Piece of Cake

April 2024
By Andrea Vodanovic

Today, Wednesday 17 April, parliamentary elections take place in Croatia and in 10 days another campaign will kick off – the campaign for the European elections. This national campaign has been short and intense, especially in the digital sphere. Acting Prime Minister Andrej Plenković has created a new TikTok account and become the first politician with a WhatsApp channel. However, his campaign has not been without controversy. The Green party, Možemo, held a press conference stating that Plenković’s party, HDZ, had Google ads paid for by the Polish extreme-right party PiS, as it appeared in the Google Transparency Register. HDZ reacted by requesting an official statement from Google, which confirmed that the allegations were false and proved that none of HDZ’s ads were paid for by anyone other than the party itself, while PiS’s appearance in its register under HDZ ads was due to Google’s technical error.

Interference by foreign states in national elections is a clear threat to democracy, and every sovereign state fights against them. However, history has taught us that these interfernces are also a reality. At the same time, technical errors by digital giants are not so common, but they do happen. The European Union is trying to use all available resources to reduce the possibilities for unwanted interventions in the European elections and has for years kept digital issues among its priorities to protect its citizens. During the last term, many significant measures were adopted to contribute to this – from consumer and data protection to the fight against illegal content online and political ads.

But do citizens know about these efforts? And is their participation in the EU elections proof of their knowledge or interest in EU matters?

Just as an example – people care about the content they see online. They want their transactions to be safe, as well as the products they buy online. Moreover, many do not understand why they cannot watch the same series on the same platform in different member states or why plane tickets have different prices depending on where you are searching from – for example, Spain or Ireland.

Perhaps citizens do not know that this is called geo-blocking and has been one of the hot topics for years in Brussels and other capitals, but they are aware that it is happening. However, who is responsible for making them realise that the EU is making progress in this field for their own benefit? Is it the EU institutions through their PR campaigns, members of the European Parliament, political parties, or the media? Everyone has their piece to contribute, but the task itself is no piece of cake.

This is why, ahead of the upcoming EU elections, we are stepping up and launching The Watcher Post EU – a news site that aims to contribute to the discussion on topics relevant to the EU industry and stakeholders, serve as a source of information for decision-makers, and act as a one-stop shop for news from Brussels and EU capitals to citizens and entrepreneurs from all across Europe and those interested in the EU abroad.

The Watcher Post EU will bring the latest news from the institutions, opinions of relevant experts, and political and economic analysis from experienced opinion makers. We believe it will bring EU legislation closer to business and citizens by opening space for discussion with lawmakers.

EU institutions crave higher citizen participation in the elections, just as candidates and political parties do. At the same time, the industry wants to know and understand the full circle of the decision-making process.

The official and final turnout of the 2019 European Elections is set at 50.66% following the publication of all 28 final national turnout data. As stated by the European Parliament, the 2019 European elections were shaped by a significant increase in voter turnout. 50.66% is in fact the highest turnout since the 1994 European elections and represents a striking increase of 8.06 percentage points from 2014 (when the turnout was 42.60%).

Poland, Romania, Spain, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Slovakia, and Czechia were among the member states that recorded significant increases, but large differences remain between Member States, ranging from 88.47% in Belgium to 22.74% in Slovakia. Although older people remained more likely to vote, the increase between 2014 and 2019 was larger among young people aged under 25 (42%, +14 pp) and aged 25–39 (47%, +12 pp).

We look forward to following closely news from across the EU, discussing and analysing it with those who know and understand the EU environment.

Thank you in advance for your trust, comments, suggestions, and contributions.