The Guest Blog

Guest blogpost by Phil Carmel, European Policy Advisor of the European Jewish Congress (EJC).

I, and the colleagues in my office, like to think of ourselves as good, engaged citizens. We have a fair understanding – and not a little involvement – in some of the topical issues of the day. We are, what you might describe as, politically aware. So while we generally like to keep these things a private matter, we vote.

Living in a multi-layered political entity like Belgium probably gives us many, many more opportunities to vote than most European citizens. It is admittedly sometimes a drag, but we do like to fulfill our responsibilities in this area. And what is true for us locally is of course equally true at the European level.

This time though we are going that extra yard. In the production and diffusion of our video, we are asking every citizen in every member state of the European Union to spend a few minutes this weekend putting a cross on a ballot paper. Please understand that while we obviously all have strong opinions, we’re not telling you how to vote. We’re not even telling you what our pet issues are. We are just telling you to vote. We don’t usually do this kind of thing. Perhaps we should have done it already a long time ago.

We’re doing it because of our absolute confidence in our fellow European citizens. It’s because we don’t believe that the nightmare projections of massive votes for extremists and racists this weekend is anywhere near reflective of the views of the vast majority of those we share this continent and its values with. We know that the more of you that vote, this inherent truth of the democratic, tolerant nature of Europe will be displayed in all its glory on Sunday night when the results roll in. The headlines will not be about those who wish to block, restrict and destroy but of those who wish to construct, unite and progress.

Some of you might think that the European Union needs a good kicking and sometimes we sit here asking ourselves why, of all places, do elections for the European Parliament so often bring out the worst in voters. Why are the results more extreme than in national or local elections? Surely, given the values upon which the European Union was founded, these elections should make this the last place for such views.

By the way, don’t let us get fooled that this has anything to do with the economic crisis, either. Historically, and definitively since the war, European democracies have responded to temporary economic and social crises by moving closer to the safety of the mainstream. Our fellow citizens have always instinctively known that the reinstatement of economic growth requires political stability and the building of confidence as opposed to the politics of division along the lines of class, nation and ethnicity.

Rather, the populism at the extremes is but a mirror image of the apathy of the mainstream – a disconnect between the electorate and political leadership of the European Union. The next European Parliament and the Commission it ratifies will need to address this disconnect as an absolute priority – and maybe, we’ll produce another video about that in a couple of months, just so they don’t forget.

For myself and my colleagues, we spend most of our working hours explaining, educating about, and campaigning against this growth in populist extremism.

It’s why we have decided now to address it from the opposite perspective. To spend these days screaming from the rooftops about the apathy and doing something about it. Please join with us.

The EJC federates the national representative organisations of European Jewish communities.

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