There is also good news from Austria these days. On Sunday, when Austrians will go to the ballot boxes for the first, but not last time this year, a successful Austrian-wide information campaign with EU focus will end. In the past few weeks the LET’S CEE Film Festival, together with the Representation of the European Commission in Austria, invited teens and young adults to a free visit to the cinema. With the screening of short films followed by discussions with top-class guests, the young audiences were encouraged to vote in the European elections on 26 May. More than 2,000 young adults in all nine federal provinces of Austria as well in South Tyrol followed the invitation, while few hundred thousands of other people were reached on social media through the #EUandME campaign.
The event series was part of the #EUandME info campaign, which teaches young people about the European Union and its values. The screened films raise awareness for the chances and opportunities young EU citizens today have in order to realise their goals and dreams – at university or at work, in the digital fields or simply by exercising their rights according to the slogan of the information campaign of the European Parliament for the EU elections 2019: "This time I’m voting!"
The stunning short films were delivered by directors from five different countries, among them Dalibor Matanić, who portrayed a peasant Croatian boy dreaming of a career as a football professional in his film DEBUT, and Finnish Zaida Bergrot and her work OAA telling the story of a girl getting lost in a threatening forest and learning about environment protection from an unusual perspective. Authentic statements from teenagers (e.g. from Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia) completed the programme.
On the agenda were furthermore discussions with committed pro-Europeans, both Austrians – like the rock music professor and filmmaker Reinhold Bilgeri, the journalist and information director of the Austrian TV channel Puls4, Corinna Milborn, or documentary filmmaker Werner Boote – and people with migration background, represented by Bosnian-born entrepreneur, philanthropist and CEO of the Brainswork Group, Selma Prodanovic, the seven-language conference interpreter from Afghanistan, Masomah Regl, the Somali refugee and film director Mo Harawe, the Polish-Austrian actress Claudia Kottal and many others.
With his statement Iranian-Austrian filmmaker Arash T. Riahi got to the heart of the manifold support from the prominent figures: “This time I'm voting because I am lucky to live in a country where I am allowed to. Thousands of people die every year around the world because they fight in order to vote and live a life in a democracy.“ The president of Reporters Without Borders in Austria, Rubina Möhring added: “This time I'm voting because it is more important than ever to give voice to candidates and/or parties convincing with democratic and socio-political values. The peace project European Union must continue to be strengthened. My voice belongs to a humane EU and thus to the future of our children and grandchildren.”
The project was accompanied by a social media campaign presenting prominent guests, presenters and young visitors who in turn clearly explain why they will vote on 26 May.
Austria was the first country in the European Union allowing people to vote at the age of 16 at all political levels, Malta followed as second and so far as the only other country in the EU. During the last European elections in 2014 the voter turnout in the group of 18- to 24-year-olds was with 27,8% (average for all 28 EU countries) significantly lower than the total turnout (42,6%). The lowest percentage of young voters was registered in Slovakia with only 5,6%. At the bottom of the list of young voters were thus Finland (10,4%), Croatia (13,1%) Slovenia (13,7%), Poland (14,1%), Estonia (15,8%), Czech Republic (16,4%), Latvia (17,4%), the Netherlands (18,0%), Portugal (18,6%) and the UK (19,40%). With a percentage of 29,3% within the 16- to 24-years-old voters in Austria there is also a big need for improvement.
The pollsters can hardly estimate how the newest political earthquake in Austria will affect the European election. One thing is certain: the European election surprisingly becomes a mood test for the National Council election in September 2019, initially scheduled for 2022.
Partners respectively supporters of the EU Youth Cinema were the school cinema of Austria's largest cinema chain Cineplexx, the Future Funds of the Republic of Austria, the ERSTE Foundation, the Austrian Film Institute (ÖFI), the organisation IFTE, the Red Cross intercultural school project projektXchange, the associations Economy for Integration (VWFI) and KulturKontaktAustria, the audio description specialist Audio2, the EUNIC network as well as the Austrian Craft and Trade Association (ÖGV).
______________Selected #EUandME statements (in English) and visuals are available via https://www.dropbox.com/sh/0g655lrxaoe37gp/AADs-s0uxRbdFJ1Asc1CD7i7a?dl=0
#EUandME films and Digital Stories (with English subtitles) are available viahttps://europa.eu/euandme/directors-videos/68_en and https://europa.eu/euandme/digital-stories_en