European politics from below – Hungarian civil introduction to the EP elections in 2014

Who is your ideal candidate to become member of the European Parliament from 2014? That was the question put to people on the street in Budapest on 5 December 2013.

December is not the most ideal time for street actions but as the date of the European Parliamentary elections comes closer in May 2014, European House, a Hungarian civil society organisation promoting European integration, started its civil campaign to boost turnout by installing a schematic cardboard figure in front of one of the grocery markets of Budapest. Passer-bys could choose the different characteristics of a would-be MEP and stick the cards (with different characteristics printed on them) on the board and have a photograph taken with their choice. Various EU information materials were also available.

Their EP candidate should be trustworthy, persistent, open and Europe-minded.

The answers received (the cards picked) reflect varied views, which is not exceptional in case of visitors of a grocery market doing their pre-Christmas shopping, but underline that a would-be member of the European Parliament should be diligent, hard working and trustworthy. While most of the visitors appreciated the unexpected opportunity of engagement in an open street dialogue, some of them also showed frustration and disillusionment with politics in general. One could also experience a general lack of information about and interest in the European Parliament and its “unknown” Hungarian members.

Following this public activity representatives of Hungarian civil society organisations gathered in the nearby civil centre to discuss European issues relating to the experience of the European Year of Citizens and the upcoming EP elections with the participation of Tiphanie Spanier, project officer of the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA) of the European Commission. The discussion continued later on the day with the involvement of students of the Budapest Business School.