baby-politicianItaly’s youngest ever Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, faced parliament yesterday for the first time. At just 39, Mr Renzi is less than half the age of Giorgio Napolitano, Italy’s 88 year-old President. Can Renzi (whose Partito Democratico sits with the  Social Democrats in the European Parliament) inject some new blood into Italian politics? Or does he lack the experience needed to govern in an economic crisis?

By European standards, Mr Renzi is certainly fresher-faced than most. The average elected politician in Europe is 53 years old. The average leader of an EU government is 52, the average MEP is 55 and the average European Commissioner is 57. But with age comes wisdom, and at least it’s representative, right? By 2025 more than 20% of Europeans will be 65 or over, so what’s the problem?

Well, some young people complain that if the average politician is in their 50s, then policy will also be designed with that age group in mind. As one young blogger put it:

We will continue to get policies made by the average 55 year-old person for the average 55 year-old person’s life. Eurostat finds that youth unemployment rates are double as high in Europe as the average unemployment rate, which may well be a sign of how existing jobs and job policies favour the upper-middle-aged.

Europe’s political parties are all keen to give power to younger people. The youth organisation of the  Social Democrats – the Young European Socialists (YES) – has been running a campaign to recruit more young MEP candidates for the 2014 elections. The  Greens nominated 32 year-old Ska Keller (as well as 60 year-old José Bové) as their candidate for EU Commission President, whilst the Radical Left have put forward 39 year-old Alexis Tsipras. The  Centre-Right, meanwhile, can boast of having the youngest Foreign Minister in the EU, in the form of 27 year-old Sebastian Kurz of Austria. And if you think any of these parties (or their rivals) have the right attitude towards young people, then don’t forget to VOTE for them in our Debating Europe Vote 2014!

Could Europe benefit from having more young people in power? Would a younger generation of politicians help reconnect apathetic young people to politics? Or is age irrelevant when it comes to making policy? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

Vote 2014

Voting is closed in our Debating Europe Vote 2014! The results are now in, so come and see what our readers thought!

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Paul Inkles

81 comments Post a commentcomment

What do YOU think?

  1. avatar
    Jaime Martins

    EU has to end corruption and work for the people of Europe as a whole, only then will win the confidence of all of us, especially the younger ones, again.

  2. avatar
    Mircea Barna

    For sure,Europe needs young leaders,but they deserve to be elected ONLY they’ve worked at least 10 years in the private sector

  3. avatar
    Borislav Valkov

    Yes! Otherwise they will see the politicians as an all knowing adults, yet all failed to take the best steps in the ongoing crysis.

  4. avatar
    Davor Bilobrk Zekan

    Not only in politics, but in all areas… Dedication to subjects of interest by time lose great part of its sharpness. Older colleagues are supposed to be mentors and advisers, but opportunities have to be offered to people who will be present in sectoral affairs during decades to come. Due to that, relatively responsible behaviour and manners are understandable.

  5. avatar
    Andreas Televantos

    Young people are the future of Europe. EU Member states need to motivate young people in order to participate in politcs. Otherwise young generation will be without a voice and older people will define the fuur of our generation

  6. avatar

    As well as when you are taking about women, i believe young people are not all the same and you cannot consider them as a whole a manna from heaven. Sometimes they will turn out to be only a colorful puppet in the hand of someone. But, for sure, as the European Parliament is the only example of a directly elected supranational assembly, it should represent the people and their social composition.
    I am from Italy, i did not like the way Matteo Renzi came to power and i do not like some of the things he believe in, but, for sure, i believe that for changing this bureaucratic and settled thing that is Italy we need someone with energy and someone that will be here in 35/40 years, dealing with what he has done. The problem with politicians is that sometimes they lack the long-term approach and consider each step with the electoral-cycle point of view. I believe that Matteo Renzi will be hold accountable by his constituency a lot more that a 60 years old (in Italy is more often almost 70 years old) politician because he has collected the aspirations and the dreams of all the youngest generations, but also by himself as he will live for many years dealing with his actions, policies and the consequences of them. Matteo Renzi has 3 children between 15 and 5 years, he will work for their future I hope, even if not for ours.
    So, in the end, yes, i believe we need younger politicians but more than younger ones we need fresher ones as not all the young people have different point of view and interests from the older ones.

  7. avatar

    Larger representation of youth in the EP should become a reality. Youth are more open minded and have sometimes fresh and creative ideas and perhaps follow the constant developing trends more like the older generations do.

  8. avatar
    Paul X

    No Chance – What right has someone with no life experience except a few years getting drunk at university got to make make decisions which can affect millions?

    There should be minimum age for politicians and they should do a political “apprenticeship” where they spend several years working in as many different industries as possible, public sector, private and at least one emergency service
    During some of these placements they should only get paid the minumum wage and between placements they must live at least 1 year on benefits

    Only if they survive this should they have a moral claim to be allowed to inflict their policies on others

  9. avatar

    Age should not be a barrier and a mix of ages would be good. I would agree with Mircea Barna in that they should have some time served in business or industry though which would rule out the very young .

  10. avatar
    Theodoros N Pitikaris

    it depends // what is the new vision for Europe ? Because before we hire new personal and dismiss the old one we need to a new vision away from extreme new-liberalism a masked new feudalism that creates member-states slaves of Public Debt ….

    Beyond economics what are the values that will serve ? The Ukraine case was a political disaster …. unless some bureaucrats believe that the returning of Nazis symbols is a success story

  11. avatar
    Pavlos Vasileiadis

    Well, I think it goes without saying that younger politicians are essential to the political, economic and social development, provided that they also have new ideas and they are not afraid to put them to good use. Because we quite often see brilliant young people in politics, who instead of supporting and pursuing their ideas and ambitions, go along with old politicians and cling to their obsolete policies, just for fear of being marginalized. It’s a fear well-founded, because youn g politicians don’t have the necessary power (and connections) to challenge the old ways and so they have to bear it, untill the old generation….dies.

  12. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Middle aged politicians are in their midlife crisis period of their lives… Since they rule us, no wonder Europe itself is in identity crisis.. They are the post war baby boomer generations who grew up in cold war with a lot of difficulties.. When things got better they just got the most out of it, they’ve overspent to make up for their poor upbringing.. Now the younger generation has to pay for their mistakes.. So yes, we need better representation of all ages in European politics so the interests of all will be represented… The older may have experience but the young have drive and creativity.. Combine the two and there you have it!!

  13. avatar
    Dennis Anastassiou

    Politics : Theory & Practice
    A new approach…
    Europe is against discrimination … no?
    So, its either we Europeans should cancel this law , legalize age discrimination , follow a fad (all young people are correct & better in whatever they do) and create a lame excuse for the failure of present politics , or …address the real problem which is … corruption. (regardless of age)

  14. avatar
    Isabel Lindley Cintra Torres

    Greed and very little solidarity, bad public managers, corruption and so on, is what young people see on tv and the parents with lots of problems to raise them. You earn too much, and ask to cut wages to 90% of the workers. Justice of for people who can pay the expensive justice only for people who can pay high justice taxes. Etc etc.

  15. avatar
    Maria Batista

    Europe needs politicians with ethics, education, responsability and sense of future, and above all politicians who think of the consequences of their actions in the future of all mankind.

  16. avatar

    What we need above all is not ‘young’ politicians just for the sake of it. What we need is politicians who reject the policies of 2008-2014 that were (are) aimed at ‘saving the bankers at all costs’ which has led to, to put it in socialistic propaganda terms: the rich got richer, the poor got poorer, the middle class pays the price.

    All these politicians today harping on about the socalled ‘recovery’ fail to grasp that this applies mostly to the ‘above-middle-class’ only. Right here in my area I see precious little evidence about a recovery for middle class or poorer people.

    Plus we need politicians who will not sign these ‘free trade’ treaties with the USA (TTIP or whatever its called). This ‘free trade’ treaty is not really about free trade but more about exporting draconian US style copyright and patent ‘protection’ which disproportionately favors the wealthy.

    Furthermore this TTIP will not create jobs like the propaganda claims, but
    instead destroy them and continues the race to the bottom. TTIP will undermine consumer protection laws, environmental protection laws and workers rights.

    And above all it will enable corporations to sue countries if a law or regulation ‘hurts the bottom line’ and could get some shadowy arbitrage court to demand the law be scrapped or the corporation compensated for loss of profit. In short, the TTIP seeks to enable corporations to bypass legislatures and judicial systems and get treated as superior to governments of countries.

    Right now the EU/IMF/World Bank/WTO etc… are filled with politicians and ‘specialists’ who all favor this destructive ‘free trade über alles’ ideology. Those must be gotten rid of. Capitalism is fine, corporatism is not.

  17. avatar
    Giannis Ragusis

    Europe does not need politicians, need “polites” (citizens)- This Aristotelian, “political animal” (which is part of nature). European citizens are not lethargic neither they live in apathy. Politics has always been in such a state of power, (apart from very specific time and space), where the formation, the structure of society, was designed in a hierarchical and unequal power and source distribution way, where the Machiavellian school of though till our days with the cloak of Markets, has been the hegemonic one, suppressing and splitting (separating) groups of people and their propagate-educate an antagonistic model of class of interest, in order to control them and keep them in the so called apathy…

  18. avatar
    Antonella Corrado

    The real matter doesn’t consist in being Renzi young and with a lack of experience. Italian people are seriously concerned as he has not been voted by the italians but just by his own party (partito democratico) using a non democratical procedure

    • avatar

      You’ve got the point!

  19. avatar
    Stefania Portici

    new or old politicians lack the respect of their national constitutions chasing treatises written by technocrats and which does not respect the peoples of Europe. Little democazia in EU destroys us all

  20. avatar
    catherine benning

    Half way through this video link I’m putting up has an interview with, Russell Brand, who many of the youth in Britain thinks would make a good Prime Minister. He is in a BBC interview with Jeremy Paxman. Both these men apparently do not vote.

    It’s very interesting listening and shows a certain thinking out of the box. Stay with it the music doesn’t go on too long.

    • avatar
      Tarquin Farquhar

      @Catherine ‘beware of the invasion’ Benning
      Only a drug-addled, glue-sniffing, eff-wit talking to pink elephants would countenance Russell Brand as a Prime minister. LOL!!

  21. avatar
    Tarquin Farquhar

    Of course, the fact that Italy the zenith of honesty and integrity in politics elects [oops perhaps that’s not quite the right word] a relatively young person means that ALL and sundry in the EU should do likewise! NOT!!!

    Politicians are in the main [BUT not always] POOR exemplars of humanity. Advanced age brings with it 2 distinct advantages:

    2…The older a person is the more likely that said person’s skeletons will have popped out of the cupboard.

  22. avatar

    That’s a tricky question. Young is not always better and old is not necessarily obsolete. You could be old and embrace and sustain the latest socio cultural leap, and a youngster could be the ultimate corrupt, vicious and manipulator villain. In a perfect world, the young have wisdom and the old the force, speed and endurance. I would not compared young versus old, but the mainstream, mediocre, high income, lobbyst politician versus the independent, outside the box thinker, risk taker and courageous one

  23. avatar
    Catalin Vasile

    Yes, it does! New faces with dignity and new concepts instead of old bolshevic or fascist views, like Merkel or Baroso!

  24. avatar
    Χρίστος Λυμπουρής

    it’s not the age that defines a politician as young or old. there are a lot of young politicians with old points of view. there are some old politicians with young ideas!

  25. avatar
    Kaled Al-frzai

    Only if they come from their own parties or if they are independent.If they are “raised” by the ex politicians of an old corrupt system(Eastern Europe) the country will never change.

  26. avatar
    Catalin Vasile

    @Kaled Al-frzai: not only the Eastern Europe politics is corrupted, but also the so called democratic regime in Western Europe!Just pay attention to the facts and the acts of the E.U. beaurocrats, and not only!

  27. avatar
    Jaime Martins

    Europe needs women and men who govern for Europe in General, without specific interests of each country. One United Europe.

  28. avatar
    Catalin Vasile

    @Hristos Limpouris: I conect the age to the corrupted and corruption system from the every party in E.U.! There are only few exceptions from the rule among the mature politicians, the rest sold themselves for power or financial benefits from multinational companies!

  29. avatar
    Catalin Vasile

    A democratic regime is one who sends the riot police against protesting firefighters or workers as long as those people do it in a civilized manner?Of course not, but people are so blinded by their daily struggle to keep getting the next day that they do not have the power, the will and/or the courage to stand up for the real freedom and a democratic State!

  30. avatar
    Maria Santos

    Young, if prepared, willing to listening to, honest, hard-working,…Age is not the problem…

  31. avatar
    Máté Parászka

    Eu needs good politicions who are good, open people.Young can be also corrupt or fascist, if i take a look in the hungarian jobbik party, all are young, but all are fascist and some of them corrupt as hell.In romanian psd there is a very young girl how i know, who is a big fan of an ex communist former president, so it’s not about age or gender, it’s more about what kind of people is it.And yes, eastern countrys are corrupt, but western also, only in east you see it better cause here is less money.And ye, maybe in east are more corrupt politicians, but this is because the communistic era, and the economical depression of the ’90s.And there are some other reasons also.

  32. avatar
    Elise Ostertag

    As someone wrote it here, modernity is not always a matter of age. However, my opinion is that Europe is in an urgent need for fresh ideas and messages! I can’t wait to see my generation taking the power and give (hopefully) a new impulse to the Union! We mustn’t give up on that wonderful idea which the EU embodies, but it’s now our duty to develop it and make it concreter. Our parents and grand-parents made the first step. Let’s make our way.

  33. avatar
    Jason Pi

    Apart from the age factor, are you aware that Renzi is the third UNELECTED PM of Italy in a row? It has to be a prerequisite in today’s Europe.

  34. avatar
    Nando Aidos

    Age is not a defining factor!
    Experience and vision are.
    A resolve to tackle tough issues is.
    Courage is a defining factor.
    Honesty and ethics are defining issues.
    Not age!
    I am a grandfather and I know plenty of much younger people with the most archaic and obtuse ideas about politics, Europe and society.
    Let us start by asking the right questions! Please!

  35. avatar
    Trond Johannessen

    Mr Renzi is not an elected Prime Minister, except among his own, and we will never know how many of the ones voting were paid to vote. Political leaders need to be recycled every now and then, but the law generally takes care of that by placing limits on the number of terms someone can serve in office. Young or old, their election should be based on merit, on the program(s) presented, and not on their age per se. I generally think politicians should not be eligible if they reach retirement age during the next term of office for the position available. The President of the Republic needs to be experienced, and above all have insights in constitutional law and the functioning of the institutions and offices of government. This makes it less probable that you find a qualified Young candidate, but I believe the retirement clause should still apply. Mr Napolitano has shown his fabric many times during his Presidency, and fended off many Attacks on justice, on the institutions, and on his own role. We should look to merit, and not age or gender in selecting our leaders.

  36. avatar
    Breogán Costa

    no, we need not, we don’t need politicians thinking on their own futures.

    We need LEADERS who want to fix problems, not crappy politicians.

  37. avatar
    Ole C G Olesen

    It does of course not matter ..if Young or Old.. what matters is what they do .. and what they stand for …

  38. avatar
    Jacob Wiencek

    Europe needs more energetic politicians and ones with new ideas who aren’t afraid to push through bold reforms.

  39. avatar

    personally i think that the elderly politicians should stay home and let the younger to led us. they have new, fresh ideas which they should have the opportunity to put them in practice:d

  40. avatar

    Even though I am in my 70’s I agree that there should be younger politicians , less of them , and with limited terms in office , and fewer has been politicians in European posts . Maybe its not just a question of age , but experience . The other problem is that politicians are elected by voters to represent them , yet the politicians actually then represent political parties agendas , this means the system is corrupted .

  41. avatar

    Not only younger but creative and honest politicians not linked to political parties , and also with limited term possibilities . Also thought should be give to the legal accountability of politicians as at the moment repeated errors are not sanctioned .

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