From 23 to 26 May Europe’s citizens will elect their representatives. It will be the world’s most important exercise ever in transnational democracy. And yet the news from across Europe is of withdrawal, isolationism, and an abiding focus on national issues rather than questions which concern all Europeans. Even more so than during the elections of 2014.
Some will say that this is hardly a surprise, and proof that the EU is an abstract entity, technocratic and increasingly distant from citizens and their concerns; that the real issues are to be found at the national, even local, level. The most sceptical assert that this is precisely why it would be best to be rid of an undemocratic union, one which only hinders the business of sovereign states.
The almost complete dearth of pan-European issues in a thus-far lethargic election campaign is evidence of national politicians’ indifference towards subjects which cross linguistic and political boundaries, and also of a widespread ignorance of the EU and its functioning. This is reflected in the media coverage given to European issues, which is too often one-dimensional when not straight out caricatured. To this can be added the ever-shrinking coverage of European news in general, due among other things to falling numbers of foreign correspondents. And yet Europeans have never been so interested in their neighbours, and in the movements and crises which are shaking up the continent. They understand that these events concern them in one way or another.
It is in answer to this latent demand, and to bridge such divides, that at VoxEurop we have decided to step up a gear. As we explain in our manifesto, we will be strengthening and narrowing our editorial focus onto those subjects which most concern Europeans. We have also decided to launch a series of original initiatives and large-scale partnerships. Thus is born “27 Voices for Europe”: we have asked 27 media organisations (one for each of the EU states, excluding the UK for the moment) to explain the main subject of the campaign in their country, and to make their article available to the other 26 partners. The aim is to offer readers and media partners an overview of the debates which are stirring up Europe on the eve of the vote.
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To get to the heart of European issues while leaping language barriers and in an age of fake news, what better way than to make the figures talk? This is why we have taken the plunge into data journalism, as coordinators of the European Data Journalism Network. This initiative brings together 29 publishers in 18 countries and aims to explain European figures using the most apposite of philosophies: transparency, accuracy, sharing.
A new chapter is beginning, both in the saga of challenges faced by Europe and in the life of VoxEurop. Our plan is not to tackle it alone. In addition to the partners – media, NGOs and other civil-society actors – who have joined us since 2014, and the public figures who accompany and support us, it is with you, dear reader, that we would like to work. In the coming months, on social networks, with the relaunch of our newsletter, and on the ground across Europe, we will be sharing with you our new projects and initiatives, and you will be invited to participate and make your contribution to this European adventure. In the meantime, don’t forget to vote. European democracy starts in the voting booth!