Freedom of movement is one of the key rights of EU citizens. The population of mobile EU citizens has doubled, with around 16 million citizens of voting age in 2019, but the levels of voter registration for mobile EU citizens in municipal and European elections remains low. The low turnout for mobile citizens is worrying, as there is a real danger they do not exercise their electoral rights, thus being excluded from any democratic participation. As EU mobile citizens face problems in getting information and access to their free movement rights, including their electoral and political rights, they increasingly feel they are losing control over the decisions that affect their lives, both at the local and at the European level.
With this in mind, ahead of the 2019 European Parliament elections, a group of young activists of Transeuropa Caravans travelled throughout 12 European countries on board four caravan cars, reaching out in places of struggle and resistance. They travelled to meet European citizens directly, connect their stories and their struggles, and mobilize together to promote electoral rights and participation of EU mobile citizens throughout Europe.
Transeuropa Caravans are meant to inspire EU mobile citizens throughout Europe to become more active in the democratic life of their place of residence. At each of the stops the Caravan teams engaged with the local people and mobile EU citizens on the theme of European rights and free movement with a number of engaging techniques to attract their attention. They also participated in debates about Europe with local hosts and uncovered interesting best practices. The aim of all these efforts was to foster political participation of EU mobile citizens and enhance capacity and knowledge of civil servants, activists and citizens on EU citizenship and related political rights. Before the Caravans set off, its activists, trainers and supporters discussed how to approach the local actors of 12 countries they were to visit. We knew that the positive narrative of Europe can sometimes be understood as EU-centric, or simply not related to local needs. The key was to understand how to connect with the local public, from metropolis in Spain to small villages in Finland.
In this publication, we will be highlighting a range of best practices – local or regional initiatives that the Transeuropa Caravans approached in person in spring 2019, ahead of the European elections. We believe that these stories can inspire people in other EU countries and policy makers – particularly with regard to freedom of movement, migration across Europe and voting rights. Unfortunately, we could not present here all the amazing initiatives the Caravans met.