.

“I think abstention is a sign of boredom,” 17-year-old Fragkiskos claimed. Just out of high school, he argued that no one teaches you how valuable the right to vote is. “Education is also at fault. No one tells you to vote,” he added.

However, not everyone in Gen Z shares the same enthusiasm for the European Elections. 

Alexandros Sikalias, a 26-year-old filmmaker, will not vote on Sunday because he feels the political parties themselves are not taking the European elections seriously. “The institution is not being treated as it should be; it is being treated like an opinion poll,” he said, expressing frustration with the campaigns run by Greece’s politicians. “It’s literally like a pre-election campaign for each party, for the national elections.”

Sikalis also laments what he sees as a lack of decision-making power in the European Parliament. “It should exist. It’s just not being taken seriously by any country, as far as I understand. It’s literally like a stage prop where some people go and discuss,” he stated. 

Twenty-two-year-old computer science graduate and barista Ioannis Roumelis has also decided to sit out Sunday’s polls. He is registered to vote in his village, a few hours from Athens, which also plays a part in his decision. “The truth is that even if I was registered in Athens, I wouldn’t bother,” he added. Ioannis sees Europe as a chaotic institution that offers opportunities only in a few rich countries like Germany. He generally does not engage with politics because he feels “revolted” by the parties’ ideologies and sees hope only in younger candidates. “Perhaps my parents consider politicians of their age to be honest, but I don’t believe they are. I think young people speak the truth,” he said.

Ioannis considers voting to be important and abstention as “wrong,” yet does not see the point in contributing. “I don’t agree with any of the parties entirely,” he said, expressing a general sense of pessimism about his future as a working youth in Greece and the continent as a whole.

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