EU parliament to run glitzy campaign for June elections

EU parliament to run glitzy campaign for June elections

HONOR MAHONY, 17.03.2009, EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS – Stung by years of low turnout and lacklustre national campaigns, the European Parliament has launched a glossy campaign with a single message in a bid to make European politics count among the bloc's 375 million voters.

Under the slogan "European elections, it's your choice," the campaign will feature posters, TV and radio spots and seminars, as well as running on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. It will cost a total of €18 million, or five cents per voter.

The campaign will use TV and internet in an €18 million bid to get people excited about the June event (Photo: European Parliament - Audiovisual Unit)

There will be a series of video recording booths where citizens ran record a message on what they think of the EU, advertisements on 15,000 billboards and election roadshows in Ireland, the UK, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain and Portugal.

It is aiming to be a "European campaign with a single message common to all member states," in stark contrast to previous European elections, which had the air of 27 separate national election days.

The campaign itself will centre around 10 themes, such as consumer, security and energy issues. Each member state will choose four of the 10 on which to run their national platform for the elections, taking place on 4-7 June.

"This will be the first truly pan-European campaign that our parliament has ever developed," said one of the vice-presidents of the parliament, Spanish MEP Alejo Vidal-Quadras, unveiling the project on 17 March.

German Socialist MEP Mechtild Rothe said: "We will communicate loud and clear that the European Parliament is important for citizens and it is [their] choice."

The main message is that citizens should use their vote carefully, as it could influence a range of policy issues such as the kind of energy Europe has in the future, its approach to immigration or its stance on data protection.

Mr Vidal-Quadras said that the parliament was deliberately moving away from emphasising citizens' "civic duty" to vote, in favour of an "original and professional" campaign.

Voter apathy

A Berlin-based PR firm has been tasked with bringing voters into the polling booth, with the European Parliament this year likely to receive a huge boost in its legislative powers, if the Lisbon treaty is approved.

The new institutional rules would mean that MEPs will in the future co-decide on an array of new areas, including visas, legal immigration, police co-operation, energy security, space policy and tourism.

In this legislature alone, it has passed several laws ranging from registering dangerous chemicals to lowering mobile phone charges and opening the postal services through to recognition of medical qualifications and compensation for rail passengers.

But although the laws affect almost every facet of citizens' lives, average voter turnout has fallen every year since direct elections began, reaching a low of 45.47 percent in 2004.

The voter apathy is generally attributed to citizens' believing that who they vote for does not really matter, while those who do make it to the polls are often tempted to use the European elections to air national grievances.