Political participation is important, right? Yet, it is taken for granted, and I’d like to think that most of us are aware that democracy can only function properly if we exercise our right to participate. However, even though I have lived in Vienna for over 4 years now I have only been able to vote once. I had never given it much of a thought, but EMY has changed that.
So, you get to know me a little better, I’ll first tell you something about myself. My name is Floudi, and I am 24 years old. I moved from Germany to Vienna in 2015 to study Business, Economics and Social Sciences with a focus on Socioeconomics at the Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU). After graduating in July 2019, I decided to remain in Vienna, in order to study a Masters in Political Science at the University of Vienna. I’m especially interested in topics including the European Union, government activity & policy analysis, as well as international politics and development.
While the culture shock wasn’t overly noticeable when I moved to Austria (especially since I am Bavarian) as it probably is for a non-native German speaker – like my colleague Millie (https://europeanmobileyouth.eu/studying-abroad-more-than-just-free-movement/), there are also some restrictions I had and have to face regarding political participation. During my time here in Vienna there have been many elections; more specifically, the state legislative and municipal elections occurred in Vienna in October 2015, the (two) elections of the current president Van der Bellen in 2016, the Austrian legislative elections in 2017 and 2019 and the European elections in May 2019. Due to the fact that I did not have my main residence in Vienna during the Vienna district elections in 2015, I was only able to vote in the European elections in 2019. Even then, I voted for the candidates of my home country, Germany, mostly because it was less of a hassle for me. I only had to scan a QR-Code I got from my citizens advice bureau in Germany, name my address in Vienna and they sent the election documents right to my flat. So, this year in October – after five years of living in Vienna – will be the first time that I’ll be allowed to vote in Austria for the district elections in Vienna. During this same period, I participated in Germany in four elections (national, state, municipal and European elections).
Regardless, not having the right to participate in (most of) the host country elections doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about politics, nor does it mean that you cannot have an impact. In a time of heightened multinational conflict, it is becoming increasingly important to stand for one’s right. In my mind, especially during recent months and years, it seems impossible not to engage yourself with the Austrian politics after all that has happened, independent of which party you favour.
But I’m not only an EU-citizen studying in another EU-country; you could even say I am (or temporarily was) a double EMY. That’s because I participated in the Erasmus+ Exchange program during my bachelor’s studies where I spent one semester abroad in the beautiful capital of Estonia, Tallinn. That was during autumn/winter 2018 and it was definitely one of the best times I had during my bachelor’s studies (I can recommend it to any of you that might be doing a semester abroad during your studies, but that’s another topic).
This semester abroad brought me also with detours to EMY. I took part in the pre-elections survey, and then I nearly forgot about it. When I received the results of the survey I caught myself thinking: “Hey there are obviously many students and young people who do not fully know about their rights as EU-citizens and likely have problems with political participation in their host country”. So, I decided to first gain further insight into the possibilities as an EMY, and second; to help other students who are having troubles orientating themselves in Austria, perhaps even more than I did when I arrived.
So, that’s what EMY and I want to do: Help other EMYs in their host country and let them know how, and where to participate in their host country. In general, it does not matter if you live, work, or study in a foreign country; it simply matters that you appreciate the importance of political participation.
We should not take for granted the possibilities and opportunities to study, work or live all over Europe that our open borders have granted us, even though it seems normal and common for us. Our system is one of the most amazing partnerships that mankind has ever developed, and it is our responsibility to maintain it. To do that, it doesn’t matter in which European country we are living.
The point that I am trying to make is that the European Union is OUR future and we – as young people – should be more interested in it, especially in times when the EU is more often seen not as a necessity, but as an option.
And that’s why EMY and I are here, to help and encourage you to be more active in terms of democratic engagement, as well getting politically involved in your host country.