By Benjamin Fox
(EurActiv) — The voting age for next year’s European elections should be lowered to 16 as part of a suite of reforms to revitalise the European project. The proposal is part of the “Renew Europe” initiative which will be launched on 24 January at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
The paper, which was drafted by the WEF following consultations with more than 100 youth, business and political leaders and academics, argues that 17-year-olds are more likely to vote than 18–24-year-olds, and that “those who begin voting early are more likely to carry on doing so”.
Austria is the only EU country to give 16-year-olds the right to vote in national elections, although Scotland did the same for its independence referendum in 2014 and parliamentary elections.
Lowering the voting age across the 27 EU countries that will hold the 2019 European elections has the support of the European Parliament but would require a majority of EU governments to approve a change to electoral law.
The EU will be heavily represented at the Davos forum. Jean-Claude Juncker will attend for the first time as European Commission president while France’s Emmanuel Macron is also scheduled to speak on the final day.
While the Eurozone economy grew by more than 2% in 2017, and unemployment across the bloc fell to a nine-year low of 8.7% in January, the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the possible job losses that could result from automation, is expected to dominate many of the fringe meetings in Davos.
“The transition period will be tough. Up to 32% of Germany’s workforce may need to shift occupation by 2030,” the report warns.
In response, it proposes the introduction of a “universal right to learn” in the EU, offering all European adults annual credits for training to help vulnerable workers manage the transition, funded by employers.
Meanwhile, in a bid to cope with the ongoing migration crisis, the EU should introduce “a pan-European migration policy” aimed at directing migrants to address skills gaps in European countries.
That would also include an “identity management system” under which all asylum seekers and refugees would be issued with a biometric card, with the data accessible across the continent.
Close to three million people applied for asylum in Europe between 2015 and October 2017.