Appel à voter aux européennes publié sur Tumblr dans la campagne #HappyVoting d’avril 2014, ici.

 imageName: Schams El-Ghoneimi 
Age: 27
Profession: Europe at School Program, supported by France’s Ministry of Education
Location: Paris

We were thrilled and excited every time we entered a new classroom. We’d soon introduce ourselves to French boys and girls in Italian, English or German, telling them we’d come to talk about Europe. At first, most would pay no attention to us – why would teenagers ever pay attention to a civic awareness program?

She would be studying or training or working in France, and was glad to take part in our program – Europe at School – a politically-neutral campaign to increase awareness about European democracy.

Maybe because the children spoke better French than her gave them enough confidence to start asking questions. Certainly the fact my friend didn’t grow up in France was refreshing. And that was the whole point of the Europe at School program: Europe is not boring, it is fascinating! Far from the cliché of a complicated bureaucracy making undemocratic regulations.

The EU is an unprecedented achievement in historynot just because its member states have lived in peace ever since joining the EU, something they were never able to achieve before. Not just because Europeans can now travel, work and study anywhere in the EU. Not even because 18 member states have united their currency, the euro, now the world’s second currency. Europe is unique because it has created a powerful and democratic institution: the European Parliament.

On 22-25 May over 400 million european voters will be able to elect their new Parliament for the next five years.

Unlike the UN or any regional organization, the European parliament adopts full-fledged laws which are directly enforced around the European Union, like national laws. Take a few examples: following the financial crisis, all of Europe’s banks have had to comply with much tougher regulations – for example capping bankers’ bonuses.

To protect internet freedom the Parliament rejected the global anti-piracy agreement, ACTA.  To safeguard our privacy it opposed the US-EU “SWIFT” deal to automatically send our personal bank data to the US. It forced the whole automobile industry to reduce its CO2 emissions. Even the tobacco industry could not stop the Parliament from banning ads for nicotine-filled electronic cigarettes this February: all those decisions have an impact on our lives – even on the world.

Well, the children got it – the ones we had met were definitely going to vote when they turned 18. Some want a greener Europe, others a more social Europe or a more conservative Europe – what is your vision for Europe?

In addition, the Parliament will elect the President of the European Commission, who’s another powerful institution.Do you think austerity policies are a necessary evil or have they gone too far? Should Europe sign a comprehensive free trade agreement with the US? Should we be tougher on climate change, or are we just fine? Even fundamental rights are impacted by Europe. For example the principle of “equal pay for equal work” for women and men has become EU law because our elected representatives in the Parliament have pushed for it, although some opposed it. The balance of political power – and political values- depends on voters’ choices, not on Brussels.

So if you believe that regulating financial markets, banks & rating companies matter, vote! If the fight against terrorism or the protection of your online privacy matter, vote! If you want or oppose genetically modified food, vote! If you want Europe to promote human rights in the world, or if on the contrary you think it should only discuss trade relations… Vote! The list can go on and on, from protecting Europe’s film industry against hegemonic Hollywood to doubling -or suppressing- the Erasmus budget.

For all these matters, political parties have different positions, so have your say in tomorrow’s future! Every vote counts, that is precisely why European democracy needs you. It is nothing without active citizens.

Schams El Ghoneimi

Follow @SchamsEU on Twitter.