EP elections : let’s choose our common course responsibly

The demonstrations in Germany are a reminder that the strength of democracy relies on ordinary citizens’ engagement for it, but also that there is urgency to stand up for it. In the run up to the EU elections, we recall the responsibility of each of us to unite to build a Europe for all !

For the past five weeks, millions of Germans have taken to the streets to demonstrate against plans of Germany’s far-right party to deport and harass persons deemed not to be of German origin, whether they have the German nationality or not. Among them, many older persons  were holding up billboards reminding the dark chapters of the 20th century’s history. The demonstrations are an enheartening sign of attachment to liberal democracy and human rights.

While these demonstrations of not wanting to forget the achievement of our liberal societies may seem to be a German affair, they respond to political developments, which, at different degrees, are present in most of our democracies: the questioning of the veracity of established facts, of the legitimacy of the elections, of the goodwill of our neighbours, of the basic rights on which we have built our foundations.

In June, all EU citizens are called upon to elect a new European Parliament. In many member states, EU elections seem like a minor affair and do not mobilise many voters. This time, forecasters project a more fragmented Parliament with stronger fringes. In more difficult times, it is no secret that populist parties know how to talk about social issues that many citizens are concerned about, but without viable, consensual plans to realise them.

At AGE, we want to bring our modest contribution to this campaign, embodying the voice of our members who adopted our AGE manifesto last year. Not only because these are our members, also because we believe that older persons have something important to say and to contribute to our debates, and that they are not listened to as often as they should. The older persons who demonstrated in Germany are an example of this.

‘The Europe we want is for all ages’ – our call for 2024

In the title of our manifesto we claim that we want a Europe for all ages. Not a Europe for only younger or older persons, but a Europe for all, regardless of their gender, disability, background etc. This should also be the spirit of the EU elections campaign: candidates and parties should not pitch one group against another. We worked with the European Youth Forum on an intergenerational declaration, highlighting the common and the specific issues of these groups.

Our main call in our manifesto is for an EU Age Equality Strategy – a call that we have first voiced when responding to the Green Paper on Ageing. Currently, different groups are the targets of specific roadmaps, action plans or strategies for equality on EU level. This is not the case for older persons. Yet, increased longevity brings profound changes in many areas of society: to our social protection systems, the public and private services, the participation and enjoyment of our human rights need, etc. These changes urgently require coordinated policies and action!

A growing alliance of supporters

In January, we officially launched our manifesto at an event in the European Parliament. Eight MEPs from five political groups attended the event and supported various aspects of our manifesto. They also emphasized some advances that have been made during the current legislature: the EU Care Strategy, the EU Disability card and strategy, the Green Paper on Ageing and the response to COVID-19. The discussion on the agenda for the next European Commission focused on defining coherent policies on ageing, making the EU more present in international discussions on the rights of older persons, stepping up investment into quality long-term care services, enhancing the accessibility of our societies to persons with disabilities and supporting informal carers.

"I am deeply grateful for the pivotal role that AGE Platform Europe has played in amplifying the voices of older individuals in EU political debates, particularly during the challenging times marked by the pandemic and conflicts.”

Our path to the elections 2024

There are still a few months to go before June. We want to use this time to emphasise our message where we can. Last year, an EU regranting scheme enabled us to financially support members to organise meetings and debates with political parties and candidates, and we will be able to continue doing so this year. A new call for projects addressed to elected MEPs is out and AGE full members are encouraged to apply to raise MEP awareness on ageism and age equality at national and European level and to engage with them durably on the promotion of age equality in the EU policy agenda.

 On EU level, we were also able to engage interesting conversations with European parties about their manifestoes.

By June, we will also publish three explainers on our demands, covering the three chapters of our manifesto: age equality; participation and active ageing; independence and autonomy. With these documents, we hope to contribute to shaping the debates around the concrete issues and demands of older persons and in the spirit of intergenerational solidarity.

In June, after the elections, we will hold our General Assembly and Annual Conference in Leuven, an opportunity to take stock after citizens have spoken. When the first names of the candidates for the presidency of the European Commissioner are revealed, we will contact the candidates to share them our demands. The candidate-President and candidate-Commissioners will need to pass hearings and elections within the European Parliament: we will aim to equip the new Members of the European Parliament with the questions they need to ask to ensure the new President will address ageing issues.

Stakes for the next five years

The next mandate of the European Parliament and the European Commission will cover important and determining issues: from the next budgetary framework for the EU to the review of fiscal rules for Member States, the continuation of the massive Recovery and Resilience Funds and the investments needed to adapt our societies, economies and labour markets to longevity.

The issues at stake in these elections go beyond ageing policies. Forecasters project a stark increase of the fringes in the European Parliament in the next legislature. The message of the Germans currently in the streets is: not all democratically elected persons are democrats.
It is our responsibility as citizens to bring to office persons who have a vision based on equality, human rights and social justice, and a method of dialogue and empathy.
In this way, the many older persons who feel the urge to call for this publicly in the streets hold an important message to all of us:

If there is indeed room for improvement in Europe, let’s work together on it, but let us not be tempted by the siren’s call of populism.



Philippe Seidel Leroy

Policy Manager on Social Protection and European Parliament

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