Marching for opposition? This was the main point of Civil march against the National Front (FN), which was organised last Thursday through Facebook, after the broadcasting of the results of European elections throughout France. The event was organized in 24 major cities. The page displayed more than 9000 participants in Paris; maybe you received an invitation and already read their misson. Belgians have even created a Facebook event in order to remove the Fn (well, the 'Fn' key) from the keyboards, what commitment!
On a more serious note, marching in order to express yourself seems to be quite banal, but this time, we were invited to a demonstration to oppose the results of a democratic vote; in other words, the expression of a poll which took place in accordance with regulations and practices. Generally, the protest against an election takes place after ballot-box stuffing... Even if the election on 25 May 2014 mobilised more voters than the last two elections (56.50%, the abstention rate of 2013) respectively, in 2009 (59.37%) and in 2004 (57.2%), the European elections remain the elections with the least participation.
Isn't it weird to protest against the outcome of a democratic poll that ratifies the current proportional representation, just elected? Well, maybe not. The demonstration was young, mostly organised by young people; the initiative was even launched by a 17-year-old teenager. So, not all of them have the right to vote. Maybe this explains why they have been the first to hit the streets in order to express their demands, disappointment, fears and anger.
Thus, those without the possibility to vote have shown that they were potential voters growing in power. Yes, these not-yet-voters have political opinions and they express themselves despite the absence of representation.
The event was directed against a party but it couldn't only be reduced to this. It could also be interpreted as an organised reproach against abstainers. In an indirect way, they are held responsible. Anyway, some of the abstainers have probably taken action by participating in the demonstration, agitated by a certain discomfort...
Discomfort, that was the feeling which mobilised the demonstrators on a bank holiday.
The National Front, indeed, came out as the winning party in "France of the FN". The organisation of the demonstration meant that this result wasn't insignificant at all, and that the FN would never have been a normal political party or could never be normalised, according to these demonstrators.
The media could say that the FN became France's first party by default, because of non-expression, in other words, abstention from voting. 25% of the votes in favour of the FN doesn't embody 25% of the French people. There is a BUT. The score is good, even very good, showing the problem that traditional parties have to mobilise voters. The electors' fancy wasn't caught by the campaign and we didn't receive the programmes of all the candidate lists.
Have citizens gotten tired of the European project? Let's go back to the young protesters. Their march is the expression of the disagreement over FN's votes and 24 new 'Frontist' Eurodeputies, who are known for their hostility against the EU project. But this demonstration also embodies a reaction against the abstainers. Europe of abstention, French abstainers, "Wake up, get angry!".
Indeed, we don't live in a captivating Europe, where all Europeans are informed and interested. If this was the case, the electors would have acted to express their opinion and so we could call this absence of the occupation of public sphere as problematic.
A Europe for all? We are pretty far from it now. What I would like to say is that Europe isn't inclusive of everyone, but it doesn't mean that it is inaccessible (since there are channels of communication and explanation). Europe isn't comprehensive and that's why it succeeds in mobilising us. For or against. However, this debate isn't the only one which should push the citizens towards the ballot box. European elections aren't supposed to be a simple "Yes to Europe". Which Europe(s) are we talking about ? The citizens who don't reject Europe are also the ones who decide about which kind of Europe, or different Europe(s) that could exist and it is a responsability.
In fact, Europe is always at the centre of the debate but we aren't aware of it, the European perspective is kind of invisible. The European Union infiltrates many aspects of politics: economical, juridical, environmental, social, technological:
The European semester has framed the French Finance Act, including the budgetary policy and especially the (im)possibility of letting the deficit increase (the golden rule);
Consumer law in a consumer society, did you know that the 'Hamon law' originated from a directive?;
Food policy grows out of a European agricultural policy which makes the productivist choices or not;
A human rights policy, mentioning the rights to privacy following the NSA/Snowden scandals, the right to abortion throughout Europe ? The recognition of homosexual marriages?;
Airbus, the quintessential European company.
Anyway, the list is long, but you can clearly see that Europe has got potential as the platform of political debates and discussions which concern us, the citizens.
If a real teaching will be used, and the Europeans will be informed, then maybe we could constitute a Europe of Euro-citizens, instead of this Europe of the Europeans who constantly remain silent about their future.
A more committed Europe might be more divided, but the disagreements are integral parts of democratic debates. So, what is the lesson? It is practical. Teaching is indeed a responsability, which belongs to everyone:
Politicians, whether at the European or national level. Europe can't be the focus of the whole media only for one month every five years, providing information concerning European issues is a day-to-day necessity. Without this, we could see neither any action realised at the European level nor the issues concerning Europe in the debates, meaning the invisible Europe.
National media. Of course, there are European media sources, but the national media could contribute by using its power to provide daily information at the local level.
And also citizens. Different organizations of citizen pedagogy are dispersed throughout the territory: the Houses of Europe, Europe Direct network, information bureaus of the European Parliament and of the European Commission. Also they all have the websites, along with explanations concerning the functioning of the European institutions and European agenda.
Without creating an ideology out of European Union, we could highlight that the real, decisive debates have been taking place at this level, they would become more well known and democratic. The policy of pedagogy, which is running at the European level, is not sufficiently represented at the national level. Yet many French-Europeans would be ready to have an opinion if they were prepared for it during the European debates.
As being more committed Europeans, it is up to us to build a more representative Europe.
The conclusion comes from the words of a French and European deputy: "Europe works neither against the states, nor against the people". Neither against the states, nor against the people. This says it all.