27 May, 2024

Choose hope, not hate: Use your voice and vote

Didrik de Schaetzen

Five years after the last election, Europe faces crises and extremism. Liberals are still the antidote against divisive populism damaging our EU, but only if you use your voice on 6-9 June. ALDE Party Secretary General and 2024 Campaign Director Didrik de Schaetzen urges European voters to reject the negativity and embrace hope and unity. 

This opinion piece originally appeared in EURACTIV on 23 May.

Do you remember where you were five years ago today? I do. I was on my way to the election station with my young daughter balancing on the back of my bike and kept interested by the promise of ice cream and an afternoon repeat screening of Frozen. 

Europe was different back then: the United Kingdom was still an EU member battling through painful divorce negotiations; a young Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected President in Ukraine optimistic of reform and joining the EU; X was still called Twitter; and Corona was just a beer. 

The 2019 European elections were good. We were looking forward to embarking on our cooperation with the new force of Emmanuel Macron’s Renaissance, our liberal Commissioners took important portfolios, and Council President Charles Michel took office. Back then, we had no idea that months later we were going to deal with a global pandemic and two wars on our Continent which would radically change our way of living. 

In 2019, European citizens were worried about their jobs, climate change, the migration crisis. Now, on top of that, they’re worried about their security, their safety, their homes, and the soaring cost of living. The narrative, this time around, is about the rise of extremism. About the artisans of hate, discrimination, manipulation and self-interest who are threatening our very existence as Europeans. 

As key drivers of the European project, liberals have had enough. Enough of these power-hungry, self-proclaimed saviours who are clearly not interested in discussing our common future.  

They exploit the fears and frustrations of our citizens, offering simplistic and unrealistic solutions. They absolve themselves of responsibility for inciting anger and feelings of being marginalised. They say the blame always lies with someone else. And then when elected they don’t show up for work, don’t attempt to work for you, and are happy to take your taxpayers’ money in expenses. How convenient! 

Their type of politics is easy. And it’s also easy to imagine why, eventually, we may be dealing with a wave of extremists after the elections. But we are still the antidote to their negativity. Because we have something that they don’t: hope. 

Hope and determination to turn the tide around. To tap into our roots and remember what this great European project is all about. It’s about sharing, talking, finding compromises, coming together in all our diversity. Taking inspiration from your neighbour in order to improve your own ways.  

Finding solutions has never been easy, but it sure is a lot easier if you try it with a friend. Our hope is our drive; it’s our definition. Hopeless romantics? Better: we are hopeless optimists.  

To all the Putins, the Orbáns, the Salvinis and the Le Pens of this world. Those who are trying to be the thieves of our dreams. We are more than you. We are stronger than you. We will not let you win. 

But we can only do this if we turn out in mass numbers. Especially at the polls in June, but also in the streets. Get out and support the ideals and values that we all look after. Engage in grassroots movements, get to know your local parties and politicians, tell them what you’re worried about and take a stand. Because there is no bigger risk than losing your voice. 

Five years have passed since the last European elections, and liberals look back on this mandate with a sense of pride. Despite all the obstacles we have faced, we have achieved so much both in Europe and in our national governments. Whoever liberals work with to ensure we make progress, we make sure that pro-European values can be heard loud and clear.  

Don’t believe the doom and gloom: see it for yourself. Europe is a more thriving, modern and progressive place than it has ever been. But there is still so much more to do. And we don’t want to hand over the keys of our house to someone who intends to turn it into their garbage dump. 

Liberals are still the answer. From Simone Veil to Guy Verhofstadt, Margrethe Vestager and Kaja Kallas, our leaders have shown they are up to the task. Their competence has delivered results through action, not talk. Together, we pushed forward Europe’s green and digital transitions to make sure you are ready for this new Europe we are building, with you and for you. 

So this June, the choice is clear. You can either vote for the misleading champions of populist rhetoric, or for the pro-Europeans that have been leading this great project called the EU since the very beginning. Will you vote for the easy way out? Or will you roll up your sleeves and get to work with us? 

Don’t let anyone tell you that your vote does not count. That’s how they will win. Let’s get out there and make some noise. Let’s go to the polling stations and show them what we’re made of. Your vote is your voice: use it, or someone else will choose for you. Stand up for a Europe that’s united, diverse and brimming with hope. The choice is yours.

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